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The Commissioner’s Cup has ended and the playoffs has been in full swing. That usually means end of the season awards. The PBA, being the benevolent and “objectivity”-loving league that they are, decided to (partly) base this award on what they call “statistical points.” Forty percent of the awards, actually. Statistical points, simply put, is calculated by:
1. adding all the points, rebounds, assists, steals and shots,
2. 10 points for each win the player played in and,
3. one point deduction for each turnover, five points deduction for every technical or flagrant foul without ejection, and 15 for any technical or flagrant foul that results in an ejection.
Outside of that sounding like a Hogwarts housing score sheet (10 POINTS TO GRYFFINDOR!), that isn’t exactly the best way to account for a player’s “statistical” impact on a game. It’s decidedly biased towards points, and under appreciated everything else (except, possibly, the importance of wins).
Take for example the current league leader in the BPC race, Denzel Bowles. Denzel Bowles leads the SPs race with 59.8 statistical points after averaging a cool 33 points (53.7 percent TS), 15 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in over 44 minutes. Those are monster numbers indeed. He did that in five games. Compare that to the number two leader in statistical points, PJ Ramos – checking in at 59.5 points – who averaged 36 points (57.9 percent TS), 21 rebounds, three assists, one block in just over 43 minutes of play. Close, if you looked specifically at just the sum of their counting stats.
Luckily, statistical points are just 40 percent of the equation — the other 60 percent rests on the press (30 percent), the players (25 percent) and the commissioner’s office (5 percent).
Awards have always been a pet peeve of mine. I’ve always thought recency bias and perception play a big role in determining these “best-of-whatever” awards. There’s also a confusion as to what it actually means. Some say it’s the “best player on the best team”. Some say it’s the player whose team crumbles without him. Some say it’s the player with the best numbers.
Those are all right and all wrong at the same time. It should be a combination of all three that determines who the best is, statistically speaking.
So let’s break it down — who is the best import this conference, statistically speaking?
For this exercise, we considered only the following imports: Denzel Bowles (PUR), Wayne Chism (ROS), Ivan Johnson (TNT), Al Thornton (NLX), Josh Davis (MER), Solomon Alabi (BAR) and PJ Ramos (KIA).
I’ll post all of their relevant statistics and from these choose a worthy candidate based on most commonly defined “best-of-league” awards and come to a final conclusion.
As you can see, this is a very tight race. The seven players listed above are also the Top 7 in PER and Top 9 in WS/48 (with Richard Howell and Paul Lee as the other 2). This is going to be a tight race.
Scoring & Shot Creation
Scoring-wise, nobody tops what Ivan Johnson has done in five games. He’s scoring efficiently (tied for second in the list in TS%) and leads the group in usage rates. That comes out to about a USG x TS (a haphazardly made statistics to combine volume and efficiency) of 2.24. The closest guy to Ivan Johnson is PJ Ramos (2.15) and Denzel Bowles (2.00).
Worth noting as well — Ivan Johnson is the most dynamic among the three leaders. PJ Ramos is a menace in the post when he backs his man down. Denzel Bowles is also a menace in the post, albeit a different kind. He can back his man down or face-up and destroy him, especially in the right block.
Ivan Johnson, on the other hand, combines inside domination with sniper-like shooting from deep. He’s made 20 of his 54 attempts (37 percent) — second only to Wayne Chism.
Ivan Johnson doesn’t have the same passing acumen as Bowles (18.5 percent AST%) and Ramos (17.4 percent AST%) but he’s not a “black hole.”
a. He’s playing with a worse rebounding team on paper than Davis (Davis has Anthony, Hodge and Dillinger) and an equally bad rebounding team like Alabi (no one rebounds more than 10 percent other than Dave Marcelo).
b. Kia manages to finish in the top half in rebounding differential, ranking fourth best behind other rebounding powerhouses like SMB, Purefoods and NLEX. Meralco and Barako are below average in this regard.
