Let’s not get into a discussion on the complexity and sheer absurdity of the 10-team PBA being owned by just a handful of groups and the potential for conspiracy and connivance between “sister” teams. That’s for another time.

This afternoon, the first trade of the off-season between the Commissioner’s and Governor’s Cups has been approved and it is one that may look simple from the surface but actually shakes up the way the teams involved will move forward for the next conference.

As a whole, it can be taken as one trade between three teams (commonly called a three-way trade) but because of the rules against sister teams directly trading with each other, Barako Bull management was asked to “act” as mediators. Here is the trade (and the series of trades), as per InterAksyon:

Meralco Bolts

In: Jared Dillinger, Don Allado

Out: Ronjay Buenafe, Gilbert Bulawan

Barako Bull Energy Cola

In: Ronjay Buenafe, Gilbert Bulawan

Out: Sean Anthony, Don Allado

Talk ‘n Text Tropang Texters

In: Sean Anthony

Out: Jared Dillinger

The series of trades are as follows:

  1. Talk ‘n Text trades Jared Dillinger to Barako Bull for Sean Anthony.
  2. Barako Bull trades Jared Dillinger and Don Allado to Meralco for Ronjay Buenafe and Gilert Bulawan


Meralco Bolts

Well, a lot of people will call Jared Dillinger the best player in this trade (pre-injury). He’s certainly the biggest name among the group, but his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired. Despite his reputation as a versatile player, he’s not really that “versatile” to begin with. He doesn’t shoot the ball all too well, has a hard time creating not only for himself but also for others and he’s not really that good of a free throw shooter. His ORTG and PER have both been subpar for both conferences (and consistent, I might add). Here is his stat line:


(Click to view larger image)

Those are laughably low numbers. His greatest asset on offense is his ability to secure the defensive rebound and immediately push the ball or make a great outlet pass that fuels Talk ‘n Text’s fastbreak attack – which is great because Talk ‘n Text thrives on the break (they rank near the top of fastbreak efficiency). In a half court setting however, Dillinger becomes a total liability – a perimeter player who can’t shoot (a huge no-no in TNT’s spread pick-and-roll offense), can’t create consistently and can’t, you know, make baskets.

His true value lies on the defensive end. His length and his smarts allowed him to be an effective defender for almost anybody except bulking bigs. When playing against a smaller player, he uses his length to disrupt passing lanes and contest shots. Against bigger perimeter players, he bodies them up and uses his similar built but superior quickness to get to the right defensive spots and when switched on to non-hulking bigs, he’ll just use his speed and length to front them.

Those are huge assets for a Meralco team that lacks a true defender amongst their ranks. However, his shooting woes are not a welcome sight to a team that currently employs Chris Ross (14.8% from 3) at the one and fields a “stereotype” lineup from one to five (i.e. their bigs are not really good at hitting outside shots). Those shooting woes will even be more apparent when you consider that Meralco traded one of their two shooting threats (Buenafe) to acquire him.

That’s not even taking into account Jared Dillinger’s injury (we wish him a full and speedy recovery). But, as seen above, even when healthy, Jared Dillinger creates as many problems as those he solves with Meralco.

Grade: D

Talk ‘N Text

If you read my post-conference review, you’ll know that Talk ‘N Text’s biggest problem was the lack of depth from the front court. Between Fonacier and Reyes – two better offensive players than Dillinger that can play equally well on D – and Alapag and Castro, Talk ‘N Text has enough perimeter power to thrive. Their biggest problem was their bigs. No one was there to give RDO a good backup. Hussaini was… “not good” on defense and settled for far too many shots from the “dumb zone” (i.e. 18-22 feet 2PT jumpers). Carey’s energy was not present and the minor decrease in his defensive impact and rebounding made his offensive ineptitude stand out. Peek can be serviceable, although he is coming off an injury.

Enter Sean Anthony.

He’s a fairly capable player – both offensively and defensively. Nothing spectacular but he provides Carey’s rebounding and energy while also providing a better offensive impact as Hussaini.

I’d say that’s a good trade considering the doubts surrounding Jared Dillinger.

