Remember in 1991-1992 when the United States went all “Avengers” and assembled the Dream Team to bring out their basketball rage in Barcelona? The result of that Dream Team was a wave of increased interest in basketball and in the NBA all over the globe.
What if the Philippines’ memorable run in the FIBA World Cup last year (coincidentally in Spain as well) could also have a similar effect on the PBA? Maybe the PBA just needed to expand its borders just a bit more.
Before the start of the 40th season of the PBA, it was announced that teams would be allowed to tap one Asian import in the season-closing Governors’ Cup. Minds were racing towards the possibility of adding players like Iranian Hamed Haddadi… and those fantasies were immediately crushed when it was announced that the Asian imports were going to be limited to a height restriction as well. The PBA set the bar at 6 feet and 3 inches.
It was a very creative and perfectly timed initiative by the PBA after Gilas took their talents to Spain and showed the world that they belonged
before sputtering out fumes in the Asian Games. There was not a better time for the PBA to reach out their feelers in the Asian level.
By the time the Governors’ Cup was to start, 5 teams had acquired their Asian imports. In an interesting twist, none of them were from the same country.
Jet Chang – Taiwan – KIA Carnival
Michael Madanly – Syria – NLEX Road Warriors
Sam Daghles – Jordan – Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters
Omar Krayem – Palestine – GlobalPort Batang Pier
Sanchir Tungalag – Mongolia – Barangay Ginebra San Miguel
The initial impressions were quite different in each case. You had Omar Krayem impressing as a third head to the offensive powerhouse Global Port, but you also had Sanchir Tungalag who was having problems communicating within the team at Ginebra. Sanchir would eventually be the only Asian Import to be replaced when Ginebra brought in Jiwan Kim to replace his spot.
Here, we’ll take a look at the individual performance of these Asian imports.
Because of the height limit, almost all of the imports filled in roles at the guard positions save for Mike Madanly and Jet Chang who played a lot of Small Forward.
So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that no Asian import impressed in the rebounding department.
Sam Daghles and Sanchir Tungalag were the only two Asian Imports that came close to the league average 10 TRB% which is understandable. You don’t bring in Asian players who are 6’3″ or shorter and expect them to dominate the boards.
What they did well though, was what you would expect from players in their positions: shoot threes and rack up assists.
Of the top 10 of the rankings in three-point shots made per game, 3 were Asian imports (Madanly, Krayem, and Kim) who made at least 2.2 three pointers per game.
Madanly was a creative shot creator who useed a various array of shot fakes and herky jerky moves to get himself space for the shot. Krayem was a wizard with the ball (which supports why he is called “The Wizard”) and he paired up with Stanley Pringle and Terrence Romeo to break down opponents for three-point shots. I liked watching Kim run around in the Ginebra offense because he is good at finding open spots on the floor which makes connecting long-range shots all the more easier.
Sam Daghles didn’t crack the list above, but where he slightly lacked in quantity of made threes, he made up for it with the efficiency of making them. His 41.3% from downtown was 8th in the PBA among players who made at least one three-point shot per game, which is right around the same number as that of Ranidel De Ocampo.
The quintet of Asian imports mentioned above would not only impress in shooting, but also in passing the ball as well.
Kim was ranked 10th in AST% among players who played at least 10 minutes per game. Aside from being a joy to watch while he was running looking for his spots, Kim was a smart passer and created a better offensive flow for Ginebra. For comparison’s sake, Sanchir Tungalag had a 0.0 AST% before Kim replaced him. Madanly, Daghles, and Krayem all surpassed the League Average in AST% (12.9).
Finally, let’s see how teams utilized their Asian imports.
This pretty much separated the Asian imports into two groups.
You had the group of Madanly, Chang, and Krayem who used up at least 25% of their teams possessions. Madanly and Chang were the No.1 offensive choice for their teams which lacked offensive power to begin with. In fact, Madanly had the 4th highest Usage Rate among all players that played at least 15 minutes per game.
And then you had the group of Ando, Kim, and Daghles. These were guys who didn’t take as many shots or handles the ball as much. In Daghles’ and Kim’s case, they were both surrounded with scoring options and were happy to defer to them. Ando was a nice addition as a point guard for the Meralco Bolts, but he is still fairly young and seemed to look lost and indecisive at times.
