Analyzing the GlobalPort Batang Pier-TNT Ka-Tropa trade

There are several questions regarding the massive superstar trade that sent Terrence Romeo to the TNT KaTropa in exchange for Moala Tautuaa. So let’s make sense of it by breaking it down into three important parts:

PBA 2017-2018 BW-GBP

What it means for GlobalPort

Stanley Pringle, the show is finally yours.

For the longest time, fans have been clamoring for a break-up between Pringle and Romeo, and you could understand why. Those who choose to look at the glass half empty will say both are ball-dominant guards who could never really mesh well together. Both players deserve their own teams to run. No matter how you look at it, both players have (finally) broken up, Pringle can now take the floor as THE guy for GlobalPort.

In fact, we already got a glimpse of how life is for the Batang Pier with Pringle as the primary initiator of their offense in the Philippine Cup last season, and there were certainly flashes of brilliance for the team.

At the very core of that was how GlobalPort established an identity of being a Grit ‘N Grind team. They gobbled up boards relentlessly, something which certainly fit the type of personnel the team had. By trading away their flashy, scoring savant in Romeo, for a package centered on Moala Tautuaa they received a monster of a man who many viewed as a player who can be a “June Mar-Stopper”

He was viewed as the kind of athlete who had the blend of strength and quickness to give June Mar Fajardo the fits on both ends of the floor, but that’s been far from the case for his first two seasons. On that note, Tautuaa has been a disappointment.

But life isn’t always about having to match a once in a generation type of player like the Kraken. It’s important we view Tautuaa with tempered expectations. If you take out the Kraken-Stopper expectations, Tautuaa has been a decent basketball player in the PBA. He was net positive for TNT during his first two seasons, playing decent two-way basketball. He was definitely serviceable, someone who had tools rare of usual big men in the league.

That’s exactly what he will be bringing to Gloablport: a different set of skills to blend with the gritty approach of the current Globalport make-up.

He isn’t in the same mold of the team’s undersized, big man ala Kelly Nabong and Sean Anthony, but neither of those players have the athletic ability and potential of Tautuaa. He’s a 6’8” behemoth who doesn’t just have monstrous strength, but a solid skill set as well. He isn’t a turnstile who needs the ball in the post every time. He can play in the perimeter, whether it be off pick and pops or even attacks off the dribble.

Mo drive

Most importantly, this is a chance for Tautuaa to start anew. With GlobalPort, there isn’t as much pressure for him to be the premiere big man unlike with TNT. After all, this move by GlobalPort isn’t a win now move for the team by any means, considering how the move actually depleted the team of guard depth. It’s a move for the future, in the hopes of Tautuaa developing into a respectable enough Beard Bro beside Stanley Pringle, and in their first round picks resulting into good pieces that make this move worth it for the team.

PBA - Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters vs GlobalPort Batang Pier - Jan. 25, 2017 - PRT - 5

What it means for TNT

Time to address the elephant in the room.

The main reason why fans were so shook when this trade went down was because of how Romeo was going to fit with the KatTropa? TNT, despite their sub-par performance in the Philippine Cup, is still seen by many as a power player in the league. They’re one of the flagship teams of the league along with the likes of the San Miguel Beermen and Barangay Ginebra. They have a solid fan base, and that group is set to become even bigger with Romeo’s arrival.

The primary, reaction to Romeo’s arrival to TNT was how he would be a second superstar beside Jayson Castro. That was supposed to be Tautuaa, but that didn’t turn out well. Troy Rosario has been solid, but he isn’t in the same pantheon right now with the likes of Castro and Fajardo. Romeo is in (or at the very least) close to that elite group of players. He’s a franchise center piece, someone teams can build around off because of his immense talent.

Romeo’s arrival (and Tautuaa’s departure) immediately prompted many to say TNT was embracing small ball, and reasonably so. Yousef Taha is a decent piece to shore up the front line of TNT, but he isn’t in the same caliber as someone like Tautuaa. He could get some burn, but for the most part, TNT will be playing faster.

The KaTropa has a number of guards now at their disposal, from Castro, Romeo, RR Garcia, Ryan Reyes, and RR Pogoy. This was a cause of worry for many because of their lack of size, but the skill sets of these guards intersect well enough to throw out different types of combinations to pair with the running game of the team. There are basic line-ups with Castro, Romeo or Garcia at the one then Pogoy or Reyes at the two. The number of combinations for three-guard line-ups are aplenty, from a Castro-Romeo-Pogoy trio or even an FEU triumvirate of Romeo-Garcia (hey, best friends!)-Pogoy.

But let’s go back to the primary reaction people had and dig even deeper. Let’s discuss first how Romeo actually fits beside Castro as a second supestar.

There are glass half empty truthers who shout, “There’s only one ball!” which is a valid concern. Castro and Romeo are both dynamic playmakers who best play when handling the ball, initiating the offense through their own unique ways.

Does this mean this is a marriage between two alphas that’s bound to fail? Not necessarily. As mentioned, Romeo and Castro create their offense in different ways. Their differences could actually be used positively in a situation where both of them play together. Watch how Romeo and Castro team up to execute this dribble drive set:

Castro-Romeo DDO

The clip starts with the Koreans double teaming once Romeo gets the ball in the left wing, and immediately, he swings the ball to Gabe Norwood at the top of the key. Immediately, a flow is created, as Norwood continues the movement by passing it off to Castro in the right wing. The Korean defense is left scrambling for options, so it’s easy pickings from here. Castro penetrates, then easily kicks out the ball to Romeo who hits the open three. Cash.

There should ideally be a basic understanding of how to work well WITH each other rather than just as individuals. Both are capable penetrators, while their spot-up shooting is more than respectable. Unli isolations will not work in trying to mesh these two elite talents. They need to learn how to work well off each other, and the results could be tremendous for the Katropa.

More than just playing together, Coach Nash Racela now has the luxury of staggering the minutes between the two guards. That means, more rest for the aging Castro, who has actually missed some games as of late due to injury. No longer will TNT’s point guard production drop off a cliff when The Blur is off the floor. They have an elite lead guard in The Bro who has the kind of skill set built for a superstar.

PBA - Talk 'N Text vs San Miguel Beer - May 5, 2017 - PRT - 4

Can TNT finally inch closer to the San Miguel Beermen?

At the end of the day, the success of this deal for TNT will boil down to whether or not they can win a championship after a three year drought. They’ve become a lot more talented, no doubt about it. But the question is, can their talent be enough to topple the San Miguel Beermen?

The San Miguel Beermen have been the gold standard in the league for the longest time now. Despite this group failing to complete a Grand Slam run (yet?), it’s safe to say their run of dominance is something that we will remember for years to come. At the forefront of their success has been Fajardo, the four-time MVP who isn’t slowing down any time soon.

Many have tried to counter San Miguel by acquiring new bigs to counter Fajardo, so it’s easy to understand why TNT drafted Tautuaa and Troy Rosario then in the 2015 PBA Draft. That strategy hasn’t worked out, so what this trade signifies is TNT will zag to the zig of San Miguel. The Beermen have size? We’ll counter with speed, guard depth and shooting. With an import incoming for TNT, there’s certainly a case to be made for TNT as a contender next conference.

There’s still a problem though: the big man depth of TNT is concerning, even though they’re adding an import in the next conference. San Miguel is a unique monster, in a sense that they don’t just play one way. They have Fajardo, who they can use to play slow and drop the ball to in the post to do work, but they also have a bunch of guards and wings who have the size, and skill set to capably play fast.

Ginebra tried to play fast versus San Miguel in the semifinals, but it didn’t work. Magnolia has been trying to throw as many bigs as possible against Fajardo, but Arwind Santos has been a match-up problem for the likes of Ian Sangalang and Rafi Reavis. What’s even scarier is how the Beermen not only has an import incoming, but also Christian Standhardinger, another projected “Kraken-Stopper”. The only stopping Standhardinger will have to do versus Fajardo is when the two of them push each other during practice and when the Karken plays too much DOTA, but aside from that, they’re going to be playing together. Yipee.

Nothing is final, however, no matter how talented SMB may be right now and with their incoming pieces. With this trade, TNT decided to make a move and shake things up with how their team is running things. It’s a risk that can definitely bear fruit good things in the short run, but the long term implications of this move can either be beautiful or destructive for TNT. But that’s the thing with trying to win championships — you have to be willing to take risks to try and increase your talent and match whoever the best team has. TNT will bring a different type of fire versus the power of San Miguel, and we will see whether or not it will pay off in the long run.

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