Is Standhardinger now the best big man in the PBA?

The situation seems a bit unfair for Christian Standhardinger, doesn’t it?

The 2020 Philippine Cup is supposed to be his opportunity to come out and staple his claim as the best big man in the PBA. This was supposed to be his time to prove himself – without any asterisks.

He had served his time coming off the bench with the San Miguel Beermen in his first two seasons, starting only 17.6% of the games. Everyone knew how talented he was; there was no doubt about that as he finished in the top 10 among all local players in PER for all three conferences leading up to the Governors’ Cup in 2019.

Therefore, it was a bit frustrating to see him limited to only 22.7 minutes per game during his entire stretch with the Beermen. No matter how much you understood the luxury of depth that the Beermen had, you also felt that Standhardinger was a hungry beast ready to be unleashed.

In the middle of October last year, the shackles came off.

Standhardinger was traded to Northport and exploded to double nearly all of his stats from his time with his former club.

His conference number with Northport were gaudy: 22.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in 44.0 minutes per game. The last time we saw him in the PBA, Standhardinger put up 32 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists against Ginebra – just barely a month after dropping 33 points, 23 rebounds, and 7 assists against NLEX.

When the dust settled, he was named the Best Player of the Conference for the first time in his PBA career.

It seemed like the stage was set.

Heading into 2020, the Philippine Cup – without any foreign players – was supposed to be the perfect stage for Standhardinger to make a strong case as the best big man in the league. Then things got a little bit weird in the anticipated clash of top titans.

Reigning five-time MVP June Mar Fajardo broke his right leg on February 3. Another prime time candidate in Greg Slaughter then announced he would “take a break” on February 8. In just the span of a few days, two of Standhardinger’s top contenders were going to rack up DNPs for what it seems to be at least in this first conference.

There are other premier big men expected to do well from Japeth Aguilar to Moala Tautua’a to Poy Erram… but it’s just not going to be the same without those two big absentees.

Standhardinger was projected to be the most productive among all of these inside presences. There wasn’t going to be much teams could do to stop him, with his combination of bullish-ness along with smart movement and passing.

It just seems a bit unfortunate that if (or, more likely, when) Standhardinger runs through the Philippine Cup as one of the best players in the conference, there might be just a slight asterisk to that accomplishment. It also seems a bit unlucky that we won’t get to see Fajardo and Standhardinger go up against each other in the Philippine Cup for the first time.

But it feels like Standhardinger could possibly care less about all that.

He’ll care more about how “devastating” the injury was to “one of the greatest freaking guys out there” than how it would effect his chance at cementing his case for the best big man for the meanwhile. Knowing how determined and competitive he is, Standhardinger will care more about how to be the best version of himself every time he gets on the court.

No matter who he will go up against this season or even which team he will be on, there is no doubt that Standhardinger will be up there among the best players in the league.

It might seem a bit unfair for Standhardinger that to have to wait a little bit longer for the chance to shed the asterisk that will come with the eventual title of “Best Big Man in the League”.

But, on the other hand, it’s unfair for the opposing teams that will have to face an unleashed, focused, and determined version Standhardinger each and every game this season as well.