This gives us a slight picture of how the Asian imports played at an individual level. Let’s turn it up a notch and see how they affect the PBA on a team level.
Let’s start this off with something that will probably be brought up in any debate concerning Asian imports.
Of the teams that made the Governors’ Cup Final Four, none had the services of an Asian import. Rain or Shine, Alaska Aces, Star Hotshots, and San Miguel Beermen were content with their Filipino talent and it turned out well for them.
This will certainly be the main argument for the big question: “Do we really need these guys in the first place? Are they really much more of an upgrade from our local talents?”
Let’s crunch some numbers to answer that question.
Only Krayem and Madanly had higher PER than the league average of 15. The trio of Ando, Daghles, and Chang who had 10.8 PER aren’t that bad, but it doesn’t really make a strong case as to why teams should give them a spot on the roster.
Concerning win shares, only Krayem had good numbers at 0.7. So, again – not a strong case for Asian imports.
But that’s looking at their performances in comparison to the league whole. Surely we couldn’t expect them to come in and dominate like the American imports right? That would be quite unfair.
To get a better grip of how they effected their teams, we have to look at how teams performed with them on and off the court.
Save for Sanchir Tungalag and his -8.5 Net Ratings (bless his poor soul), the Asian imports weren’t much of a swing to the game. Ando topped them all with a +6.9 Net Ratings which was probably because the point guard rotation of the Meralco Bolts more than anything else. Pretty much average numbers across the board for everyone else.
So far, we have information to conclude that Asian imports are okay but they aren’t exactly game changers. That seems to mean “No, we don’t need these guys in the PBA”. But there’s still one more factor to consider.
Let’s focus on the minutes that teams had to give up for the Asian imports. GlobalPort’s star backcourt of Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle had already been playing so many minutes within their limitations.
But what if the team wanted more? Romeo and Pringle has to rest so you can only add a few more minutes of playing time in between them. You might be able to pick up a PBA free agent and expect him to be a diamond in the rough, but you can’t really rely as much on that. You could do a trade, but trades are still a bit risky and you might have to sacrifice a part of your long-term future. There is always the PBA Draft, but nobody got time for that!
What if there was another option? What if during mid-season, you could reach into another wide-open talent pool and pick up a three-point shooting, dribbling wizard from Palestine and all you had to do was manage some minutes here and there?
What if you could turn a handful of minutes of Dennis Miranda (9.8 PER in Comm Cup), and a pinch of minutes from some other guys into 281 minutes of Omar Krayem (17.7 PER in Gov Cup)? Wouldn’t that be a really solid deal?
That’s what GlobalPort did. Let’s see a rough picture of whose minutes were decreased and if it turned out to be a fair swap.
Here is the Team-By-Team breakdown of minutes replaced from the Commissioner’s Cup by the Asian import in the Governors’ Cup (by players of similar positions):
It’s not perfect math, but you can see that most teams were able to get more out of approximately the same amount of minutes in hiring an Asian import.
Finally, we take a look at the intangibles of the Asian imports’ impact.
Some of the anti-Asian imports are crying for the minutes to develop the Filipino local talent. While gaining in-game experience is crucial to a player’s development, it is equally crucial to have another person to push you to perform when the lights are off. With Asian imports, Filipino players will now be forced (for at least a conference) to fight harder for their playing time. Filipinos take pride in being the best of basketball in Asia and with the Asian imports coming in, they actually have a chance to prove it day in and day out.
What about the economic impact for the PBA, teams, brands, and their players? As a Thai, I know I would watch the hell out of any team that would sign Thailand’s “Reuben” Wuttipong Dasom to their team as would the many tens of thousands of other Thai Basketball fans.
For every Seiya Ando and Jiwan Kim, the PBA gets to expand their market bit by bit in Japan and South Korea.
That there, might as well be the biggest impact that the Asian imports have on the Philippines Basketball Association of all.
Background Graph Pictures Credit (In order of appearance): Paul Ryan Tan (Sports5.PH), Paul Ryan Tan (Sports5.PH), Paul Ryan Tan (Sports5.PH), Sherwin Vardeleon (CNN Philippines), Paul Ryan Tan (Sports5.PH), Scott Kirk Patrick (The Chronicle Herald), Paul Ryan Tan (Sports5.PH)