The PBA Annual Draft has come a long way from being done in private among the member teams back in the 80’s. It is now a public spectacle watched by thousands live and broadcast nationwide.
This year’s version, done in Market! Market! In Taguig had its share of excitement but most of the picks were expected as 19 of the 45 players were picked to play in the upcoming season.
The clear winner in my book was Talk ‘N Text. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the Phone Pals pretty much got what they wanted. Certainly, coach Chot Reyes would have preferred the acquisition of Gabe Norwood, a player he coached on the National Team during the FIBA Asia Championships, and I reckon he made attempts to get that number one pick of Rain or Shine, but his team still got both quality and quality when all was said and done.
Norwood (#1) was by far the best player on the list and he is a superstar waiting to happen in the PBA. He has the combination of athletic ability, unselfishness and winning attitude that guarantees prolonged success in the league. He will make the youngest PBA team a lot better. Solomon Mercado (#5) (from Alaska for Joe Devance) and Ty Tang (#12) makes Rain or Shine a much faster team and we will see if the change in philosophy helps the Elasto Painters.
I haven’t seen enough of Jared Dilinger (#2) to have a good opinion but I have seen a lot of Jason Castro (#3) to be sure that he is going to be a great player. The Phone Pals gave up Jay Washington for the 3rd overall pick which became Castro. The former PBL Most Valuable Player was signed by the Singapore Slingers of the Australian League but with the team leaving the NBL, it seems inevitable that Jason will be playing back in his homeland sooner than later. Castro is explosive as a guard. He has a good outside jumper, can attack the basket better than anyone in the draft, is strong enough to defend even bigger guards, and is a proven winner. His NCAA and PBL championships are more telling than his stats which has garnered him the MVP honors. Note that Jason won his PBL MVP’s with Norwood playing in the same conference. He and Gabe will be battling it out for Rookie of the Year this coming season. Rob Reyes (#4) and Pong Escobal (#11) will also make the lineup although not as much impact as the other two.
It’s hard to fault San Miguel for foregoing Castro at number three and in effect getting Washington instead. The Beermen needed some insurance in the power forward spot with the injuries to Ildefonso and Seigle. They also already had Mike Cortez to take over from Olsen Racela which made picking another point guard redundant. SMB in recent history has not had great drafts and this year is no exception.
As far as Alaska is concerned, they got the players they were hoping for to plug some holes in their lineup. Joe Devance (from Rain or Shine for Laure and Sol Mercado) plugs a big hole in the middle where only Sonny Thoss was a true center. Kelvin Dela Pena (#15) , an NCAA MVP also gives adequate support for Willie Miller
Red Bull got Larry Rodriguez (#9) late in the first round, then Jeff Chan and Mark Cuevas in the second. None of them seem to be good enough to be stars in the league but I said the same thing about Junthy Valenzuela, Lordy Tugade, and Cyrus Baguio until Yeng Guiao’s system proved otherwise.
After great picks the last couple of years with Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes, Sta. Lucia picked dead last in both rounds because of their championship trophy in the Philippine Cup. Kelvin Gregorio (#10) will contribute some but he is in no way someone who will take over from Marlou Aquino and Dennis Espino as interior powerhouses. Chito Jaime (#14) and Christian Cabatu (#20) won’t be contending for Rookie of the Year as well but at least one of them should still make the squad come opening day.
Mark Borboran (#6) and Cholo Villanueva (#13) in the second round were picked by the Air 21 Express seemingly following the philosophy of getting the best possible talent available. Mark will be a solid contributor while Cholo might plug a need at the point guard position.
While Air 21 took the best player available, Purefoods picked according to their biggest need, a banger inside. Beau Belga (#7) is a wide body who will take up some space for coach Ryan Gregorio. Jonathan Fernandez (#16) is the best shooter in the draft but will have to play behind Peter Simon and James Yap.
Coke and Ginebra didn’t have picks because of previous trades. Coke needs to find some playing time for Kenneth Duremdes and John Arigo while Ginebra just has to get healthy to compete at the championship level.