This Sunday, in an unprecedented opening day move, the PBA will open with three games in three major Philippine cities.
3 p.m. – Ginebra vs San Mig Coffee (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3 p.m. – Meralco vs Talk n Text (Cebu Coliseum)
5:15 p.m. – Alaska vs Rain or Shine (USEP, Davao)
Reigning Philippine Cup champion Talk N Text is looking to bounce back after an ignominious and stunning early exit in the recently concluded Governors Cup. They will take on sister team Meralco in Cebu. Meralco and powerhouse Petron are the only two teams without a legitimate rookie on their respective rosters.
Crowd darling Ginebra will officially open Season 39 going against fellow SMC team and newly crowned Governors Cup champion San Mig Coffee at the Big Dome. Two more recent champions - Alaska and Rain Or Shine - will square off in Davao.
“Three games in three different cities on opening day is in line with our season theme One PBA, One Philippines,” declared new PBA Board Chair Mon Segismundo during the season-launching media event at the Shangri-La in Makati City yesterday afternoon.
Chot Reyes, the Gilas national team head coach who steered the Philippines back into the World Cup of Basketball and former TNT Coach, is of the opinion that the intact teams have the best chances for this conference and for the season in general. He cited TNT, Rain Or Shine and San Mig as his top choices to win it all. "Sa akin lamang pa din ang matagal ng magkakasama," Reyes explained in a separate interview. He was at the event as head of Sports 5, the outfit who will be broadcasting the games.
Let's take a look at each PBA team:
Air 21 Express ___
Key players: Asi Taulava, KG Canaleta, Vic Manuel, Mac Cardona, Bon Custodio, Renren Ritualo
Key additions: Cardona, Eric Camson
40-year old Asi Taulava will be the anchor for this relatively young team. He will provide not only veteran leadership but a strong inside presence to take pressure off Canaleta and Manuel and allow those two to do their thing from the outside going in. Cardona finally gives them a sure scorer who can get into the seams of opposing defenses. Still, this is a team at least two good players short of contending.
Outlook: Maybe the Quarterfinals
Alaska Aces ___
Key players: Sonny Thoss, Calvin Abueva, Cyrus Baguio, JV Casio, Tony Dela Cruz, Gabby Espinas, Dondon Hontiveros
Key additions: Ryan Buenafe
A veteran core who knows how to win has gained arguably the most high-IQ player in the country, and that is quite a net gain. Coach Luigi Trillo acknowledged that their picking Ateneo swingman Ryan Buenafe at Number 8 raised some eyebrows. Buenafe however is perfect for the Alaska triangle, and will have studs like Abueva, flyers like Baguio, gunners like Hontiveros, bangers like Thoss and plenty of defensive insurance behind him. Heck, he might even finally make a legit player out of 6-foot-9 enigma Sam Eman.
Outlook: At least the Semifinals
Barako Bull Energy ___
Key players: Willie Miller, Dorian Pena, Ronjay Buenafe, Mick Pennisi, JC Intal, Rico Maeirhofer
Key additions: Miller, Maeirhofer, Carlo Lastimosa
Danny Seigle opted not to re-sign immediately with the Energy, and they were soundly pilloried by fans for trading away three first round picks for fading veterans. But in the end those veterans will sure as day contribute more right away than the rookies they could have picked out of the first round. Miller is still a two-time MVP who will be classy and professional and he reunites with Pena and Pennisi in the team where his early success began. However there is just too much bench fodder and age on this roster, even if it is quality age.
Outlook: No way
Barangay Ginebra ___
Key players: Mark Caguioa, Jay Helterbrand, LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Chris Ellis
Key additions: Greg Slaughter, JR Reyes
Ginebra landed the crown jewel of a deep draft with 7-foot Greg Slaughter, who should change the game just on sheer size. They now have a three-headed monster inside with Slaughter, 6-foot-9 Japeth Aguilar and 6-foot-7 JR Reyes. Their perimeter may be aging but it is still a quality one, with Caguioa, Tenorio and Helterbrand leading the way. If Coach Ato Agustin can get this team to jell quickly they will be contending for the championship.
