Considered as the world’s premiere basketball league, the NBA is the home of the game’s top-level talent. Sure, there may be those who are languishing on the bench, barely seeing any court time. But put these supposed “scrubs” in another league outside the States– Europe, China or wherever across the hemisphere, and they will, more often than not, dominate the competition.
That also applies to the Philippines, wherein a slew of imports that have once been part of the NBA became folk heroes during their stint here in the country. This list includes Glenn McDonald, David Thirdkill, and Dennis Hopson and Cedric Ceballos. Even Billy Ray Bates, considered as perhaps the best import to have played in the PBA also came from the NBA
The NBA import experience has been experiencing a revival of sorts. Just last conference, the Finals of the Commissioner’s Cup saw a couple of ex-NBAers in TNT’s Terrence Jones and Chris McCullough of San Miguel duking it out. The trend continues in the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup, in which there are four imports that have once played in the NBA at some time in their respective professional careers.
Here’s how they rank accordingly to their impact not only on their clubs but to the rest of the PBA as well.
1. K.J. McDaniels, TNT KaTropa
While TNT wasn’t able to bag the 2018-19 Commissioner’s Cup trophy, their successful run all the way to the championship round proved that NBA guys such as Terrence Jones are worth the investment. Keeping that formula in mind, the KaTropa management hired another ex-NBA cager and Jones’ former teammate K.J. McDaniels, with the expectation of finally copping the grand prize.
McDaniels has been living up to that billing so far. Despite being a rookie import this season, the NBA journeyman already served notice to the rest of the competition when he fired 51 points, grabbed 10 boards, and added 4 blocks and 2 dimes in only his sixth PBA game, against the proven Allen Durham.
He’s showing an array of offensive moves, from powering to the cup, to lighting it up from deep, all of which he polished during his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, and Brooklyn Nets. McDaniels is presently averaging 37.9 points, 14.3 boards, and 5.5 assists as his team totes an 7-1 slate and a share of the lead in the elimination round. Should TNT’s team play remain consistent with him as the backbone, then the KaTropa just might find themselves back for another shot at a title, and McDaniels finally finishing the job for his ex-Rocket colleague.
2. Manny Harris, NLEX Road Warriors
Perhaps taking a cue from their sister squad, the Road Warriors also decided to go into the import with NBA experience route even though they had a pretty decent elimination record at the time with Ola Ashaolu.
Turns out, signing former Cleveland Cavalier, Los Angeles Laker, and Dallas Maverick Manny Harris was for the better. First impressions do last, and Harris made a good account of himself in his very first PBA game, dropping 45 markers while balancing his line with three steals and three blocks. That created a lasting memory as a notable PBA debuts for an import.
Interestingly, Harris still has to taste defeat as his team is riding on a three-game winning streak since his arrival. His 38 points per game tops the league so far, and even though he is recognized by his scoring wizardry, the Michigan product is also well-versed in keeping his teammates involved and aiding to the team’s cause evident in his triple-double performance of 29, 12 and 11 in the demolition of Rain or Shine just days ago.
3. Alonzo Gee, Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters
Just like his former Cleveland Cavalier teammate, Alonzo Gee also came out of the gates with guns blazing, firing 45 points with nine boards, six steals while shooting 53% from the field. That made heads turn in his PBA debut.
Yet, that line wasn’t enough to address his team’s skid, falling to a 2-6 slate in the standings. It didn’t help the team’s cause that they were undermanned due to injuries and management sanctions. Still the silver lining which is Gee’s ability on both ends of the floor leaves a lot of optimism.
He may only have played one game in the PBA, but if this performance is a sign of things of come, then it is possible that the Fuel Masters’ campaign this Governors’ Cup may still turn out for the better.
4. Marqus Blakely, Blackwater Elite
The veteran among the lot with seven PBA tours of duty tucked under his belt, Marqus Blakely remains one of the more solid reinforcements in the PBA despite not having the impact brought by the three other ex-NBAers this conference.
Nicknamed “Mr. Everything” during his glory days with the Magnolia franchise. His ability to contribute on almost every statistical category is still evident. The former Rocket and Los Angeles Clipper continues to live up to this moniker in his present assignment with Blackwater.
In the Elite’s first win of the conference at NorthPort’s expense, the former Best Import flirted with a near quadruple-double to the tune of 13 points, 14 rebounds, eight blocks and seven assists, He would follow this up a few days later with a 21-point, 13-board, 5-steal and 3-assist performance versus his former club, Magnolia.
More than these numbers, the intangibles that Blakely brings to the table are of great value as well. His experience in being a multiple-time PBA champion is a treasure trove for the young Elite side.