“Anong cup na ba?”

It’s a question far too common when you start a casual conversation about the Philippine Basketball Association. It’s easy to pin this to the naiveity of the casual fan, but another big reason for this is, the league is simply a chore at times to go through. There will be instances where things overwhelm you due to the number of things happening. Lack of notable events also get to fans. Lack of stability is common in the PBA. Quite frankly, you end up asking yourself too many times: “Ano na ba nangyayari?”

We’re here to *try* to make the experience easier. As a Humblebola team, we’re making the jump by starting to cover the PBA once more.

To start things off, previewing the PBA Philippine Cup!

Blackwater Elite

They traded away JP Erram, John Pinto and Paul Zamar, 3 players crucial to their success last conference. In most cases, you’d want more experienced guys to expedite the building process but they got more unproven players instead. Gelo Alolino and Joseph Eriobu are still finding their place in the league while Paul Desiderio and Abu Tratter’s impact will be questionable considering they were first round picks in a pretty shallow draft class. To make matters worse, Parks won’t even be able to suit up for a while owing to his contract in the ABL with Alab Pilipinas. And based on post-draft day rumors, he might not even suit up for the Elite at all. It’s pretty much back to square one for this team and frankly, they didn’t need to go this route.

Luckily for Blackwater, they still have a couple of mainstays that are proven contributors. Mike DiGregorio, the only one left from their crop of “breakout players,” and Allein Maliksi can be depended upon to carry the scoring burden. Mac Belo looks to finally be healthy moving forward while Raymar Jose remains an interesting prospect in the frontcourt. Their biggest issue will probably be replacing Erram’s scoring, rebounding, rim protection and overall effort. James Sena isn’t exactly a world-beater, Rabeh Al-Hussaini is always up and down (he’s already gone AWOL right before the season started) and Tratter doesn’t exactly have the greatest reputation during his stint with the De La Salle Green Archers.

All in all, they’ll struggle to replicate the production of their traded players, especially with a thin frontcourt. They could’ve been one of the more interesting and exciting teams to watch this season but it looks like it’ll be back to the bottom for them this conference and maybe even beyond.

Meralco Bolts

It looks to be another all-Filipino slog for the Bolts. They haven’t performed very well sans Allen Durham, finishing 12th, 11th and 11th the past 3 seasons. There’s no indication that it’ll be any better this time around.

One thing going for them is minimal roster turnover and familiarity between players. They’ll benefit a lot from losing no one and adding a few pieces including veteran Gabby Espinas and John Pinto, who had a very good season for the aforementioned Blackwater Elite. They also picked up Trevis Jackson and Bong Quinto from the draft, the latter having something to prove as he fell to the second round. Baser Amer and Chris Newsome will be expected once again to lead the charge with Amer finally feeling comfortable in his role as lead guard. Surrounding them will be Cliff Hodge, Reynel Hugnatan and Jared Dillinger.

But again, there are real issues on this roster. First and most important of all, they still haven’t found a suitable player to man the middle. They can’t rely on 60-year old Hugnatan forever and they haven’t exactly played well with small ball. Secondly, though they added a couple of nice guards, there is only so much playing time to go around. They still have Anjo Caram and Mike Tolomia to consider unless they decide to run 3-guard lineups at times. Third, can they stay healthy? Yes, there’s a lot of familiarity but there is also a lot of age on the core guys. It was such an issue last conference that they had to rely on Nico Salva getting crucial minutes. It was that bad.

Unfortunately for Meralco, this might be another bottom finish as they wait to get reinforcements in the next two conferences where imports pretty much solve a lot of their problems. Until then, enjoy the bumpy ride.

Columbian Dyip

Unlike fellow extension teams Blackwater and NLEX, Columbian are still looking for their breakthrough performance.

To their credit, they did well to utilize the assets they got for trading the right to pick Christian Standhardinger last season. RaShawn McCarthy in particular was a revelation as he averaged close to 15-5-5 across three conferences. He went from benchwarmer to legit starter in a snap. They also had Jackson Corpuz and his efficient production carrying over from the D-League. Jerramy King also proved his worth as he lead the team in scoring. At one point in last season’s Governor’s Cup, he actually led all locals in scoring. Yes, more than guys like June Mar Fajardo and Stanley Pringle. He was that good of a scorer. These three make up a pretty good core going forward.

Luckily, Columbian decided (or were pretty much forced) to keep their top pick and added CJ Perez to the mix. The biggest issue of the McCarthy-King backcourt was that they couldn’t really play much defense. Perez can pretty much solve that issue and it’ll help that he won’t have to focus as much on the scoring load. They also hope to see fellow rookie JP Calvo take the reigns at point since the aforementioned McCarthy and King are more combo guards than pure PGs. Aside from that, it’s pretty much a mishmash of talent. Curiously, they let go of Carlo Lastimosa and Dylan Ababou who were productive during their stint. Eric Camson has done well to acclimate himself to a sort of small ball center but that’s pretty much it.

Most of Columbian’s conference will hinge on continued production from McCarthy, King, and Corpuz while hoping Perez can speed up his development (assuming they don’t trade him down the line ’cause you know, Columbian). Perez won’t be able to transform the team, especially defensively, on his own so we’ll probably see them struggle once again on the bottom.

All images courtesy of PBA Images unless otherwise stated.