Outlook: Should make the Semifinals
Key players: Jay Washington, Sol Mercado, Enrico Villanueva, Eric Menk
Key additions: Terrence Romeo, RR Garcia, Justin Chua, Nico Salva, Coach Richie Ticzon
A blend of the old and the new seems to be the thrust of team owner Mikee Romero. His team
Now let us take a look at how each team fared in the draft. First we compiled all of the draft picks taken by each team. Second, please note that we will not factor in if the team gained other players through trades. We will look only at the overall quality of the draft haul, as well as the individual players taken by each team.
Barangay Ginebra - Greg Slaughter, James Forrester, John Usita, Alvin Padilla, Jens Knuttel
Getting the 7-foot Slaughter was a no-brainer regardless of who was actually picking first overall in this draft. Ginebra already had a premiere big man before in Marlou Aquino and enjoyed great franchise success. Slaughter is a modern version of the original Skyscraper. Forrester remains an eyebrow-raiser what with all of the other, more polished, and more productive swingman-types still available at Number 4. Usita is another enigma and a likely project, but a huge one at 6-foot-8 and some 300 pounds. Padilla and Knuttel will most likely end up as practice players.
San Mig Coffee - Ian Sangalang, Justin Chua, Justin Melton, JR Cawaling
Across the board the Mixers got arguably the most talented, polished and ready haul of players in this draft. Sangalang and Chua are college champions who know how to play and bring expansive skill sets to the 5/4 positions. Melton is a superb athlete at the pointguard spot who will need at most a year to a year and a half to acclimate to the PBA. Cawaling is a long, tall athlete with above-average perimeter skills; just don't make him guard Buenafe when San Mig plays Alaska.
Rain or Shine - Raymond Almazan, Alex Nuyles, Jeric Teng, Gayford Rodriguez, Ervic Vijandre
Both Almazan and Nuyles are superb PBA-grade athletes at their respective positions and are ready to play right away. Teng will get his entire cotnract period to prove himself. Rodriguez and Vijandre could blossom into surprise packages under Yeng Guiao but will more likely end up as practice players.
Barako Bull - Jeric Fortuna, Carlo Lastimosa, Darwin Cordero, Jet Vidal, Mike Silungan
Lord only knows how much Ramon S Ang on the corporate side had to do with the draft day and pre-draft trades that led to this egregious draft haul for the Energy Cola. Lastimosa and Cordero have PBA-level talent and athletic ability but could sputter in this long-toxic environment. Fortuna, Vidal and Silungan will have to fight tooth and nail for contracts.
Global Port - Terrence Romeo, RR Garcia, Isaac Holstein, Nico Salva, Jopher Custodio, LA Revilla
Talk about a youth movement. Team owner Michael Romero certainly brought in a good haul with this draft. They may not be quite as high-impact as the Top 3 but they can certainly play right away. It should be interesting to see though who between Garcia and Salva will punch Romeo first during practice. Coach Junel Baculi's blood pressure and well-coiffed hair will be worth watching throughout the season. Custodio and Revilla have better than even chances of getting contracts too.
Talk 'N Text - JP Erram, Robby Celiz, Elliud Poligrates, Chris Sumalinog, Byron Villarias
Bereft of any chance at landing any of the top tier talent, TNT took in players that at least they can use. Erram and Sumalinog reunite with their old Ateneo Coach Norman Black and Manager Paolo Trillo. The hot-shooting Celiz played against them in the UAAP. Villarias was with NLEX and thus has an MVP connection. Poligrates made a name for himself in the PBA D League where he had memorable matches against Villarias. Still, none of these guys are sure star material.
