The Commissioner’s Cup has been all about the guards, as evidenced by Chris Ross and Alex Cabaganot leading the pack for the BPC race and Jayson Castro being able to put up great number as usual. But that doesn’t mean that big men aren’t of value in this Conference. In fact, the result of the clash between SMB and TNT could very well depend on how the bigs fare against each other.
For the case of San Miguel, when talking about their big men, their MVP June Mar Fajardo is definitely at the forefront of that conversation. Let’s face it: There’s no one local in the country who can shut down Fajardo completely. You can slow him down, yes, but to shut him down? It’s close to impossible.
The Ka-Tropa, on the other hand, have a number of big men, but they aren’t exactly in the mold of a Kraken. Moala Tautuaa is someone who fans have kept an eye on as early as his ABL days. Troy Rosario has been decent offensively for TNT, providing the versatility the team needs for its dribble-drive attack. Kelly Williams has served the Ka-Tropa well, providing a ton of energy despite his advanced age. Harvey Carey is an old reliable that can be called upon from time to time to give the team an added boost when need be. Joshua Smith could easily be part of this list, but since his status is uncertain, we won’t be including him in this exercise for the mean time.
As you can see, TNT has a lot of bigs that they can throw at the Kraken in this duel. But will they be enough? Who has the best chance at slowing him down?
Let’s check out their chances:
The case for Troy Rosario
Among the bunch of bigs that TNT has, Troy is the one with the best blend of size, athleticism, and mobility. These are things which has given Junemar trouble in the past, so it isn’t too hard to imagine Troy shutting down Junemar. So Troy has to be their best bet right?
That isn’t entirely the case. For one, Rosario’s Basketball IQ defensively is still suspect. He’s still susceptible to fakes from bigs, something that Fajardo is known to do. Other than the IQ aspect of it, physically, he just doesn’t have the strength to match-up with The Kraken. Rosario is a strong player, for sure, but the thing is, his strength won’t be enough to slow down Fajardo.
All hope isn’t lost though. What he lacks in strength, Rosario can make up for with his mobility and speed. He could very well force Fajardo to commit a number turnovers by pressuring him, or if he’s able to discipline himself, it won’t be too difficult to see Rosario block some Fajardo Kraken-steps to the basket.
The case for Moala Tautuaa
Ka-Tropa drafted Tautuaa with the mindset that they needed someone to stop J Fajardo. He may not be as mobile as Rosario, but his combination of athleticism, strength and size could be enough to shut down The Kraken. In their past meetings, it certainly looked like Tautuaa managed to get the number of Fajardo. Not only would Tautuaa give Fajardo a difficult time offensively, but he was also able to expose the poor foot speed and lack of mobility of Fajardo defensively. There was a catch to that, however.
Fajardo would continue to aggressively attack Tautuaa, and this led to him committing some bad fouls against The Kraken. This would force TNT to sit down Mo, and it would lead to Fajardo gaining momentum every time he would be matched up with a smaller defender. When Tautuaa would go back in, Fajardo already had momentum. It would be too tough for him to at least stop Fajardo.
At the very least, Tautuaa knows he has the tools to slow down Fajardo. The question is: will he be able to do this for an entire game? Slowing down Fajardo for a couple of minutes isn’t enough. Mo will have to exert the right amount of energy and smarts to be able to keep up with The Kraken down low.
The case for Kelly Williams
Williams provides the same things as Tautuaa defensively. He’s still incredibly strong (he is jacked up), his mobility is still good enough despite his age, and he has the size to at least give Fajardo trouble. But what makes Williams a much better defender against Fajardo is his veteran smarts.
In last year’s Philippine Cup semifinal match-up between the two squads, Williams was the one who gave Fajardo the most trouble. It’s not too difficult to imagine him giving Fajardo similar trouble this time around. He’s also an incredibly pesky defender who uses his quick hands to make sure than Fajardo doesn’t get too comfortable down low in order to make his move.
The are two caveats with Williams defending Fajardo. First, foul trouble. As good as Williams is defensively, he is still prone to committing some fouls which are unnecessary. Against a three-time MVP, it’s close to inevitable that one will commit fouls. Another factor is, it’s highly likely that William’s main assignment will be Charles Rhodes. Will his teammates be able to provide enough to be able to slow down Fajardo?
The case for Harvey Carey
Quite frankly, Harvey Carey will no longer be able to slow down Fajardo for an entire game. He’s too old at this stage, as he’s only received limited minutes from Coach Nash Racela. The very least that Carey will be able to provide is some energy in spurts. That’s exactly what he will look to give against Fajardo.
Imagine Fajardo getting the ball stripped off his hands by the 38 year-old Carey. Not only would the Ka-Tropa bench go wild, but the crowd as well. That kind of energy that he provides will not only pump up the TNT side, but it could prove to be demoralizing for Fajardo and the Beermen as well.
That’s just a possible situation. No one is sure whether or not that situation will really happen. But if it does happen, don’t be too surprised. Carey’s scrappy style of play is going to be key in giving the Katropa energy, and the same time, slowing down the force that is the Kraken.