As the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs approaches, one thing is clear: this conference has been weird.
Title favorites and powerhouse San Miguel Beermen had a rough start and will now have a twice-to-beat disadvantage heading into the quarterfinals. Northport, who was supposed to play worse after trading Stanley Pringle, didn’t get the memo and has been on a roll the entire conference. They’re now owners of the two seed. Blackwater has been the surprising, overachieving team this conference while Phoenix, last conference’s overachieving team, has already been eliminated.
But before more weirdness commences in the playoffs, let’s take a look first at the players who have been performing well and showcasing their pedigree this conference.
Here are our top four candidates for the Best Player of the Conference so far. Warning: it does get weird.
4. ROGER POGOY, TNT KATROPA
RR Pogoy has been the best local player in the best team of the conference so far. Yet, here he is placing just fourth in our list. Although the TNT KaTropa has been heavily relying on the brilliance of their import Terrence Jones, we cannot discard the performance Pogoy is having. TnT finished the eliminations with ten wins and the top seed, and Pogoy has been a vital cog for their splendid run.
Pogoy averages 17 points per game, five rebounds per game and two dimes per game. His most significant contribution has been his three point shooting where he is hitting three shots from rainbow country a game on 38 percent shooting. Because of his efficient percentage shooting the long ball, TnT’s primary ball handlers, Jones and Jayson Castro, get better space when penetrating and creating for the team
Defensively, Pogoy is no slouch as well. He is leading the league in steals, averaging 2.9 per game. One of the more underrated defenders in the league, Pogoy combines solid lateral movement with an innate ability to read passing lanes. This is why his steals output has been on par, too. Clearly, he has grown to be one of the premiere 3-and-D players we have today.
Need not to say, it has been that kind of conference for Pogoy. In fact, he registered his career high during this conference by putting up 38 points against crowd darlings Barangay Ginebra. In that game alone, he made 10(!!) three pointers and single handedly torched Ginebra.
3. JUNEMAR FAJARDO, SAN MIGUEL BEERMEN
Truth be told, it doesn’t feel right putting Junemar this low in the BPC rankings. After all, he is the most dominant player of all time and his name will always be connected to the BPC plum and the MVP, for that matter. He is a five-time MVP for a reason.
But San Miguel’s rough start held them back out of the playoffs picture and it has not been the typical conference for the Beermen so far. The team finished the eliminations with only five wins and is now facing a twice-to-beat disadvantage against Northport.
Part of it is how then import Charles Rhodes became a misfit for the team. Because Rhodes is not a great outside shooter, SMB had a hard time going to their strength, which is giving the ball to Fajardo at the low block.
Thankfully, new import Chris McCullough has now provided the much needed spacing for Junemar and Co.
Having said all that, it has also not been a typical conference for Junemar. It has not been the most outstanding and the loudest sorts for him. However, Junemar is still Junemar. He is still averaging 16.3 points per game, 11.4 boards per game and 1.4 blocks given the conference that SMB is having.
It is quite unfair that even if half asleep, this is the type of production the Kraken can provide. Expect a fully awake Kraken once the playoffs roll through and perhaps, make a big push once again to bag another BPC to his accolades.
2. ROBERT BOLICK, NORTHPORT BATANG PIER
Honestly, with the way Robert Bolick is playing in this conference, I find it hard to believe that he is still a rookie. And to crack our BPC list, for that matter, just puts the cherry on top for the conference he is having. Already given the keys to man Northport’s ship this early in his career, Bolick has fully responded that he is, indeed, the right man for the job.
Leading Northport to an impressive 9-2 finish in the eliminations, Bolick has been nothing but sensational all throughout the conference. He has been scoring 17 a game on 43 percent shooting while averaging four rebounds and four assists per game.
What made Bolick so impressive this conference is how he has been able to dictate the tempo of the game for Northport. After the departure of Stanley Pringle, Bolick instantly became the team’s primary point guard and he has not disappointed. A deadly player especially on pick and rolls, Bolick continues to flourish on the offensive end, either by finishing around the basket, setting up for his jump shots, or finding his teammates.
What’s made him so special is how he can be threat not just on the ball but also off the ball. Because of his impeccable three-point sniping, where he is shooting 35 percent, other playmakers such as Nico Elorde and Sol Mercado are also given enough touches and opportunities to play their natural games.
Oh, and need I remind you that Bolick is ice cold in the clutch? Beast Mode. Don’t Care. That’s Bolick for you.
1. BOBBY RAY PARKS, BLACKWATER ELITE
Remember when I said this list is going to be weird? Well, to have two rookies in the BPC race is weird enough, but to have them atop is something else.
Well, here we are.
When Blackwater selected Ray Parks third overall during last year’s rookie draft, the team knew exactly what they were getting from him. After all, he is the most accomplished and experienced of the class. Individual accolades such as being a UAAP MVP, ABL MVP and champion, NBA Summer League participant, and a long-time part of the Gilas pool, Parks came in the league with high expectations.
In a sense, everyone knew that Parks was going to be good once he debuts in the PBA. But no one saw that he would be THIS GOOD instantly. The moment Parks arrived in Blackwater Elite at the start of the conference after missing the Philippine Cup, it was clear from there on, that he was their most important and best player.
Averaging a ridiculous 22-7-4 stat line, Parks has already changed the Elite’s culture. They’ve jumped from being one of the league’s bottom four teams to becoming this conference’s overachievers by finishing third at the end of the eliminations. Parks brought wing versatility, play making and most of all, a winning mentality.
Essentially becoming Blackwater’s primary ball handler, Parks has done it all. He can defend multiple positions, attack off the dribble, finish flawlessly around the rim, and shoot long range bombs. The best thing about Parks is how he makes everyone around him better, as even stud players such as Roi Sumang, Mac Belo, and Mike Digregorio are having productive conferences with Parks around.
Safe to say, with the potential and skill of Parks, the sky is the limit for his PBA career. And to think that in just his first eleven PBA games, he is already in the cusp of greatness, Ray Parks is just an immense talent that will sure to stick around the league for a long, long while.