Former Trojans contribute ahead of All-Star break

Former Trojan Chimezie Metu holds the ball in front of the defender.
Former Trojan Chimezie Metu’s highlight of the season so far came against the Dallas Mavericks Dec. 29, where he hit a game-winning buzzer beater. (Katie Chin | Daily Trojan)

With NBA franchises beginning or continuing strides after the trade deadline last Thursdays, players and teams alike look towards the playoffs as they nearly enter the home stretch of the NBA season. Former Trojans have either continued their impressive form or contributed crucial performances off the bench in hopes of creating team momentum as some push for the playoffs and the play-in tournament. 

Guard DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

With the Chicago Bulls still suffering from the absence of starting guards Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, as well as guard Zach Lavine’s fluctuating injury report, the Windy City has had to rely on former Trojan DeMar DeRozan. Five-time All-Star and NBA Most Valuable Player candidate DeRozan has taken his game to the next level, propelling the Bulls to a four-game winning streak after their narrow loss to the Phoenix Suns last Monday.

In the last five games, DeRozan has averaged 37.4 points, 5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and nearly a steal on 61% shooting from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. His streak of six-straight games with at least 35 points and 50% shooting tied NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain’s streak.

The Bulls sit as the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a 37-21 record and boast the second-longest active win streak only behind the Boston Celtics who have witnessed a resurgence in their nine consecutive victories. DeRozan’s performances make the Bulls a promising unit once the team returns to full health. 

Guard Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets

As the Houston Rockets have entered an informal rebuild following James Harden’s departure, the team has embraced youth and talent. Kevin Porter Jr. has recently impressed in his role as a combo guard, with the third-year seasoned player combining his playmaking ability along with his versatile scoring. 

In the last three games, Porter Jr. has averaged nearly 22 points, 7 assists and 3 rebounds on 54% shooting from the field and 58% beyond the arc. Notably, Porter Jr. posted 30 in Houston’s loss against the Toronto Raptors last Thursday, as he shot 11-16 from the field and 6 3-pointers on 9 attempts. 

Alongside Porter Jr., Rookie of the Year candidate Jalen Green has pitched in promising performances in his first year with the Rockets, and the duo look to continue growing and return Houston to prominence in the near future. 

Power Forward/Center Chimezie Metu, Sacramento Kings

Following a six-player blockbuster trade that sent the Kings’ Tyrese Halliburton and Buddy Hield to the Indiana Pacers for star center Domantas Sabonis and others, the Kings have tried to acclimate their new roster. 

Despite the changes made throughout the team, Chimezie Metu has contributed efficiently off the bench in limited minutes. In the last four games, he has quietly averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds on 65% shooting from the field. 

Metu’s contributions off the bench will help the Kings make their late push for a spot in the play-in tournament and provide Sac-Town a chance to taste playoff action after 15 years. 

Center Dewayne Dedmon, Miami Heat

Miami currently sits first in the Eastern Conference with a 37-21 record and owe much credit to their depth. Dewayne Dedmon has pitched in efficient stats and numbers in limited minutes. In his last three games, Dewayne Dedmon has averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds with only 15 minutes per game. 

Dedmon has offered Miami versatility and floor spacing off the bench as he is currently averaging 51% shooting from beyond the arc in limited attempts. If Miami looks to return to the NBA finals and complete their objective, depth from utility players like Dedmon will prove critical.