The 37th Season of the PBA ended just a little over a week ago, yet teams have already been busy assessing the talent of the 71 aspirants that declared themselves available for the PBA Draft, wishing that their names will be called during the actual drafting, which happens on 19 August 2012 at the Robinsons Place Manila. To be sure, it's a tall order for many of these fellows, since the teams usually pick for only a couple of rounds, with just ten players picked per round, and that's assuming each team exercises its option to choose a player as the rounds go on. In the past, teams have opted to "pass" even after just the first or second round, leaving even less opportunities for the draft hopefuls to make a PBA roster. Of course, there are those who will surely be drafted. Their immense talent and/or potential cannot be ignored. There are also those that have a big chance of hearing Commissioner Chito Salud call their names, since they have some talent and might be able to fill in as role players. There are, of course, long shots and darkhorses. There will surely be surprises. Many names in the pool are quite unfamiliar, even to those, including myself, who follow Philippine basketball closely. I asked D-League and NCAA Commentator LA Mumar, and San Beda Team Manager and former Assistant Coach Jude Roque, for their input. Combining theirs with mine, let's now try to assess.
Petron Blaze, picking first with a draft pick it acquired from Air 21, already declared that it will pick center Junmar Fajardo first overall. The University of Cebu alum will surely be an asset, with his height (6'9) and considerable skill accompanying it. His international experience while playing for the San Miguel Beermen in the Asean Basketball League should prove invaluable in dealing with the other frontliners of the PBA.
Calvin "The Beast" Abueva of San Sebastian, though undersized for power forward in the PBA, is ultra-talented and strong. He can bang with the best and, if he can keep his head on straight, will surely add serious board-work and hustle to the team that drafts him. He should be in the top 3.
Fil-Ams Chris Ellis, the lengthy, high-leaping player from D-League Champions NLEX, and Cliff Hodge, who some say may be a Rudy Hatfield in the making, are also frontrunners in the coming draft. Both have immense potential and above-average athletic ability. Ellis may need to bulk up in the pros and work on his jumper, but defensively, he can guard all three smaller positions. Hodge has a PBA-ready body, can play more than one position, and has a decent medium range jumper. The question with him is how the physicality of the PBA will affect his play.
Aldrech Ramos of FEU, once a member of Smart-Gilas, should also get an early call. He is tall and can shoot the basketball even out to three-point land. He can post up when necessary and is not afraid of battling inside for rebounds. He also plays fairly good defense, using his length well.
Ronald Pascual of San Sebastian, with Abueva and Ian Sangalang, form the Stags' formidable Monsters, Inc. trio. He will certainly join Abueva in the list of draftees. He shoots well, is versatile, and potentially can score a lot in the pros, given the right opportunity. (Update: As of 3:00pm of 16 August 2012, Ronald Pascual has withdrawn his name from the list of draftees.)
Dave Marcelo, former San Beda center, is tough, comes from a winning program, and has the talent to play power forward well in the PBA.
Alex Mallari is a tall lead guard (6'4) with an accurate outside shot. A lefty, he passes well and soundly defends opposing guards. Some project him to go in the top 5 because of his unique combination of size and skill.
Charles Keith Jensen is a 6'4 frontcourt player from NYU, who has been described as "super physical." He is not polished offensively, but led his D-League team in scoring on several occasions. He can hit the open three and drive to the basket fairly well.
Another much-talked about player is 6'8 Yousef Taha, who loves to post up, but has range on his shot. He is taller and better posting up than Jensen. Not many with his size enjoy posting up the way he does, which would be attractive for PBA teams that prefer to slow it down and set up in the halfcourt.
Finally, there is of course Chris Tiu, who filed his draft papers with the PBA office at the deadline and will surely be taken early. He has above-average backcourt skills (ball-handling, passing, outside shooting) and probably the highest basketball IQ of anyone in the pool. He has international experience, having been one of the faces of the Smart-Gilas program for a couple of years, and, despite his boyish artista looks, is actually a very physical player who can take hits and dish them out as well. Of course, above and beyond all this, he brings with him thousands of fans who will instantly cheer for whichever team welcomes him on board. With Tiu, you will get more than just a heady, steady ballplayer. Your fan base will expand immediately.
