This week saw Petron remain unbeaten at 5-0 and Ginebra giving us yet another comeback for the ages to remain as one and two in the league standings respectively. On the other end, Air 21 finally got a win while Coach Tim Cone and the San Mig Coffee Mixers are still looking lost out there on both ends of the court.
The post’s title may already betray this week’s leaders for our Awards Watch, but read on and let us know what you think. :)
Best Player of the Conference
June Mar Fajardo (Previous Rank: 1)
The Petron Blaze Boosters are the only unbeaten team in the league right now with a 5-0 record owning the league’s best defense (87.7 Defensive Rating DRTG, 38.7% opponent Efficient Field Goal Percentage, eFG%), while also ranking 2nd in the league in rebounding (54.6/game), assists (19.8/game) blocks at 4.4/game.
Fajardo’s 15.4 points, 17.4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2.8 blocks per game has been fuelling Petron’s continued success so far in the conference. This week, the Kraken averaged 15.5 points, 17 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in two wins while looking absolutely unstoppable most of the time. Going into some advanced metrics, Fajardo is currently leading the league in total rebounding percentage (TRB%) at 21.6% including a defensive rebounding percentage (DRB%) of 30.2%, which means that June Mar is able to corral three out of every ten missed shots by opponents and roughly two out of ten possible rebounds whenever he’s on the floor. It may seem like a small number for someone as imposing as him, but we have to understand that in every rebounding possession, there can be at least four to five players (including teammates) going after the rebound. To consistently come out with the rebound despite all the box outs, pushing and shoving is a masterful feat in itself.
The marquee match-up against Slaughter still hasn’t happened, but from how Fajardo’s been playing so far, it’s going to be hard for this year’s top overall pick (or anyone for that matter), to stop him.
Jayson Castro (Previous Rank: 3)
Castro had a very good all-around week despite Talk ‘N Text going 1-1. Against GlobalPort, he finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists while exploding for 27 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists against Barangay Ginebra. The changing of the guard from Alapag to Castro hasn’t officially happened yet, but when watching this TNT team, it’s clear that Castro is Coach Norman Black’s most dangerous offensive threat.
Whenever he’s on the floor, Castro uses 27.5% of the team’s possessions, leading the team in offensive production (115 ORTG), with a True Shooting Percentage (TS%) of 56%, an eFG% of 48.4%, an Assist Rate (AST%) of 31% and a league leading Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 31.3. This just means that Castro becomes the focal point of Coach Norman’s offense when he’s in the game, scoring at a very impressive rate (after factoring in three point shooting in eFG% and all shots taken (including FTs) in TS%), while also being successful as a distributor, leading to him being the most efficient player in the league on a per-minute basis.
Yet again, people are writing off the Tropang Texters as contenders for the championship this conference, but as long as Castro remains healthy, it’s highly plausible that we’ll see this team in the top four come playoff time.
LA Tenorio (Previous Rank: 2)
Tenorio suffered through a bad case of the flu in their game vs. TNT last Sunday as he only finished with 2 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists in 23 minutes of action. That still doesn’t take away the fact he is still arguably the best point guard in the PBA today, leading the league with an AST% of 48.5% and STL% of 4.6%.
Ginebra’s lucky to have escaped this week with a 1-1 record. It’s been a while since their starting unit has looked dominant and I fully expect Tenorio to try his hardest to change that this week.
Bubble: Chris Lutz, Japeth Aguilar, Jay Washington
Rookie of the Conference
Greg Slaughter (Previous Rank: 2)
Slaughter ended the week averaging 13.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.87 blocks per game. By now, it’s plain to see that his offense still needs some work (despite shooting 53% from the field), but what has really impressed so far is his impact to Ginebra in the defensive end.
The stats don’t show it yet, but Slaughter changes A LOT of shots just because of his presence alone. Check out what happens to this TNT possession below:
Notice how Slaughter is able to alter the Texter’s offense. Usually, once the offensive player out on the perimeter is able to beat his man, he either gets an open lane to the basket or an easy drop off pass to a teammate who was open because of the help. With Slaughter’s size though, he is able to cover both the attacking player and his own man, leading Alapag to make a tough pass back outside, turning a potentially high percentage shot into one with a lower chance of being converted.
Again, the Gin King’s defensive stats still don’t support Slaughter’s impact defensively, but I’m confident that in time, we should see Slaughter anchoring an above average defensive team.
Terrence Romeo (Previous Rank: 1)
Tough week for Romeo, who scored four and one markers in GlobalPort’s 2-0 week. With the team’s starting unit finding its stride, Romeo should focus on figuring out how to be effective as the Batang Pier’s 6th man, finding the perfect balance between needing the ball to score and scoring within the flow of the offense. We really couldn’t and shouldn’t have expected his initial scoring numbers to hold, but a struggle like this is surely too far along the other end of the spectrum.
The good thing now for Romeo is that the team is playing well and he now could have more room for error and experience. Chalk this up to a bad week, he’ll be back to his old (but tempered) ways this week.
Ian Sangalang (Previous Rank: 3)
Sangalang is quietly averaging 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists for Coach Tim Cone. He’s clearly being bothered by the size and strength of opposing PBA bigs, who often pressure him as he runs the offense from the high post. He does take advantage of this, going around his man and getting to the line consistently (6 attempts / game), but is just making 58.6% of his charities.
Sangalang certainly doesn’t have the flair of a Slaughter or Romeo, but he has looked pretty solid despite being part of a system that looks absolutely lost right now.
Bubble: Raymond Almazan, Justin Chua, Eliud Poligrates
Breakout Player of the Conference
Japeth Aguilar (Previous Rank: 1)
Let’s relive this moment again, shall we?
After five games, Aguilar is now averaging 19.8 points (team high), 9.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 3.6 blocks. Entering into their game vs. the Texters, Aguilar ranked 4th in the league with a PER of 25.6 and ORTG with 119 and was 2nd in the league at BLK%, blocking 5.8% of available shots whenever he is on the floor.
It also doesn’t look like we’ve seen the full spread of Aguilar’s game, as he has made three out of his last four attempts from beyond the arc, (spread out over his last two games) after not attempting a single trey in Ginebra’s 1st three games. If he can get that to go consistently, then the Barangay’s offense becomes way deadlier than it already is.
It certainly does look like Aguilar has finally realized his potential here in the PBA and I think everyone would prefer this than him plodding away in an NBA D-League team somewhere in the States.
Ronjay Buenafe (Previous Rank: 2)
Barako has dropped its last three assignments and the team’s struggles has a direct correlation with Buenafe’s play. In Barako’s two wins, Buenafe averaged 19 points on 47.2% from the field. In their losses, 11 points on 36% shooting. After his blistering start, defenses are surely keying in on him now, forcing him into almost 3 TOs per game in their last three games, increasing his TO% (percentage of total turnovers committed when on the floor) to a troubling 11%.
Severino Baclao (Previous Rank: 3)
It seems that Baclao’s reunion with Coach Norman Black has done wonders for the former #1 overall pick. Since joining TNT, Baclao has averaged 7.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and a team high 1.4 blocks per game. Battling Ginebra’s gigantic frontline last Sunday, Baclao looked impressive, especially on the boards (9 rebounds) and on the defensive end as he was able to generally make life tougher for Slaughter inside.
His two misses from the free throw line late in the game allowed Ginebra to complete their comeback, but right now, that’s just one minor setback compared to the tremendous conference he’s having so far.
Bubble: JC Intal, Ryan Arana, Mac Baracael
For more information on the definition of some terms used in this post, kindly refer to basketball-reference.com
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