Air 21 - Eric Camson, Joshua Webb, Angelo Ingco, Randolph Chua
Other than Camson none of the Express picks seem to possess PBA-level talent or skill. Webb is a great athlete with good size for a perimeter player but does not quite have the high skill set required at the position for the PBA. Ingco and Chua won't even get a practice contract. Well... maybe Ingco.
Alaska - Ryan Buenafe, Chris Exciminiano, Raymond Ilagan
Reports have it that it was assistant coach Topex Robinson who lobbied, and lobbied hard, for the Aces to pick the star-crossed Buenafe. Playing in the Alaska Triangle should come easily to the high-IQ Buenafe. His physical conditioning however remains a key concern, as does his perimeter shooting. Exciminiano and Ilagan will become practice players.
Petron - Sam Marata, Nate Matute
Both of these guys will be seen in Petron blue polo shirts or shirt-jacks seated directly behind the Petron bench at the Patron section. They will be expected to clap for good plays and boo bad
There was a good crowd at the Robinson's Place Manila for the 2013 PBA Draft. 44 out of the 84 rookie applicants were picked through seven rounds of drafting. While Rounds 1 and 2 went just about as expected, there were still a few surprises, and we will be grading teams in the next column.
Meanwhile here is the complete list of who went where:
1. Barangay Ginebra - Greg Slaughter
2. San Mig Coffee - Ian Sangalang
3. Rain or Shine - Raymond Almazan
4. Ginebra - (from Barako Bull for Rico Maeirhofer and Willie Wilson) James Forrester
5. Global Port - (from Petron for Yousif Taha) Terrence Romeo
6. Global Port - (from Barako Bull for Denok Miranda) RR Garcia
7. Global Port - Isaac Holstein
8. Alaska - Ryan Buenafe
9. Rain or Shine - Alex Nuyles
10. San Mig Coffee - Justin Chua
11. Global Port - Nico Salva
12. Rain or Shine - Jeric Teng
13. San Mig - Justin Melton
14. Barako Bull - Jeric Fortuna
15. Talk 'N Text - (from Alaska) JP Erram
16. Air 21 - Eric Camson
17. Talk N Text - Robby Celiz
18. Alaska - Chris Exciminiano
19. Rain or Shine - Gayford Rodriguez
20. Barako Bull - Carlo Lastimosa
21. Air 21 - Joshua Webb
22. Global Port - Jopher Custodio
23. Barako Bull - Darwin Cordero
24. Global Port - LA Revilla
25. Petron - Sam Marata
26. Meralco - Anjo Caram
27. Talk'N Text - Elliud Poligrates
28. Alaska - Raymond Ilagan
29. Rain or Shine - Ervic Vijandre
30. San Mig Coffee - JR Cawaling
31. Air 21 - Angelo Ingco
32. Barako Bull - Jet Vidal
33. Barangay Ginebra - John Usita
34. Petron - Nate Matute
35. Meralco - Michael Parala
36. Talk N Text - Chris Sumalinog
37. Air 21 - Randolph Chua
38. Barako Bull - Mike Silungan
39. Barangay Ginebra - Alvin Padilla
40. Meralco - Mark Lopez
41. Talk N Text - Byron Villarias
42. Barangay Ginebra - Jens Knuttel
43. Meralco - Ron Guevarra
44. Meralco - Mark Bringas
Second round picks usually mean teams are trying to fill roster gaps at best, although some second round surprises do happen (like Ato Agustin). For the most part though, guys picked here will have to fight hard for a regular roster spot.
11. GlobalPort Batang Pier
Needs - Backup big man
Likely pick - Isaac Holstein. Holstein didn't see much action in his one and only D League conference, but he's still a legit 6-foot-9 and can play; he led the league with over two block per game. He will need to get bulkier and stronger to stick in the pros though. If the Batang Pier are patient enough, he could form a potent partnership up front with another young and lean big man in Yousef Taha.
