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USC NBA Draft Profile: Power Forward Chimezie Metu

Chimezie Metu will likely be the second former USC player off the board in the 2018 NBA Draft. We explain what can make him successful at the next level.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As the clear top option offensively this season for the USC Men’s Basketball team, Chimezie Metu was up to the task.

He led the Trojans in scoring with nearly 16 points per game, rebounding with 7.4 and blocks at 1.7 per contest.

He also shot 52 percent from the field and 73 percent from the free-throw line. His three-point shot is a work in progress, but there are several reasons for optimism there.

In 2016-2017, he took just two triples the entire year. Clearly, it was a point of emphasis for him the following offseason, and while he only shot 30 percent from downtown this past campaign, he showed newfound confidence and determination.

He’s certainly not one of those bigs who can’t make a shot from outside the restricted area, as evidenced by his free throw shooting among other aspects of his game. A jump shot is something that can always be potentially improved, and Metu has shown the commitment and work ethic to make that happen.

What can’t be taught is size and athleticism, both of which Metu has. At 6 feet 11 inches and 225 pounds, Metu is nimble enough to get up and down the court on both ends.

He can guard power forwards and centers, though he may want to bulk up a little more to do better against the latter at the next level. That said, he can already serve as a mismatch against many other power forwards.

Once that three-ball becomes a bit more consistent, Metu will have what he needs to be a strong stretch four. That’s not his game right now, but that’s undoubtedly how he’s being looked at by at least a handful of teams.

In today’s NBA, if you don’t have the size of a DeAndre Ayton, you’ve got to be a threat from the outside. Metu knows that full well.

In the last few months, Metu has slipped from a potential first round pick to a clear second rounder. Perhaps his decision to sit out the NIT Tournament to avoid injury affected that; perhaps not.

Regardless, his numbers across the board stayed pretty stagnant over the last two seasons. Scouts surely would’ve preferred to see year-to-year improvement.

Sports Illustrated has him coming off the board at No. 52 overall to the Utah Jazz, while Bleacher Report predicts a more favorable 43rd to the Denver Nuggets. In my piece on the best fits for the Trojans in this draft class, I had Metu in between, at No. 46 to the Western Conference runners-up Houston Rockets.

While I think that would be the most ideal situation for Metu because of Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun style, Clint Capela in front of him and no one significant behind him, I don’t see Houston making that move. I think they’re going to look for an understudy for an oft-injured and aging Chris Paul with their only draft pick. James Harden and Eric Gordon aren’t young either.

Furthermore, Metu is still raw and unpolished, granted with a big upside. For a contender like the Rockets, they’re going to look for immediate, role-playing contributors.

Not to be a homer, but I see the Los Angeles Lakers taking Metu with the very next pick at No. 47. Magic Johnson loves to create a little excitement wherever he can, and a USC hooper who played his high school ball in nearby Lawndale could do just that. Metu’s gone on record and said as a lifelong Laker fan, he’d love to play for the purple and gold.

I also see him as a perfect teammate for young point guard Lonzo Ball working the pick and roll. Metu would be a great target for Ball’s alley-oop passes, both in the half-court and on the break, like he showed time and time again with the Trojans.

Regardless of what other moves the Lakers make in the near future, Metu would fit nicely. At this point, it would be stunning if they were not successful in the pursuit of at least one of the LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George trio.

But for now, let’s forget about all of that. It could be Ball and Brandon Ingram in the backcourt, Kyle Kuzma on the wing, Metu at the four (eventually, not from day one) and Julius Randle at center. That lineup screams athleticism, scoring and versatility.

Though with any of those possible aforementioned acquisitions, there will have to be plenty of moving pieces. But I don’t see Metu’s potential place in L.A. being jeopardized with those moves.

He wouldn’t be a big enough priority for another team to be a cornerstone in a trade, and he could slide in as a stretch big to create space and take pressure off whichever star scorer is in a Lakers jersey next season, as well as guard the opposing power forward. That would enable the said star to square up against a fellow three.

No matter where he ends up, Metu has what it takes and knows what he needs to do to become a productive NBA player. It will be exciting to see where he ends up on Friday.