Welcome to the innagural edition of the Humble Bola Awards Watch! This is basically a weekly column that will keep track of the different awards that PBA players can win throughout the three conferences and the entire season.
Going into the Commissioner’s Cup, we’ll take a look at who among the players have the inside track on winning the Best Player of the Conference, Best Import of the Conference, Most Improved Player, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year.
Let’s start with the BPC award.
Best Player of the Conference
- Jayson Castro: Last conference’s winner is still the front-runner for the award. If Jimmy Alapag gets picked for Gilas, expect Castro to explode this conferece.
- Sol Mercado: While I’m not expecting Sol’s league leading PPG to hold, I expect upticks in almost all categories except for rebounds. The Sol Train finally has a great chance to win his very first PBA Championship and we all know what an inspired Sol Mercado can do.
- Calvin Abueva: The Beast’s numbers are simply crazy for a rookie, as he was among league leaders in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. With an import being the focus of opposing defenses this conference; look for Calvin to be even more of a match-up nightmare night in and night out.
Best Import of the Conference
- Bruno Sundov (Rain or Shine): He’s the tallest import ever to play in the PBA. At 7’3, if he doesn’t dominate and average 15-15-3, then he’ll be a disappointment in my eyes.
- Renaldo Balkman(Petron): Balkman comes into the PBA with the highest pedigree among imports as he once was a bonafide NBA player. Imports who aren’t natural Power Forwards or Centers typically don’t do well in the PBA, but with Fajardo essentially playing the traditional “import” role for Petron, Balkman will be free to wreck havoc all over the court, making local defenders look silly in his wake.
- Eric Dawson (Meralco): Solid. That’s just how I see Meralco’s Eric Dawson. Last year’s NBA D-League Impact Player of the Year averaged a double-double vs. NBADleague talent. With that kind of talent and a depleted Meralco line-up, Dawson should have no problem dominating this conference.
Most Improved Player
- KG Caneleta: People remember KG Caneleta for being one of the best dunkers in PBA history. But, since being given an opportunity with Coach Pumaren in Air21, Caneleta has been a scoring demon. He’s able to get buckets literally from anywhere on the court and he’ll run away with the MIP award as long as he maintains this level of play.
- Marc Barroca: With the departure of Josh Urbiztondo, Tim Cone has handed the keys of the offense to Marc Barroca and the coffee prince has responded beautifully, learning the triangle and facilitating it to Coach Cone’s approval. Marc’s improvement isn’t clearly seen in his stats, but he has greatly improved his poise and leadership, two qualities great point guards have a lot of.
- Jervy Cruz: It’s only in recent seasons that Jervy has really lived up to the expectations his UAAP career set for him. Being somewhat of an undersized big man in the pros has not made his transition to the PBA any easier. The good thing about Jervy though, is that he didn’t try to change his game. He knew that he has the skills to play in the post and he just stuck with it and continued to get better. His hard work was rewarded in the last two conferences where he showed that he is Rain or Shine’s only local back to the basket big man. Coach Yeng definitely has a gem with Jervy and I hope his development continues on.
Rookie of the Year
- Calvin Abueva: Has there ever been a more enigmatic rookie in recent memory? Yes, Paul Lee was good, but we all sort-of expected that kind of performance from him. But with Abueva, there were just so many questions. Will his style of play translate to the PBA? Will he be able to rebound in the PBA? How will his lack of consistent shooting affect his game? So many questions asked, all answered by Mr. Abueva’s relentless drive and heart. Yes, he belongs in the PBA, and it will be his league soon enough.
- Cliff Hodge: Hodge was hot during the early part of the season, but tapered off during the end. While he’s one of the most athletic players in the league, he still lacks a true offensive game and more heft to survive beatings inside the paint.
- June Mar Fajardo: Who knows what damage June Mar could’ve done if he had not injured his man-parts (I know, right) earlier in the season. Fajardo’s size almost automatically gives him an advantage every night, but he really struggles in defending the pick and roll, which is what all teams do when he’s on the floor. If there were no imports for all three PBA conferences, then the Kraken has a strong chance to wrestle away the ROY award from Abueva, but with the imports coming in and further limiting him, he’ll be better off playing for Gilas.
Coach of the Year
- Norman Black: Not only did Coach Norman take over Talk N Text midway thru the season, he was also able to make them an even better team (some believe that this is an impossible feat). Under his watch, TNT is projected to get even better defensively. If TNT at least makes another finals appearance and semi-finals appearance in the last 2 conferences, Coach Norman should have this award in the bag.
- Yeng Guiao: If Rain or Shine continues its strong showing, then Coach Yeng simply deserves to be in the running for Coach of the Year. He’s essentially running a “moneyball” team in ROS. Coaches are supposed to make their teams come together and put them in a position to win every single game and this is what Coach Yeng has been doing the past 3 conferences.
- Olsen Racela: Hear me out. Petron has underachieved, we all know tha.. and placing such a huge responsibility on a rookie coach like Olsen isn’t really fair. Good thing for Olsen though, is that he still has 2 conferences to get everything to work and if he does turn this Petronivela into a happy ending, then he will surely turn heads.
There you have it. I’m pretty sure that will see more names on these lists as the conferences progreses. Let us know in the comments what you guys think!