12. Rain or Shine ElastoPainters
Needs - Alternate pointguard
Likely pick - Justin Melton. Melton tested well athletically in the draft combine, and some scouts are already comparing him to recent FIBA Asia hero Jayson Castro. At the very least he is a highly athletic and legit pointguard who can finally take pressure off Lee, Tiu and TY Tang. Melton however needs to work on his jumpshooting to prevent defenses from clogging his driving lanes.
13. San Mig Coffee Mixers
Needs - More youth up front
Likely pick - JP Erram. Erram had a terrible last year as an amateur, playing through various injuries in UAAP Season 76. But he is still a legit 6-foot-7 and partnering with a strong and skilled Sangalang as a rookie should serve him in good stead. He won't be expected to play major minutes right away anyway, what with De Vance, Reavis and Yancy De Ocampo all still good for anywhere from two to four more years.
14. Barako Bull Energy Cola
Needs - After all the trades, plenty
Likely pick - Eric Camson. Camson played 4/3 in college at 6-foot-2, but made up for his lack of size with a good stroke all the way out to three-point range. If Leo Austria, his coach in college, gets the job vacated by Toroman as some reports say, Camson's entry into the PBA will indeed be an auspicious one.
15. Air 21 Express*
Needs - A solid pointguard
Likely pick - Jeric Fortuna. With Melton likely going earlier, Fortuna is the next best bet at pointguard still available. He's barely 5-foot-7, but his experience in both the D League and the ASEAN League are invaluable. Plus Fortuna is one of the best long-range shooters in the country. He'll get kickout opportunities thanks to Mac Cardona.
16. Alaska Aces*
Needs - Backup shooter / scorer
Likely pick - Rob Celiz. Celiz boosted his draft stock tremendously with a strong showing in the last D League Finals where his Blackwater Elite upset and ended the dynasty of the NLEX Road Warriors. He's a tall shooter at a bit over 6-foot-2, and knows how to shoot off his own dribble. He can help keep defenses honest coming off the bench.
17. Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters
Needs - Quality youth, everywhere
Likely pick - Ryan Buenafe. At this point in the draft it would be safe to pick the enigmatic and star crossed swingman. Perhaps a reunion with his college coach Norman Black would be just what the doctor ordered for both their careers. Buenafe however still has to convince the PBA Powers that he had a legitimate excuse for missing the draft combine, supposedly because of the flu. Black has seen this before with Buenafe and would not be averse to taking in his old star.
18. Alaska Aces
Needs - Quality backup anything
Likely pick - JR Cawaling. Cawaling never really lived up to the promise when he was named UAAP Rookie of the Year over a half-decade ago. In his one trip to the UAAP Finals in 2010 a rotund and out of shape Buenafe made a monkey out of him as the Ateneo went on to win what was their third straight UAAP championship. He barely stirred on the San Miguel Beer ABL roster just this past conference. Still, he is a long and athletic 6-foot-3 swingman with very good skills and a one-time Gilas national team player. Maybe being an understudy to Baguio for a few years will do him some good.
19. Rain or Shine ElastoPainters
Needs - Quality backup anything
Likely pick - Mark Lopez. Lopez was one of the best players on a UP squad that was just terrible the whole time he was there. Still, he's a 6-foot guard with a lean, strong body and complete skills. Said skills are not of course all star level, but at this point in the draft, you take anybody who has at least had experience with real organized ball. Lopez might be good enough to finally rid the PBA of Jonathan Uyloan.
20. Barako Bull Energy Cola
Needs - Quality backup anything
Likely pick - Mike Silungan.
In one of our previous columns I presented both the applicants and the order of picking for the 2013 PBA Draft to be held this Sunday. Let's now take a look at how teams will most likely pick.
Word to the wise though: the first three picks should be set in stone, with the three local big men going the earliest. Also, it seems Barako Bull traded away its picks at Number 4 and Number 5 overall. Picking at Number 4 will be Barangay Ginebra, then Petron at Number 5.
