After a short break, the PBA is back with reinforcements.
The Commissioner’s Cup brings several new wrinkles to the league. Imports will be bolstering some teams that need the boost in size. The San Miguel Beermen will be defending their crown and they’ll be doing it with their prized rookie, Christian Standhardinger in tow. Several impactful imports are making a return to the PBA donning new uniforms.
With those storylines in mind, the SLAM PH team answers burning questions heading into this year’s Commissioner’s Cup.
Q1: Who are the favorites to challenge the San Miguel Beermen for the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup championship?
Aljo Dolores – Imports are a big part of success in reinforced conferences. Some teams try to acquire NBA-caliber players with hopes that they can dominate in the PBA. The exactly what is expected from Jeremy Tyler. With 80 NBA games under his name, Tyler will be tasked to carry TNT back to the top alongside Castro and Romeo.
However, NBA experience doesn’t necessarily translate to great on-court performance (see Daniel Orton), or good chemistry (see Renaldo Balkman). Returning imports can be as valuable as the NBA’s fourth stringers. Guys like Vernon Macklin (Magnolia), Jarrid Famous (Blackwater), Malcolm White (GlobalPort) and Jaames White (Phoenix) are banking on familiarity and PBA experience to lead their teams good runs this Commissioner’s Cup.
But perhaps, Meralco is the best bet to match the Beermen this conference. Aside from the team’s potent local lineup, the Bolts acquired the services of Arinze Onuaku. NBA experience? Check. PBA experience? Check. On-court dominance? He’s a former Best Import awardee, so that’s a big check.
Let’s see if the Bolts can give the Beermen a run for their money.
Q2: Which import will have the biggest impact for their team?
Polo Bustamante – The Magnolia Hotshots showcased incredible depth during their Philippine Cup Finals run. They have a guard core that feature a killer in the clutch, Paul Lee, two-way demon, Mark Barroca and young whirlwind, Jio Jalalon. Their front court is stacked with up and coming talent. Rome Dela Rosa, Aldrech Ramos, Robbie Herndon and Rafi Reavis all play their roles well. Ian Sangalang is the centerpiece of that frontcourt. He’s a talented player who can play inside and out.
What they were missing is a bruising big man who can do the dirty work and be a terror defensively. In Vernon Macklin, they’re getting exactly that. Macklin powered an undermanned Ginebra team all the way to the Finals back in 2013. He’s not as skilled as the other Hotshot big men. But he doesn’t need to score to make an impact. He’s a rim-rolling big man that will catch lobs, rebound and block shots. That’s all Magnolia needs. They have enough players to do the scoring. Macklin is on the team to bring the nasty.
Macklin’s energy and effort is infectious. He will definitely help the Hotshots to another deep Playoff run. The question is can he finish the job he failed to complete in 2013?
Q3: Which team bounces back the most from their Philippine Cup performance?
Jon Carlos Rodriguez – Here are a few takeaways from the Philippine Cup:
– June Mar Fajardo should be your role model in life
– Send prayers if you draw the San Miguel Beermen in the playoffs
– The NLEX Road Warriors are exciting
– Kia Picanto is dead; long live Columbian Dyip
– Ginebra needs Greg Slaughter like air
– Raymond Aguilar
Okay, so that last bullet might be a stretch, but the breakout game of the other Aguilar is one of my most memorable moments from the previous conference. Down 16 points against eventual champions San Miguel, Barangay Ginebra clawed its way to victory to hand the Beermen their first loss of the season. Aguilar, a journeyman who found his way back to Ginebra, tied his career-best 16 points opposite Fajardo. It was an inspiring moment to add to the long list of NSD highlights. (San Miguel didn’t forget this and proceeded to demolish Barangay Ginebra when they met in the semis.)
But Ginebra will bounce back from their woeful Philippine Cup performance because Tim Cone is still their head coach. Like he did in that San Miguel game, Coach Tim can pull out weapons that catch opponents off guard, whether they come in the form of “the other Aguilar,” or Jervy Cruz or whoever he taps to rise to the occasion. Also, Fajardo rival Slaughter and import Messiah Justin Brownlee are set to return mid-conference. So there’s that.
Q4: What role will Christian Standhardinger play in the Commissioner’s Cup for the Beermen?
Karlo Lovenia – Rome wasn’t built in a day. That’s something the San Miguel Beermen have to stick to their heads as they welcome in not only their import Troy Gillenwater, but also their prized draft pick Christian Standhardinger.
Many project the Beermen to completely destroy opponents by adding in a franchise-altering piece like Standhardinger to their team already filled with franchise-altering pieces (that’s plural, by the way, not a typo). Although it may be true the Beermen will continue to be world beaters, they won’t be in the level people expect them to be in an instant. A big part of that is because they have to blend in Standhardinger, forcing them to change their system up a little bit so they can accommodate their rookie.
That’s the problem though. They don’t have the luxury of coasting a little bit and focusing on blending Christian in. They have a championship they want to win, so the likely role of Standhardinger early on will be back-up center of June Mar Fajardo. We’ll get to watch Fajardo-Standhardinger combos in the future. Not now though, as San Miguel will likely try to play it safe by sticking to their old system more in order to win a title. It may sound like an insult to brand Standhardinger as a mere back-up, but, that’s absolutely fearful for the rest of the league. Fajardo as your starter. Take him out, and you can bring in Standhardinger. Good luck PBA. They’re not Rome now, but they’re already more than capable of winning rings despite that.