After two exciting weeks of the Philippine Cup, we finally have enough data to start our awards watch for this season.
It’s been quite the start to the conference, with favorites Ginebra and Petron both sporting 3-0 records, upstarts Barako Bull with a surprising 2-1 slate and both Alaska and San Mig Coffee struggling out of the game with only one win each.
We’ve also seen some crazy individual performances (Hello, Terrence Romeo) and continue to be at awe with the consistent level of elite play that some stars are delivering.
Who are our front runners for Best Player of the Conference, Rookie of the Conference and Breakout Player of the Conference? Check them out below.
Best Player of the Conference
June Mar Fajardo
After three games, Fajardo is averaging 15.3 points, 17.7 boards, 2.3 assists and 2.3 blocks per game. This includes a monster 21 point, 25 rebound game against San Miguel last November 27. Despite Ginebra and Petron carrying identical 3-0 records, Fajardo gets a slight advantage over Tenorio due to the fact that Petron’s system is not necessarily made for Fajardo to put up these numbers unlike Ginebra’s, which allows Tenorio to thrive thru its run and gun style of play.
Despite Petron’s system giving equal opportunities to its talented line-up, Fajardo was able to average a true shooting percentage (TS%) of 63.3% (shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, three-point field goals and free throws) while also grabbing 22.5% of total available rebounds, assisting on 12.7% of made field goals and blocking 4.9% of available shots when he was on the floor. It’s not all positive for Fajardo though, as he is averaging four turnovers and fouls per game while also shooting only 50% from the foul line.
Fajardo only holds the slimmest of leads over Tenorio right now and I’m pretty sure that the two will spend a lot of time one-upping each other this year.
Ginebra’s dominant starting line-up has its catalyst in LA Tenorio. For the conference, the Gin-eral is averaging 14 points, 5.7 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 steals per game. He’s doing this while also shooting an impressive 30.8% from beyond the arc and 45.5% overall, but is only making 57% of his charities.
Just how big of a factor is Tenorio to Ginebra’s attack? Entering into their game last Thursday against GlobalPort, Tenorio was responsible for assisting on 48.2% of the team’s made field goals when he was on the court, a trend that’s sure to continue this conference as long as Tenorio remains healthy.
Coming off the bench for Talk ‘N Text, Castro is averaging 22.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.3 steals per game this conference behind 33 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assist and 2 steals in TNT’s overtime win against Alaska last Thursday.
With the Texters looking to defend their Philippine Cup championship, they will need a banner conference from Castro if they want any chance of challenging the more talented/favoured teams this conference.
Bubble: Arwind Santos, Greg Slaughter, Mark Caguioa
Rookie of the Conference
Just like the BPC list, the conference’s top rookie is also a toss-up between GlobalPort’s Terrence Romeo and Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter. For me, this round goes to Romeo simply because of one word. Expectations.
Sure, not everybody expected Slaughter to put up the numbers he’s been putting up, but did anybody expect this from Romeo? By this, I mean 24.7 points (including back to back 34 and 27 point outbursts), while shooting 54.2% from the field and 43.8% from three. Those percentages from the field are crazy considering the kind of game Romeo plays.
With GlobalPort currently at 1-2, there are a lot of uncertainties surrounding Romeo. Will he be able to keep up his hot shooting and scoring? Will his ball dominating style of play (31.6% usage rate, USG) sit well with veterans Sol Mercado and Jay Washington? Will teams figure out how to defend him? The answers to those questions will surely affect Romeo’s performance in his next games, but before that happens let’s just take a moment to appreciate how great he has played to start his pro career.
The 1st overall pick of the draft is averaging 15 points and 12.3 rebounds over three games for the Barangay. The most impressive thing about Slaughter right now is how quickly he has adjusted to the PBA style of play. After being used primarily in pick and roll situations in his 1st game, Coach Ato has started to incorporate Slaughter in more post-ups and high-low situations with Japeth Aguilar, making Slaughter an even more dangerous threat on offense.
He’s also making great use of his height and length, using both to grab a good chunk of rebounds when he’s on the floor (18% in both offensive, ORB% and defensive, DRB% rebounding rates). In terms of blocks, Slaughter’s doing a great job there as well, turning away 6% of opponents shots and affecting countless others when he’s on the floor.
It hasn’t been the smoothest of rides for Sangalang, but the 2nd overall pick has started to pick it up as of late, scoring in double digits in three out of SMC’s last four games. He’s (along with the entire team apparently), clearly still trying to grasp the intricacies of the Triangle Offense, but what’s impressed about Sangalang early in his career is his ability to get to the line. In his last two games, Sangalang has gotten to the line nine and eight times respectively, clearly not being fazed by taller and bigger defenders.
Things are bound to get better for Sangalang as he and the Mixers have nowhere to go but up once they figure out their issues on the triangle. Will it be enough to challenge Romeo and Slaughter? We’ll find out soon enough.
Bubble: Raymond Almazan
Breakout Player of the Conference
Coming off an injury plagued season, Japeth Aguilar is currently playing the best basketball of his career. Averaging 18.3 points, 8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 3 blocks per game, the high flying forward finally looks like a player that has the maturity to understand and accept his role on this Ginebra team. He’s also letting the game come to him, not forcing drives and settling for mid-range shots (fine, he’s still taking them, but he’s making them this conference) anymore.
Aguilar has clearly found a home in Ginebra, specifically in its perfectly balanced starting five. We’ve seen him have some success in his career quite a few times, but none of those previous episodes look as promising as this one. Let’s hope it’s for good this time.
Going into their game against Rain or Shine yesterday (December 1), Buenafe was averaging an unconscious 19 ppg on 59% from beyond the arc. He’s got a true shooting percentage (TS%) of 66.3% and an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 68%, culminating in an offensive rating (ORTG) of 121.6, all tops among Barako Bull players who play at least 20 minutes per game.
Against Rain or Shine and their attacking perimeter defense, Buenafe cooled off, putting up only 14 points, on 41.6% shooting from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc. This may signal the end of his hot streak, but as of the moment, he’s surely enjoying being one of the Energy Cola’s main offensive weapons this conference.
Being a 6.5 ppg per game career scorer, Isip certainly has found his groove with Barako Bull as he is currently averaging 11.3 points and 4 rebounds for Coach Bong Ramos. It hasn’t been pretty from the field (36.1%), but this scrappy kind of game is what allowed Isip to get his points. He’s not being credited for rebounds, but his relentless tips, dives and hustle plays have given Barako extra possessions and scoring chances. It comes at no coincidence then that Barako’s first loss of the season coincides with a poor 6 point outing from the former FEU Tamaraw.
Bubble: JC Intal, Ryan Arana
For more information on the definition of some terms used in this post, kindly refer to basketball-reference.com