PBA Commissioner’s Cup preview: Global Port, Meralco
MANILA, Philippines - The 2013 PBA Commissioner’s Cup is one of the most anticipated tournaments in the Philippine Basketball calendar for the simple fact that it doesn’t impose any height limit on the imports each team may sign up.
It’s the only pro tournament on Philippine soil where hoop nuts will get to see their favorite PBA players rough it up with some really talented big men from across the globe.
In Part 3 of this series, Rappler takes a look at a team that has turned into instant contenders -- on paper -- and one that helped that team make the leap.
Global Port Batang Pier
2012 Commissioner’s Cup record:
4-5 (as Powerade Tigers, eliminated)
Justin Williams is a 6’9” American who was a former player of the University of Wyoming Cowboys. Of all the imports, he probably has the thinnest resume. He was a journeyman NBAer who was signed and then waived by both the Kings and Rockets in 2008.
Later in the same year, he joined the training camps of the Warriors and Bobcats in succession, but also failed to make the grade for both squads. In 2012, Williams signed with the LA D-Fenders of the NBA D-League. He played just one game recording one foul in two minutes. Yikes.
Remember this acronym: MMDA. That stands for Mercado, Miller, David, and Aguilar. Of course, any self-respecting PBA fan should know who those four players are. These four should be the lynchpins around whom the offense of this team will revolve.
Sol Mercado was the second leading scorer and top assists man of the previous conference, and he should remain very productive with this present crew of Batang Pier. He played well with Gary David in Gilas 2.0 last year, and he should have no trouble finding Japeth Aguilar in the low block for the expected easy slams.
Another thing going for coach Junel Baculi is size. With Japeth in the fold, he can swing Jason Deutchman maybe to the 3 spot, where his outside shot can spread the floor. All this is theoretical, of course, as Deutchman chiefly played PF or C in the previous conference. Still, the presence of Williams, Aguilar, and Deutchman should give Global Port a lot of flexibility up front.
Williams, however, is not a scorer. Let’s just get that out of the way really quickly. As recently as a week ago, coach Baculi was hesitant to finalize Williams as the Batang Pier import based on his offensive deficiency, but when they landed Sol Mercado, then he felt Williams could just focus on playing good defense and cleaning glass.
Speaking of Mercado, we’re not thoroughly convinced he can coexist with someone like Willie Miller, at least in terms of skill set. These are two guys who are most effective with the ball instead of playing off the ball like David. Both are terrific penetrators, respectable pull-up shooters, and great playmakers (heck, Miller tied Mercado as the top assists guy in the Philippine Cup!). In short, they might be a little too redundant.
Then again, if Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups can somehow make things work (in the limited time they play together), then who’s to say Sol and Willie can’t, right?
In spite of all those things, though, the biggest question mark for us is still Japeth Aguilar. We think how fine he plays will be the main barometer of how fine, or awful, Global Port’s conference will be. Right now, we’ll peg them as a borderline quarterfinals team.
They have, however, the talent to rise and be among the top 4 teams. Guard play will definitely be their main strength, but the lack of interior offense might hurt them in the long run.
2012 Commissioner’s Cup record:
4-5 (made the quarterfinals, but lost to B-Meg, 3-1)
Eric Dawson is a 6’9” American who was a former player for the Midwestern State University Mustangs. He played in the NBA D-League for the Austin Toros back in the 2011-2012 season. He saw action in 37 matches, averaging about 16 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block while shooting 54% from the field.
He was the primary inside operator of the team in that season, and he was named the Impact Player of the Year. He then had a really brief stint with the San Antonio Spurs early in ’12 before getting signed by the Bolts nearly a year later.
The Bolts are parading maybe the best import in terms of credentials, and that’s always a big plus. Dawson should form an imposing frontline together with Jay-R Reyes and Cliff Hodge. Reyes was #6 in rebounding last conference (7.3rpg) while Hodge was tops in blocks together with Alaska’s Calvin Abueva (1.3bpg).
Of course Dawson’s production will probably eat into those numbers, but, still, that is one frightening frontcourt right there. Retaining Ronjay Buenafe and Mac Cardona is also a great thing, as both should flourish with more shot attempts because of Sol Mercado’s departure.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that losing Mercado was by and large a positive thing – he was their top scorer and top playmaker after all. We doubt if either Cardona or Buenafe can really put up 18+ppg (okay, maybe Cardona) with Dawson there, and doubt Chris Ross can duplicate
Mercado’s ability to attract the defense. Heck, even Meralco’s management admitted that the Mercado deal was primarily a sign of rebuilding for the team. Also, the guys they got for Sol – Vic Manuel and Rey Guevarra – might not even really play significant minutes because, well, Dawson is there along with Reyes and Hodge.
All in all, everything just looks mighty stodgy for the Bolts at this juncture. Without their top gun and playmaker, they might not even open things up for Dawson as much as they want. We’re not really saying Meralco will be terrible in this tournament, but members of Bansang Meralco would do well to lower their expectations. - Rappler.com