In this category, nobody even comes close to Solomon Alabi. Of the seven names above, only two have a net positive effect on their defense — Solomon Alabi (+11.1 on defense) and PJ Ramos (+2.6). Alabi has the top SLOCKS% (STL% + BLK%) with 8.5 percent. The closest guy is Josh Davis — with a SLOCKS% of 6.1.
And after years of being among the worst defensive teams in the league, Alabi has transformed this Barako team into a top tier defensive team (-2.5 on defense). That’s something that has to be commended.
Net Impact and Intangibles
On a purely, net +/- effect — Alabi (and his +21.4 net rating) is king. But we all know that doesn’t do justice to what the others have done. Worth noting as well that Alabi was able to get a mostly forgotten Barako roster (
#FarmTeam) to the playoffs (nevermind that TNT completely destroyed them).
Denzel Bowles stabilized a volatile situation in Purefoods after teetering on the edge after the Orton incident. He led Purefoods to a 4-1 record (including a four-game winning streak to end the conference) to push Purefoods to a twice-to-beat advantage.
Josh Davis has been a steadying force for the Bolts. Nobody quite appreciated the way his helter-skelter game has made Meralco a darkhorse contender — with wins against Talk ‘n Text and Rain or Shine as their badge of honor entering the semis.
As with Josh Davis, Al Thornton spearheaded a late-game charge from NLEX. While Josh Davis is a silent protector who carried Meralco in the darkness, Al Thornton was a flamboyant hero who never failed to show people why he was a touted NBA prospect in his younger years.
PJ Ramos practically carried the KIA roster to the brink of the playoffs on his massive shoulders. The other imports who stayed with the team from start to end (Alabi, Davis, Thornton) had tons of help from the locals — PJ Ramos had LA Revilla. The punishment he endures on a nightly basis is unmatched.
Wayne Chism and Ivan Johnson’s contributions are almost forgotten because their teams were already doing well even before they came.
So who’s the best import of the conference?
1. Best Import on the Best Team
This comes down to Ivan Johnson, Denzel Bowles and Wayne Chism — all three of them were employed in the middle of the conference. Denzel Bowles seems to be the favorite here (with the way he carried a Purefoods team to a top record) but I can’t shake of his negative net rating (-2.4). You can make the case that it’s bad because his team is 10-deep. But the same thing can be said for Ivan Johnson — who sports a positive net rating (+7.7) — and the Talk ‘n Text Tropang Texters. Wayne Chism, sorry dude but you aren’t in the picture at all.
2. “His Team would be bad without him”
This will be between Alabi, Ramos, Davis and Thornton.
Al Thornton — with a net rating far below what is normal — and a tendency to be a ball stopper is out of the question.
Ramos would definitely be in the conversation — if his team actually went in the playoffs. Doesn’t help that his team is still bad with him on the court.
Alabi looks like the clear favorite (+21.4 net rating) but they’re a below average team even when Alabi plays (-0.2). That means Barako goes from “barely average” to “OMG SO AWFUL”. That has to count for something. On the other hand, Meralco scores 1.4 points when Davis is on the court — a mark that would be in line with Meralco’s 6-5 record. His ability to inject energy and create nothing out of something means so much more to Meralco.
3. Best Production
I’ve tackled this — based purely on all-encompassing statistics such as PER and WS/48, Ivan Johnson’s efficient scoring and acceptable levels on other auxiliary statistics get the nod here.
In all honesty, I think Denzel Bowles wins BIC. He has the most SPs, has the best storyline and his effect on a struggling Purefoods team was immediate and sudden. That’s a recipe for an award.
But if we looked at at the overall picture, to me, Ivan Johnson is the deserving candidate. He produces, he’s on a winning team and his team plays better when he’s on the court. Those are three checks on his name. His game has meshed so well with TNT’s pace-and-space attack.
Josh Davis also deserves some mention here for the way he silently but steadily carried a Meralco team to a 6-5 record (and a semis seat). His 33.4 PER is third only to Thornton’s and Johnson’s and his defensive impact on Meralco cannot be understated.
Wayne Chism bears mentioning as well. His effect on Rain or Shine is undermined because of how well he blends with his team. You can’t fault a guy for that.
What about you, who’s your BIC pick?