PBA Preview: Petron Blaze Boosters

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - A new Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) season kicks off on Sunday, November 17. Anticipation is high especially with the influx of young talent that came via the PBA draft

Who are the teams and players to watch out for? Rappler gives you a preview of each team and how we expect them to fare in the All-Filipino Conference.

Philippine Cup recap

Injuries hobbled Petron Blaze's campaign in the Philippine Cup. They lost 6 of their first 9 games before finishing with a measly 6-8 win-loss card. They were knocked out by the 2nd-seeded San Mig Coffee Mixers in the quarterfinal round. But the emergence of June Mar Fajardo and newly-crowned PBA MVP Arwind Santos could drastically change the Blazers' fortune in the All-Filipino tourney.

Projected starters

June Mar Fajardo
Arwind Santos
Chris Lutz
Marcio Lassiter
Alex Cabagnot

Bench

Yousef Taha
Doug Kramer
Jason Deutchman
Ronald Tubid
Chris Ross
Chico Lanete
Paulo Hubalde

Coaching staff

Head coach: Gee Abanilla
Assistant coaches: Todd Purves, Biboy Ravanes, Leo Austria, Dayong Mendoza

Strengths

There was never a question about the talent in Petron's roster. They basically have all the weapons in every position. June Mar Fajardo is coming off an impressive performance in the Governors' Cup Finals. Arwind Santos is the reigning MVP. They have a topnotch facilitator in Alex Cabagnot, and loaded guns in the wings with Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, and Ronald Tubid. Coming off the bench are guys like Doug Kramer, who once led the PBA in double-doubles, and defenders Chris Ross and Paulo Hubalde.

Weaknesses

Petron's outside gunners need to shoot consistently if they are to make it past the elimination round. Other than that, I don't see any weakness on a powerhouse squad. Sidelined players contributed to their early downfall in the last Philippine Cup so health is a major concern.

X-Factor

Arwind Santos was highly criticized for a lackluster showing in their series against San Mig Coffee, where he was not able to show his MVP form. In this conference, the Boosters' campaign will most likely depend on how well Santos delivers night after night.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER. Arwind Santos kneels down as he raises his first ever PBA MVP trophy. Photo by Nuki Sabio/PBA Images

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER. Arwind Santos kneels down as he raises his first ever PBA MVP trophy.

Photo by Nuki Sabio/PBA Images


Can June Mar Fajardo continue his dominance?

Fajardo is probably the best-performing hulking center since 2003 MVP Asi Taulava. His tremendous size is hard to match especially when he gets good position at the post. The Kracken averaged 18.7 points and 14.6 rebounds in the Governors' Cup finals but he is still a work in progress. Once he gets better, then he'll be even more unstoppable.

Philippine Cup forecast

Many say the Boosters are the team to beat this year. With a complete roster, Petron Blaze will definitely improve on their record last year. It would be a surprise if they don't land, at least, in the semifinals. - Rappler.com

Check out other team previews: