We’ll be changing things up a bit for this week’s edition of the MVP Race since the UAAP just released its MVP rankings after the first round of action. Instead of ranking players, we’ll be answering this question for each of the top candidates so far: Why should he be MVP?
Let the fun start:
It’s easy to award Ahanmisi MVP just because he’s learned how to score consistently after God knows how long, but his value goes beyond just that. His consistency has affected not just production, but his impact on the court as well.
He’s still best working off the ball and going around screens, but Jerrick’s ability to attack off the dribble has turned him into an even more complete scorer. You can’t just deny the pass to Ahanmisi anymore. You also need to be wary of where he’s best attacking when driving, and making sure you give him zero space to shoot pull-ups.
He was already a pain in the ass to deal with for defenses, and now he’s made lives worse with his new ability to create for himself. That’s sure value.
Juan Gomez de Liano, UP Fighting Maroons
Best ball screen guard in the UAAP. ZERO DOUBT. It sounds like such an unvaluable title, but with how the UP Fighting Maroons run their offense, that skill of his holds tremendous value to what the Fighting Maroons do as a team.
The primary mode of attack of the Fighting Maroons is off the ball screen, where Juan is used as the initiator of the offense. Off that attack, the movement flows from there. It sounds so simple, basic even, but the reality of it is, to do it properly and effectively is difficult. Juan does all of those things. The threat of his drive, jumper and pass drives defenses crazy and is a large part of what makes the UP offense lethal.
There’s plenty of question marks surrounding UP right now, and reasonably so. But there is zero reason to say that Juan GDL deters the team’s success. He’s an absolute beast, someone well-qualified to win the MVP.
Justine Baltazar, DLSU Green Archers
It’s difficult to truly make sense of Balti’s value, especially since all the press has been on Aljun Melecio. Make no mistake about it, however. Balti is incredibly valuable to what the Green Archers do, and the biggest of which can be summed up in two words: rim protection.
While Balti isn’t as imposing a figure as an Ange Kouame or even a Bright Akhuetie, he makes up for it with impeccable timing and control. That’s a unique thing to have as a big man, especially someone who lacks the usual strength or imposing presence we’re used to from big man. Balti is steady, but he packs quite the punch.
We love scorers, and while Balti doesn’t pack the same scoring acumen as other players, his defense and steady play are impeccable. That is definite value, especially for a team fighting for a Final Four slot like La Salle.
Angelo Kouame, Ateneo Blue Eagles
Trust the Process. Ange Kouame isn’t shy to show his love and idolation for Joel Embiid, and we’ve seen flashes of Embiid-like play from the big man out of Ivory Coast. While his offense remains raw, Kouame’s importance to the Blue Eagles lies with one thing: defense.
While he remains jumpy on fakes, Kouame’s length and activity pay off in a huge way. Offenses are often caught second-guessing themselves whenever they try to drive to the rim, because getting Kouame to jump on a fake just isn’t enough. You also need to make sure he isn’t in any situation to get a second jump, or is far enough for you to safely go for the layup. He’s also incredibly nimble, so attacking his pick and roll coverage is close to pointless.
There will continue to be head-scratching moments with Kouame, but that comes with growth. He’s still incredibly young, with a world of potential to look out for. There’s zero doubt, Angelo Kouame is an incredibly valuable part of the Blue Eagles, and his tendency to jump off ball fakes shouldn’t make you think otherwise.
Alvin Pasaol, UE Red Warriors
Oof. Quite honestly, it’s tough to make a strong case for Alvin Pasaol as MVP. As gaudy as his statistics have been, his team hasn’t been winning games. Individual awards are cool, but wins are even better. Being last in the league, it’s tough to truly make a strong case for Alvin as MVP this season. Unless they magically go on an unbeaten streak this second round, it’s hard to convince us otherwise. This isn’t meant to be a slight at Alvin, but rather an acknowledgment of the reality the Red Warriors face. Coach Joe said so himself, he wants the Red Warriors to go beyond Alvin. All they can do now is continue to fight, and try to grow from whatever they get as the season rolls on.
Bright Akhuetie, UP Fighting Maroons
This is quite the dicey situation. Beyond the statistics, it’s tough to truly pinpoint what makes Akhuetie a game-changing prospect for the Fighting Maroons. As it is, they stand at 6th, 3-5, on pace to finish with the same record they did the previous season. Coach Bo said so himself, Bright could care less about MVP if they aren’t winning games. So what can convince us about Bright’s case as MVP?
If we were to point at something, it’s giving the Fighting Maroons a higher ceiling. Believe it or not, he’s an incredibly key part of how UP runs things. While Juan sets the table by attacking off the ball screen, it’s Bright who usually sets it. What he does whenever he gets the ball coming off the roll has value. He knows whether to complete his dive with a bucket, or to pass to a shooter off the short roll.
Bright is a great basketball player, no doubt about it. But to truly convince fans that he’s an overwhelming top candidate for MVP, UP has to get wins. There are six more games. Lots can happen. Nothing can surprise us at this point.