The Blackwater Elite went through the torments and tumbles of their maiden season as an expansion team in the PBA. After all that trouble, here they are.
The future looks bright for them after they were able to pick up a potential game changer in Fil-Tongan Moala Tautuaa with the first pick in the PBA Draft. That alone makes it more than worth all the beatings they took last year. Blackwater will be pairing Tautuaa with talented point guard, Brian Heruela, who was one of the top point guards in the league last year.
They didn’t build much of an identity last season and they traded the small bits and pieces which seemed promising (*cough*Heruela*cough). So in a sense, the Elite are back at square one again to start off the 2015-2016 season.
No one expected Blackwater to be good, so they weren’t disappointing from that perspective. They went through the Philippine Cup winless and were only a few points away from losing every game by double digits so it wasn’t exactly a good way to start things off.
The Elite seemed a bit more hopeful as they picked up three wins in the Commissioner’s Cup, but two wins were against the second and third worst teams in that conference (KIA and San Miguel, respectively). Blackwater, once again, finished dead last.
The Elite got their fourth and final win of the season against a disappointing Ginebra team. It would be their only win of the Governor’s Cup.
Blackwater ranked dead last in offensive rating during all three conferences and were always among the bottom ranks in terms of rebounding as well.
Long story short, Blackwater was bad.
But once you hit rock bottom, things can only go up, right?
Notable New Players
|Mike Cortez (Trade), Carlo Lastimosa (Trade), Almond Vosotros (Draft), Jason Melano (Draft), Art Dela Cruz (Draft), James Sena (Trade)|
|Brian Heruela (Trade), Bryan Faundo (FA),
In Blackwater’s case, hitting rock bottom might mean you can’t sink any lower but if your team management is making decisions that are anchoring you down, you won’t rise up to the surface either.
A backcourt core of Lastimosa, Dela Cruz, Vosotros, and Melano does have potential, especially with Cortez mentoring and stabilizing the ship. However, if all of your building pieces and potential performers had just joined the team, doesn’t that mean Blackwater hasn’t moved forward from where they were at the beginning of last year at all?
But that’s all in the past and Blackwater is in this position whether they (or I) like it or not. It’s time to build from that.
PS. That is a slight hint to hold on to De La Cruz, Vosotros, Melano, and Lastimosa by NOT trading them for Larry Rodriguez.
THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE
We don’t know a lot about how Blackwater will look like, but that’s the point. The one thing going for them right now is that teams don’t know what to expect from them just yet.
Will Art Dela Cruz be able to replicate his all-around domination with San Beda?
Will Mike Cortez be rejuvenated with a change of scenery?
Can Kieth Agovida become this year’s “Brian Heruela” for Blackwater again as a late draft sleeper pick after his performance in the team tour in Malaysia?
There are questions all around this squad and they might be able to catch a couple of teams off guard and pick up momentum from there.
Erram and Ballesteros actually played solid minutes in the Philippine Cup last year.
PH Cup ’14-’15
Those aren’t exactly world shattering numbers, but at this point, Blackwater has to take any optimistic perspective they can find.
Where should we even start?
OFFENSE (SHOT CREATOR)
They may have better (and more) options from long-range, but their offense still shouldn’t be any better than the team that had the lowest offensive rating in all three conferences last season.
Mike Cortez is a decent long-range shooter (32.6% last season). Vosotros shot a solid 29.4% during his DLSU days. Unlike the beginning of last season, it seems that Blackwater might have enough long-range weapons to connect from three-point range. Surely they can hit those shots at a higher rate than last year’s 27.0%, which was second-worst in last year’s Philippine Cup.
On that note, Blackwater’s first ever draft pick, Juami Tiongson, is back on the roster! Tiongson was a solid 38.5% three point shooter in his last two years at ADMU. After a disappointing debut conference, he might be primed for a breakout performance.
But the question remains: who will create those shots for these shooters after trading away their best shot creator in Heruela?
It might seem a bit harsh to list a certain player as a weakness of a team, but here we are.
The numbers are screaming for attention. Cervantes‘ win shares was -0.7, the lowest in the entire Governor’s Cup, yet he had a usage rate of 28.9%. To put that into perspective, he was using up Blackwater’s possessions at approximately the same rate as that of Jayson Castro (28.4%). His offensive rating (76.2) was among the bottom of the league as was his effective field goal percentage (37.1%). His net on/off rating was a -8.4.
It’s not like Cervantes was the root of all the Elite’s problems last season . He could still be a decent player in a different role on a different team. But if he continues at this rate, he will be taking away shots that need to be distributed to other players.
The ball is in their court.
Well, the ball is always in their court as team management. After a season of trial and error (there were more errors though), they should have a better grip of what they need to do to make this work.
I’m not saying I know what to do because if I did, I wouldn’t be wiping pizza grease off my keyboard right now after finishing a paragraph. But the direction of the team and its success, short and long-term, now lies heavily on the decision-making of team management. They may have made a few questionable decisions in their debut season, but they still have a lot of time to make to right the ship so to speak.
Make it count.
I see that Blackwater have a legitimate shot at beating Barako or Mahindra at this very instance. However, they will play Barako on the 11th of December and Mahindra nine days later on the 20th. By then, I think both teams will have figured themselves out and pushed themselves out of Blackwater’s reach. I also think that one of those two teams will break down by the time they play Blackwater.
Therefore, my prediction is that Blackwater will finish the conference with one win under their belt. 1-10.