The two expansion franchises, Kia Carnival and the Blackwater Elite, exchanged some end-of-the-bench players that may or may not have an effect on their teams. Reil Cervantes, he of the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, and Alexander Nuyles, he of the Adamson Soaring Falcons, switched places.
Initial reactions to the trade point to this being a clear win for Blackwater. They’re getting a spacing big in Reil Cervantes who is versatile enough to fit with a lot of different centers. Let’s debunk (some) of that right now, starting with this:
That’s Reil Cervantes’ heat map this season. Not exactly encouraging. After a strong PH cup tourney — where he made 13 of his 35 3-point attempts, Reil Cervantes’ has come crashing down to earth, making just 4 out of 26 3-point attempts this conference. That’s with PJ Ramos sucking the entire defense inside like a black hole. So it’s not like Reil Cervantes was setting the world on fire in Kia. Can he revert back to his Philippine Cup form (as a spacing big)? Definitely. But let’s also acknowledge the fact that he sucked this Commissioner’s Cup playing for a “better” team. Oddly, he played fewer minutes this conference than last. Subsequently, Kia is in the playoffs.
To make matters worse, his rebounding was bad — 5/13/9 split. He isn’t exactly a “box-out specialist” nor is he affecting his team’s rebounding (pulling players out of the paint for rebounds with his “supposed” shooting or something else). In fact, when he played in the Philippine Cup, Kia rebound about 44.8 percent of all the available rebounds. When he doesn’t? Kia rebounds about 46.8. The trend has been largely the same in the second conference (50 percent vs 53.9 percent). That’s while playing a LOT of his minutes — about 94 percent in fact — with PJ Ramos.
Defensively, he’s nothing to write home about. He’s long and he tries. But that’s something you can say about a lot of bigs in the PBA. He’s not a bruiser and he’s not an enforcer. His defensive +/- paint a player who is pretty average.
Which means: If he’s not shooting well from deep, he doesn’t provide anything valuable to his team. If he does, he’s almost a one-trick pony.
Meanwhile, the Kia Carnival — with a slew of guard prospects already in tow — got Alexander Nuyles. I’ll be honest — Nuyles was one of my sleeper picks in the 2013 PBA draft. He was the quintessential off-guard — can shoot from deep, has enough dribble game to punish when teams close hard, he could pass as a “point” guard in spurts and he could defend multiple positions. He was 2nd in the league in PER behind Bobby Ray Parks in S74 and he was the captain of a team that was a real threat to the eventual UAAP champs, the Blue Eagles.
But multiple recurring injuries on his shoulders and ankle didn’t allow him to build on his momentous season. He found a place in coach Yeng Guiao’s system as a “glue guy”, a role he’s familiar with, thanks to his time in Adamson. Despite being a triple threat, I never believed he would ever become a high-powered scorer or shot creator. He was always going to be a glue guy. He did that well in Rain or Shine — a team brimming with talent even before he came. Sadly, on a team bereft of talent such as Blackwater, nobody really appreciated his ability to mesh well with a lot of units. Blackwater needed a savior and Nuyles, for all his talents, isn’t one. A square peg in a round hole.
Sadly, he won’t be given the opportunity to do that for Kia too. Although Kia has LA Revilla to be the guy, they still lack the talent to take advantage of what Nuyles does – that is, be the guy-everyone-forgets-but-ends-up-playing-a-very-crucial-role player.
Despite all the talent (or lack thereof), he was one of the few players on that Blackwater roster that had a positive net rating when (+1.7 during the Philippine Cup), not a small feat when you consider that Blackwater was a -14.8 that entire conference.
Fans were right to point out that positionally, this was a big win for Blackwater. Blackwater had one of (if not) the worst power forward rotations in the league. Check it — minutes weighted PER for all 12 teams this conference:
Acquiring even a marginal talent like Reil Cervantes helps their quest to get out of the cellar dweller.
But Nuyles is clearly the better prospect here. He has more to offer and is younger. In the right hands, Nuyles could be a difference maker, and Kia is getting him. But the Philippines is riped with possible difference making guards. What Blackwater gets is a competent big — a rarity in the league right now. There’s a reason why everyone keeps saying “you never trade big for small”. That becomes especially true in the Philippines.
It would be a cop out to say that this was a win-win trade but I’m leaning towards this being a Kia win (by a significant margin), if only because it means Manny Pacquiao is further buried down the depth chart (I AM KIDDING DON’T FINE ME). If not, this is a slight Blackwater win.