Less than two weeks into the PBA season, and we’re slowly starting to get a feel which rookies are to watch for moving forward. Let’s go ahead and grade the early returns from the young ‘uns:
Robert Bolick, Northport Batang Pier
Not much was expected from Robert Bolick coming into his debut in the PBA. it’s a big reason why fans rejoiced when he dropped 26 versus Blackwater; it was such a pleasant surprise. However, while it’s easy to praise Bolick in an instant for averaging 20 points after his first two games, we need to take a step back and take everything into perspective.
For one, Bolick dropped 26 points in his first game against a Blackwater team that’s rebuilding at this point. The perimeter defense he had to go up against didn’t offer much resistance with whatever he was doing. At the same time, he was hitting some ridiculous shots that he’s going to miss against tougher covers.
Second, we haven’t really seen EVERYTHING Robert Bolick can offer. While his scoring will always be a known commodity — he did drop 50 in college — it’s the other things that will make the difference between potential franchise guy and energy player for Babes. His 2.5 rebound average is alarming to look at, but what really pops out is his 1.5 assist average. It’s easy to point this to Stanley Pringle presence, but Bolick’s had some trouble with the added physicality of PBA defenses. That’s something he’ll learn and figure out down the line.
Robert Bolick is for real, but he can even be better. Some doubters will continue to talk, but it won’t matter for Babes. He’ll just thank them no matter what.
Javee Mocon, Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
Averages: 13 PPG, 5 RPG
Mocon was largely considered as a safe choice coming into the PBA Draft, and you couldn’t blame people for thinking as such. For the most part, his career in San Beda was steady. He was always pegged as an energetic four, and he played the part. He gobbled up rebounds thanks to excellent timing and ample athleticism, and it gave him a bunch of titles in the process. Upside was low moving on to the pros, but he would survive.
Oh boy. In his first game, he squashed whatever qualms there were about his “limited upside”. Javee Mocon looks like he’s taken a leap with his game. The length, energy, and motor have always been staples in Javee’s game. In his debut, he added more to his game and straight up played as if he’d been playing wing all his life. His movements were smooth, awkwardness nowhere to be found. He put the ball on the floor with confidence. He pulled up along the elbows with utmost comfort.
He’ll continue to fly under the radar, especially since he plays in a Rain or Shine team loaded with *some* degree of depth. Keep an eye on him though. Limited upside? Far from it. Javee Mocon is starting to stretch his game, and this could be quite the delight to watch.
Trevis Jackson, Meralco Bolts
Averages: 9.5 PPG, 1.5 APG
Meralco picked up Trevis Jackson with their fifth pick, a move considered surprising by many pundits. You couldn’t blame them. Jackson mostly flew under the radar over the course of the Draft process while everyone else had their eyes on the Top 3 prospects. Questions were aplenty, with answers wanting to be found.
Up until now, we still need answers. Granted, it’s only been two games into his career, but it’s clear Trevis has a ways to go before he turns into a truly solid combo guard for the Bolts.
His debut game versus the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters was rough. He had one nice bounce pass to Ranidel de Ocampo, but outside of that, he looked like he had rookie jitters. He had trouble operating at the pick and roll, and did not look comfortable setting the table for his team.
Trevis’ next game versus Blackwater was far more memorable. He light it up with an 19 point performance off the bench, giving the Bolts the spark *ba dum tss* it needed to pull away versus the Elite. He got most of his looks off the ball with stand still threes. He was comfortable, as if he was suddenly in his element in that role.
That’s the problem though; he’s looked more shooting guard than the combo guard he was advertised as coming out of the PBA D-League. Just like with Bolick’s troubles handling the rock and setting things up, Jackson will learn from these experiences eventually. But for now, work has to be done.
Abu Tratter, Blackwater Elite
Averages: 13 PPG, 7 RPG
Over the course of his career, most fans have had trouble taking Tratter seriously. His career in La Salle was mostly lackluster, while a chockfull of Shaqtin level plays did not aide his case at all. When he was branded as the Draft’s top big man, some couldn’t help but laugh. It’s a shallow draft. Just give him the title. Abu certainly had something to prove with all these doubts, and he’s come out well so far.
For someone who had trouble even finishing around the rim during his first season in La Salle, Abu’s slowly molded himself into a decent offensive big man. A pleasant surprise; he has a respectable midrange jumper now! He’s shown to be adept at playing the pick and roll game, and has given the Blackwater guards options by either popping outside, or rolling towards the rim.
All isn’t perfect with Abu, however. His biggest weakness right now has to be his defense. As it is, he doesn’t offer a tremendous amount of length down low, so his ability to protect the rim has been limited. But at the same time, opposing bigs have feasted on him, taking advantage of his lack of experience to by beating him with good footwork or better positioning when in the paint.
All things considered, good start by Abu to his PBA career. He looks to be a solid big man, someone who can certainly produce for playoff contending teams. As long as he no longer does any Shaqtin worthy missed dunks, then we should be fine.
CJ Perez, Columbian Dyip
Averages: 18 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.5 SPG
He was the undisputed number one pick, and he’s shown why many have branded him as PBA ready for so long already.
The athleticism will always be there when talking about CJ. But what was impressed even more with his game is how much in control he’s looked in his past two games. That was one of the caveats pundits had with CJ’s game. He thrived in a pressing system, but take him in the half court, he suddenly sputters. He’s been anything but a mess when the game slows down. He’s starting to play smarter, relying less on his athleticism, and instead using as a tool to aid his intellect.
Even more pleasing with how CJ’s played: He’s shown he isn’t just a scorer! While he can certainly pour in points in a hurry, the beauty with CJ is how good he is at doing the other things. This was especially evident in his first duel with his idol Calvin Abueva and the rest of the Fuel Masters. He couldn’t find a scoring rhythm like he did in his first game versus the San Miguel Beermen, but he made up for it by going for rebounds, looking for open teammates, and playing A+ defense against Phoenix.
CJ Perez is for real. He’s an all-around beast who’s slowly building his own name, one we’re going to remember for a long time.