Grade: C+

Barako Bull

The clear winners for me. WHAT?!

Barako Bull likes to run a lot of Horns set and 1-4 high PNR that allowed Josh Urbiztondo to create a name for himself as “fireball”. Urbiztondo’s decision-making aside, these types of sets generated a lot of shots not only out of quick-hitting pick-and-rolls from handoffs but also off-screens.

(Photo Credit: InterAKTV)

Here, Mark Macapagal gets a pass from Josh Urbiztondo at the right side elbow of the three-point line and immediately passes it back to Urbiztondo. This setups the entire play.

(Photo Credit: InterAKTV)

(Photo Credit: InterAKTV)

 After making the pass, the team forms a “square” (or a “rhombus”, whatever fits your fancy) in the middle of the floor. At this point, Macapagal has two different options based on how his man (in this case, PJ Simon) plays him. In this case, Simon plays him strong from the right side (after Macapagal makes a few stutter steps when Simon hit the Pennisi back screen, giving the impression that he’s going to run back to the right side corner).

(Photo Credit: InterAKTV)

(Photo Credit: InterAKTV)

Macapagal, after seeing Simon’s reaction, runs right through the baseline (getting a down screen from Doug Kramer) and gets a great look at a three. In actuality, Urbiztondo makes the pass almost a second too late (Macapagal had to stop, thereby killing all the rhythm he built from coming off the screen). But Buenafe, a multi-faceted 3PT shooter, can definitely thrive in sets with a similar intent. Barako also occasionally runs some “gate” screens for their shooters (a gate screen is a when a player runs through the middle of two teammates, who create the “gate” after the player passes through). Point is: Coach Rajko likes to use his 3PT shooters and Buenafe is among the best of them.

Another type of set where Buenafe can thrive in are sets where he’s asked to create on the move (as supposed to creating on a standstill). Barako also has some really nice sets for those. It offers Buenafe some form of offensive freedom with the ball (which he didn’t really have in the Dawson and Mercado-centric offense of Meralco). Here’s an example:

(Photo Credit: InterAKTV)

In this set, Barako’s Maliksi gets a pass from Urbiztondo on the left elbow of the three-point line after circling down below the basket and receiving a brush screen from Siegle. Urbiztondo moves towards Maliksi (in a set that looks like a hand-off transitioning into a ball screen between Urbiztondo and Siegle on the left elbow). With Mercado and Miller expecting the handoff, Maliksi continues his circular motion and allows Kramer (guy at the top of the key) to hit Miller squarely and leave him out of position.

(Photo Credit: InterAKTV)

(Photo Credit: InterAKTV)

One dribble later, Salvador is left on an island with multiple options available for Maliksi – he can make the easy pocket pass to Kramer (if Mercado refuses to stunt the roll man), he can make the pass to Urbiztondo (if Mercado does stunt) or he can simply attack the slower Salvador.

In this case, Maliksi goes for the open midrange jumper. Swish.

Now imagine Buenafe (a more cunning and potent shooter than Maliksi) coming off those brush screens and then transitioning into simple ball screen actions with a simple decision to be made – among them is a pull-up three (a shot that Buenafe loves to take AND make).

With Urbiztondo out, Coach Rajko clearly needed a player who can carry some of the load that Urbiztondo carried. Maliksi (a player who blossomed towards the end of the season) and Jonas Villanueva (an underrated playmaker) will help carry some of those. But the majority of the minutes (and offensive load) will be placed on Ronjay Buenafe.

Another thing that won’t be talked about in this trade is the “addition by subtraction” element. With Sean Anthony among those outgoing Barako player, Doug Kramer – a very capable two-way player and a voracious rebounder – will get to see more minutes. This trade, in my mind looks like this:

Mark Macapagal (practically a lesser version of Ronjay Buenafe) and Sean Anthony for Ronjay Buenafe and Doug Kramer. I’d say the latter beats the former.

Ronjay isn’t the most stout defender but neither was Macapagal so the offensive improvement that Ronjay will provide will be more than enough.

Grade: B+

What about you, what are your grades for each team?

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