Chimezie Metu

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/9/18

Here are Friday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Hornets assigned rookie guard Devonte’ Graham to the Greensboro Swarm, according to a team press release. Graham has appeared in two games with Charlotte, averaging 3.5 PPG and 1.5 APG in 9.5 MPG. The 6’2 Kansas product, an early second-round pick, has averaged 23.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 8.0 APG in two outings with Greensboro.
  • The Sixers recalled forward Jonah Bolden from the Delaware Blue Coats prior to their game against the Hornets on Friday, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The 6’10” Bolden, a 2017 second-rounder, has appeared in four NBA games this season but none this month.
  • The Spurs recalled forward Chimezie Metu from the Austin Spurs after assigning him to the G League on Thursday, according to a team press release. The 6’10” Metu, a second-round pick in June, is averaging 1.6 PPG  and 1.2 RPG in 4.0 MPG over five games with San Antonio.
  • The Thunder assigned forward Abdel Nader to the Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced in a press release. The 6’6” Nader, acquired from Boston in July, has seen just seven minutes of action with OKC.
  • The Clippers assigned guards Jerome Robinson and Sindarius Thornwell to the Agua Caliente Clippers, then recalled Thornwell, according to the team’s PR department (Twitter links). The 6’5” Thornwell has yet to make his season debut with the Clippers after appearing in 73 games last season. The 6’5” Robinson, the 13th overall pick in this June’s draft, has appeared in seven games and averaged 2.9 PPG in 5.0 MPG.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/8/18

Here are Thursday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Pistons recalled forward Henry Ellenson and guard Khyri Thomas from the Grand Rapids Drive, the team announced in a press release. Ellenson has averaged 21.3 points in three games for the Drive, while Thomas has averaged 19 points in three games.
  • The Thunder assigned and later recalled forward Abdel Nader from the Oklahoma City Blue, the team’s G League affiliate. Nader has played six minutes in three games with the Thunder this season.
  • The Spurs announced they have assigned forward Chimezie Metu to the Austin Spurs in the G League. Metu was drafted 49th overall in 2018 by San Antonio.
  • The Jazz assigned Tony Bradley to the Salt Lake City Stars (Twitter link). Bradley is in his second season with Utah.

Spurs Notes: Walker, Duncan, Cunningham, Metu

A Spurs legend is helping Lonnie Walker navigate his first NBA training camp, writes Jabari Young of The Athletic. Tim Duncan has served as a mentor to the rookie guard, helping him refine his game to get ready for the start of the season.

“It’s a little surreal,” Walker said. “But that’s probably one of the best things about being a rookie, especially being drafted by the Spurs. You have players who are [the] previous greatest of all-time, such as him and Manu [Ginobili], and they treat you like family.”

Walker admits to being awe-struck the first time he met Duncan, but their relationship has become much more comfortable. Duncan is seen as a teacher who happy to pass along advice to any Spurs player, and he has become a surrogate to coach Gregg Popovich.

“It’s nothing unusual for us to see,” long-time Spur Patty Mills said. “[It’s] that same characteristic that Manu has of being able to help younger guys for the better of the team. Just because he’s retired doesn’t mean that that trait can’t keep going.”

There’s more tonight from San Antonio:

  • Popovich used numerous combinations in the preseason opener, but he seems fond of a second unit that provides a lot of floor spacing, Young adds in a separate story. The group had Mills on the floor along with Jakob Poeltl, Davis Bertans, Marco Belinelli and Bryn Forbes“It’s a unit that can score,” Popovich said. “With Jakob in the post and shooters all around, it can be pretty interesting. We’re blessed with some people who can put it in the basket, and we want to put them in situations where they can use those skills.”
  • The Spurs like the toughness that veteran forward Dante Cunningham brings to the court, relays Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio gave Cunningham a one-year, $2.5MM contract after deciding not to match the Grizzlies’ offer sheet for Kyle Anderson. Cunningham has been with six other teams during his nine-year NBA career, including the Pelicans and Nets last season. “I like to think I am more of a ball player than a position kind of guy — kind of short to be a center, kind of tall to be in a guardish-type situation,” he said. “But I kind of battle around and do a little bit of everything, I guess.”
  • Second-rounder Chimezie Metu has made a quick impression on his teammates with his shot-blocking skills, with LaMarcus Aldridge calling him “a pogo stick,” Orsborn notes in another piece.

Spurs Sign Chimezie Metu To Three-Year Deal

SEPTEMBER 4: The signing is official, according to a team press release.

AUGUST 30: The Spurs have reached a contract agreement with 2018 second-round pick Chimezie Metu, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that Metu is signing a three-year deal with San Antonio.

Metu, a 6’11” forward/center, declared for the draft as an early entrant this past spring after a productive season at USC. In his junior year, Metu averaged 15.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 1.7 BPG with a .523 FG% in 34 games.

The Spurs used the 49th overall pick in the 2018 draft to nab Metu, and while it took a couple months for the two sides to finalize a contract agreement, Charania notes that the team is “high” on the young big man.