1. Barangay Ginebra San Miguel
Needs - Big man, scoring help from the wings, backup pointguard
Likely pick - Greg Slaughter. Really a no-brainer regardless of who was picking Number 1 overall. Slaughter is seven feet tall and some 260 pounds. He learned a lot playing for Norman Black at the Ateneo and nearly two years under Rajko Toroman at the Gilas national team. He will form a towering frontline with 6-foot-9 Japeth Aguilar and 6-foot-7 JR Reyes, and this trio is young enough to play together effectively for at least the next 4-5 years.
2. San Mig Coffee Mixers
Needs - Big man, scoring help from the wings
Likely pick - Ian Sangalang. Sangalang has shown throughout his amateur career that he is arguably the most skilled homegrown big man today. He rebounds well, blocks shots, helps and recovers quickly, and has all the big man scoring tricks from turnaround jumpers to jump hooks to elbow jumpers. He will get plenty of tutoring from veterans Rafi Reavis, Joe De Vance and newly-minted Finals MVP Marc Pingris.
3. Rain or Shine ElastoPainters
Needs - Big man, pointguard
Likely pick - Raymund Almazan. Rain or Shine head coach Yeng Guiao has already unequivocally stated many times that ROS will pick the best available big man at Number 3. Almazan in fact worked out with the Elasto Painters over the summer. He will bring legitimate size and athleticism to a frontline that has plenty of bulk and toughness but little by way of height and athleticism. He can only get tougher practicing everyday with Beau Belga, JR Quinahan, Larry Rodriguez and Jervy Cruz.
4. Ginebra via Barako Bull Energy Cola
Needs - Big man, scoring help from the wings, backup pointguard
Likely pick - James Forrester. Our sources said that the Gins were actually interested in using this pick on reigning UAAP MVP Terrence Romeo. But with Emman Monfort coming (traded for Rob Labagala, approval still pending as of this writing), they have an able pointguard prospect to back up LA Tenorio. Forrester should therefore address their other need: scoring help at the wings, which is why they are likely going to get the Filipino-Canadian out of Toronto. Why on earth they'd take Forrester over say the slightly more polished Alex Nuyles however boggles the mind.
5. Petron via Barako Bull Energy Cola
Needs - Backup big man for either or both the 4 and 5 spots
Likely pick - Justin Chua. Petron gave away backup center Magi Sison and forward Mark Isip to get this pick. They also traded backup pointguard Dennis Miranda to try and get Chris Ross from Global Port. That means they suddenly became a shorter but faster team. Still, they need some insurance up front and a reliever for June Mar Fajardo. Chua, a bulky throwback-type big man, might be a surprise pick in the first round with this development. Although the way San Miguel teams are wheeling and dealing, the Boost Blazers might yet select one of the FEU gunners.
6. Barako Bull Energy Cola (might become Global Port)
Needs - Quality youth, desperately
Likely pick- Terrence Romeo. Once again Barako is giving away draft picks and a chance to get younger for what should be a chance to win more immediately with veterans. Dylan Ababou, Mark Isip and Magi Sison are headed Barako's way (approval pending as of this writing). It might have been a Gilas reunion of sorts had Rajko Toroman not been suddenly given his walking papers. Romeo will be handed the keys right away but he can't be hogging the ball as a rookie pointguard or the veterans will will beat some sense into him.
If this is Global Port's pick though, Romeo will find a more welcoming home.
7. GlobalPort Batang Pier
Needs - Scoring from the perimeter
Likely pick - Jeric Teng. Teng will get every chance, and every shot, to prove he belongs in the PBA. Gary David is gone, and apparently Chris Ross has not even attended a Batang Pier practice. Enter Teng, the man who blossomed into a go-to scorer for the Santo Tomas Tigers, fresh off back-to-back Finals in the UAAP. Global Port has repeatedly expressed their interest in him and now have a legit shot at getting him.
8. Alaska Aces
Needs - Backup big man, off