The Next Ones
JR Cawaling was also a Smart-Gilas player. That alone merits him much consideration. However, his play declined as his tenure in the UAAP extended and he was not even playing in some games in his last year, which hurts his draft position. He will probably get the call, but he is not high up in the list. (Update: As of noon today, 15 August 2012, JR Cawaling has withdrawn his name from the list of draftees.)
The quartet of Adamson Falcons, Lester Alvarez, Jerick Cañada, Jan Colina, and Janus Lozada are all "draftable." Alvarez and Cañada are two talented guards who may have been inconsistent in their university careers but are suitable backups for many teams, in a league where steady back-up backcourt play is sometimes rare. Colina and Lozada play a similar type of game as complementary players who can add depth to any team's frontcourt, bang a little, pick up a few baskets along the way, and use their fouls to guard opposing forwards. None of the four are superstar material, but they should be on the radar.
Jewel Ponferrada of National University may get some consideration because he played center in the UAAP and was a more than decent power forward in the D-League. He is pretty big (6'4), and could help shore up some frontlines in the league.
AJ Mandani, out of the University of Missouri-Rolla, is called the power guard of the D-League. He's about a tad under six feet tall, but is very muscular and strong. He orchestrates fairly well, but has to work on his outside shot.
Kelly Nabong is a big fellow. Muscular and standing 6'6, also with inside skills and tenacious rebounding prowess, he will surely get a long look from many teams. His short temper, though, is the red flag as he habitually engaged opponents in near-fights and got suspended for his overly-physical play while in the D-League. However, if a team feels this would not be a hindrance, Nabong could be one of the sure shots listed above.
Vic Manuel, D-League MVP, should also get some consideration as a 6'4 swingman with vast potential. He has a great medium-range jumper, can take it to the basket, and plays defense. Depending on which team is on the draft clock and needs this type of player, this fellow can be a first rounder.
Jason Deutchman is a 6'6 lefty from San Diego State U. who can hit the outside shot. He played guard in the US NCAA and, thus, can handle the ball.
Outside Chances for One Reason or Another
Jaypee Belencion of Letran may get some attention simply because he can shoot the ball and stands about 6'2. Similar to him is Andrian Celada of Arellano University.
Simon Atkins, while definitely having a lackluster university career at DLSU, comes from a high-profile program, and could attract some teams primarily because of the fan factor he can bring over. Emman Monfort of Ateneo probably can contribute more than Atkins, but he is not a point guard and his lack of size is definitely a negative. His being an ex-Blue Eagle, however, and his clutch play while in the UAAP, might give him a chance to be drafted (remember Macky Escalona?).
Joseph Hermosisima of NU likes to shoot, and sometimes can get into a hot streak. Teams that have difficulty from the outside might gamble on this fellow as a fellow NU Bulldog Jonathan Fernandez-type. Note, however, that Fernandez did not get much playing time in his PBA stint.
Allan Mangahas of Mapua is undersized, but this guy can play. He had his moments in the NCAA and might be lucky enough to hear his name on draft day.
Gian Chiu, a former Ateneo Blue Eaglet who went to Oberlin College in the United States, stands 6'9 and, for that alone may find a roster spot. He has some talent, but is slow of foot and needs to work on his strength and physicality. Also a big fellow is Eric Suguitan (6'7) of ACSAT-Manila. He is not highly-skilled but knows how to play the game. Again, in a league where height is usually might, he can help.
The potential draftees are all set to undergo biometrics procedures on Wednesday, 15 August 2012, and aside from observing them there, surely, the scouts for each team have interviewed and worked-out some prospects, just to be sure. As is the case in player drafts, the top players may not necessarily be those picked first since the needs of each team must be considered, among other important factors. Some prospects who we did not even mention may actually be drafted, and some of those we considered as sure shots can end up as free agents instead, not having been called up to the stage on draft day. Whatever the case, this year's draft picks will find it hard to match the great performances of the rookies of this past season (Paul Lee, Jayvee Casio, Dylan Ababou, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Mac Baracael, Allein Maliksi, etc.), but hopefully they will thoroughly entertain us in their attempt to make the PBA bigger and better in its 38th Season.
Good luck to all the aspirants. See you all on Draft Day 2012!
You can follow Charlie Cuna on Twitter @CharlieC.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.