San Antonio will use a portion of its mid-level exception to complete its deal with Metu. The Spurs initially used about $6.15MM of their $8.64MM MLE to sign Marco Belinelli, and could’ve fit Dante Cunningham‘s one-year, $2.49MM contract neatly into the remaining portion of that exception.

[RELATED: How teams are using 2018/19 mid-level exceptions]

However, signing Cunningham using the mid-level exception would’ve prevented San Antonio from offering Metu more than two years, since the team only would have had the bi-annual exception and minimum salary exception still available in that scenario. Instead, the Spurs completed their deal with Cunningham using the bi-annual exception, leaving their MLE open for Metu.

The Spurs currently have 13 players on fully guaranteed salaries, not counting Manu Ginobili, who figures to be waived at some point after having announced his retirement. Metu’s deal will almost certainly have at least a guaranteed first year, increasing San Antonio’s fully guaranteed contract count to 14. Quincy Pondexter, who reportedly received a partial guarantee on his new contract, is also in the mix for a spot on the regular season roster.

Four 2018 NBA Draftees Remain Unsigned

With Thunder second-rounder Devon Hall set to spend the upcoming season playing in Australia, 56 of 60 players selected in the 2018 NBA draft have now made plans – in the NBA or elsewhere – for the 2018/19 campaign.

As our 2018 draft pick signing tracker shows, that leaves four players whose status for 2018/19 has yet to be reported or announced. Here’s what we know – or can deduce – about those four rookies:

  1. Justin Jackson (Magic): According to our roster counts, the Magic have used both of their two-way contract slots and have 16 players on NBA contracts. However, only 14 of those NBA deals are fully guaranteed, meaning there could be a path for Jackson to claim the 15th spot. Still, Isaiah Briscoe looks like he’ll have an opportunity to make the team despite not having a guaranteed salary. Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel expects Jackson, who is coming off a major shoulder injury, to spend the 2018/19 season with the Lakeland Magic, so perhaps he’ll sign a G League contract with an eye toward joining Orlando’s 15-man squad in 2019.
  2. De’Anthony Melton (Rockets): The Rockets only have 10 players on fully guaranteed salaries, meaning there’s plenty of room for Melton to join the mix. It’s possible Houston is waiting to sign Melton in order to keep him trade-eligible — as soon as he signs, he can’t be dealt for one month, and the Rockets may want to keep their options open as they scour the market for a wing player. Assuming Melton remains with the Rockets, they’ll likely lock him up for at least three years using part of the taxpayer mid-level exception, like they did with Isaiah Hartenstein.
  3. Chimezie Metu (Spurs): The Spurs have a lone opening on their projected 15-man roster, with 14 players on guaranteed deals. It’s possible Metu could slot into that spot, but he’s not the only option. Former two-way player Darrun Hilliard is a candidate to be promoted to a standard NBA contract, and 2017 second-rounder Jaron Blossomgame could also be signed. The Spurs are very comfortable stashing draft picks, as they currently retain the NBA rights to 11 players who aren’t playing in the NBA. We’ll see if Metu becomes the 12th or if the Spurs held onto part of their mid-level exception this summer in order to sign him to a long-term deal.
  4. Kevin Hervey (Thunder): Hall’s move overseas looks like it could be good news for Hervey. The Thunder have 15 players on guaranteed contracts, leaving no clear path to OKC’s regular season roster, but the club only has Deonte Burton on a two-way deal. That leaves the Thunder’s other two-way contract slot open, and it would make sense for Hervey to fill it, as four other 2018 draftees in the 54-60 range have inked two-way deals so far this summer.

Checking In On 2018’s Unsigned Draft Picks

The 2018 NBA draft took place less than a month ago, but over three quarters over the players selected on the night of June 22 have already signed their first NBA contracts. That includes each of the 30 players picked in the first round, all of whom are now under contract.

The following players have not yet signed contracts with their new NBA teams:

  1. Detroit Pistons: Khyri Thomas, SG (Creighton)
  2. Orlando Magic: Justin Jackson, F (Maryland)
  3. Washington Wizards: Issuf Sanon, G (Olimpija Ljubljana)
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Hamidou Diallo, SG (Kentucky)
  5. Houston Rockets: De’Anthony Melton, G (USC)
  6. San Antonio Spurs: Chimezie Metu, F/C (USC)
  7. New Orleans Pelicans: Tony Carr, PG (Penn State)
  8. Oklahoma City Thunder: Devon Hall, SG (Virginia)
  9. Philadelphia 76ers: Shake Milton, G (SMU)
  10. Charlotte Hornets: Arnoldas Kulboka, SF (Capo D’Orlando)
  11. Dallas Mavericks: Ray Spalding, PF (Louisville)
  12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Hervey, SF (Texas-Arlington)
  13. Denver Nuggets: Thomas Welsh, C (UCLA)

Sanon, Carr, and Kulboka will reportedly spend the 2018/19 season overseas, so we can safely remove their names from this list — they won’t be signing NBA contracts this offseason. Welsh, meanwhile, has reportedly agreed to terms on a two-way contract with Denver, though it’s not yet official.

That leaves just nine players from 2018’s draft class who we should still expect to sign at some point. Of those nine players, the higher picks such as Thomas (Pistons), Jackson (Magic), Diallo (Thunder), and Melton (Rockets) are good bets to sign multiyear NBA contracts. Even though some of those teams have luxury-tax concerns, they’ll have to fill out their rosters somehow, and a rookie contract at or near the minimum is the best way to avoid significantly increasing their potential tax penalties.

The players selected in the 50s may be candidates for two-way deals. A year ago, no player selected between Nos. 49-60 received a standard NBA contract, with all of those players signing two-way contracts, agreeing to straight G League contracts, or heading overseas to join an international team.

[RELATED: 2018/19 NBA Two-Way Contract Tracker]

As such, players like Hall (Thunder), Milton (Sixers), Spalding (Mavericks), and Hervey (Thunder) should be considered two-way options. For now though, Dallas doesn’t have a two-way slot open, and Oklahoma City only has one, so it remains to be seen what the future holds for these late second-rounders. We should find out in the coming weeks.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Jackson Jr., Metu

The Pelicans added a pair of young building blocks in Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton this summer and the new personnel could lead to an even faster pace of play, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

The addition of two athletic young players  – Randle is still just 23 years old while Payton is 24 – will serve the Pelicans well. Guillory writes that New Orleans led the league in pace after DeMarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles injury in January.

We want to play fast, we want to defend, we want to get out in transition,” Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said. “The other thing is these two guys are very unselfish players, which would fit great with our group.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

Hawks Working Out Jaren Jackson Jr.

The Hawks are hosting a pair of pre-draft workouts today, and one of those two sessions will be an individual workout for top prospect Jaren Jackson Jr., the team announced in a press release.

A potential top-five pick in this year’s draft, Jackson also auditioned for Phoenix recently, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter) calling it a “monster workout.” According to Wojnarowski, clubs outside the top four are interested in moving up to snag Jackson, meaning teams with top picks like the Kings (No. 2), Hawks (No. 3), and Grizzlies (No. 4) may receive some interesting trade offers as draft day approaches.

Jackson could also simply be a fit for Atlanta. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has the Michigan State big man going to the Hawks in his most recent mock draft, writing that Jackson would be the “ideal” big man to pair with youngster John Collins. The 18-year-old has intriguing upside on both the offensive (.396 3PT%) and defensive (3.0 BPG in 21.8 MPG) ends of the floor.

In addition to Jackson, the Hawks will take a look at several prospects in a group workout today, according to the club. Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky), Trevon Duval (Duke), Isaac Haas (Purdue), Chimezie Metu (USC), Malik Newman (Kansas), and Andrew Rowsey (Marquette) are participating in that session.

Draft Notes: Okogie, Bagley, Bulls, Hawks

Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie is drawing plenty of interest from teams with middle or late first-round picks, according to Adam Zagoria of the New York Times. Okogie has already worked out for the Grizzlies, Nets, Celtics, Hawks, Lakers, Nuggets, Bulls and Spurs. He’s got a second workout scheduled with the Spurs, along with visits to the Warriors and Trail Blazers, Zagoria adds (Twitter links). The 6’4” shooting guard is currently ranked No. 26 overall by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

In other draft-related news with the big day less than two weeks away:

  • Duke big man Marvin Bagley III believes Deandre Ayton is being disrespectful by stating that he knows he’ll be the top pick, Bob Baum of the Associated Press reports. Bagley feels the Suns, who own the top pick, should bestow him that status. “I definitely believe I’m the No. 1 pick and if the Suns take me I’ll definitely show them why,” Bagley said after working out for Phoenix on Friday.
  • The Bulls not only worked out Okogie on Friday but also Aaron Holiday (UCLA), Chimezie Metu (USC), Kameron Chatman (Detroit), Giddy Potts (Middle Tennessee) and Scottie Lindsey (Northwestern), according to a team release. Holiday was the headliner, as he’s rated No. 17 by Givony.
  • The Hawks were among the teams at Michael Porter Jr.‘s workout in Chicago on Friday, Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Atlanta owns the No. 3 overall pick.

Draft Notes: Hornets, Grizzlies, Blazers, Lakers, Nuggets

Villanova’s Mikal Bridges had his conditioning tested during his first pre-draft workout today in Charlotte, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Bridges and St. Joseph’s James Demery were the only players at the hour-long session, which featured full-court sprints mixed with long-range shooting toward the end of the process.

“They pushed us,” Bridges said. “I’m really well conditioned and they [wanted to see me] shoot the ball while I’m tired. [It was about] showing them everything, like some ballhandling that they didn’t see” when he was in college.

Projected as a lottery pick, Bridges may still be available when the Hornets select at No. 11. However, Bonnell notes that the Cavaliers, Knicks and Sixers — the three teams directly in front of Charlotte — could all have interest.

There’s more draft-related news to pass along: