For PBA coaches, last Sunday’s draft class is very talented. But whether that will translate into impact on the court remains to be seen.
“I don’t see anyone who will dominate the game,” said Air 21 coach Franz Pumaren, whose team didn’t pick until the second round of the draft, where they selected 6-foot-6 center Yousef Taha.
Rain or Shine assistant coach Caloy Garcia said even June Mar Fajardo, the 6-foot-10 top overall pick by Petron, may not be able to make a splash playing for a star-studded squad.
“He will just give Petron’s game an additional dimension, but playing in a star-studded team, you need minutes to shine,” said Garcia. “I don’t see anyone who will have a major impact in the game.”
Abueva, Tiu expected to shine
Elasto Painters coach Yeng Guiao, who has been known for his draft savvy over the years, thinks only two players will make an immediate impact in the league: Calvin Abueva, drafted second overall by Alaska, and Chris Tiu, his team’s own first round pick.
“Other than Calvin Abueva and Chris Tiu, I don’t see anybody else,” said Guiao. “Abueva because his game stands out among the rookies and Chris because he’s a smart player and popular.”
San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone spoke highly of the talented San Sebastian player, the reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player.
“He’s a game changer,” said Cone of Abueva. “If I were with Alaska, I would do the same. Even if I have James [Yap] or PJ [Simon], you will simply have to figure out a way to squeeze some playing time with this guy.”
But whether Abueva will fit into the structured offense of Alaska remains to be seen, said Garcia.
“We’ve seen him how talented he was in the open court, but in the triangle or the deliberate half court set, that remains to be seen,” said Garcia.
Pumaren sees the Tiu pick as a big boost for Rain or Shine.
“Did I wish for Chris Tiu to become available as an 11th pick? Yes, I did,” said Pumaren. I was hoping I could get him, pero masyado namang wishful thinking ako. but if given the chance, I would certainly pick him because he’s so smart and he’s already matured for a rookie with his stints in SMART-Gilas. He played major minutes with Rajko Toroman before and he has leadership qualities.”
Garcia called the Tiu selection a “blessing” for Rain or Shine. The former SMART-Gilas Pilipinas team captain was projected to go in the top five, but fell to No. 7 for the Elasto Painters on draft day.
“Parang blessing in disguise talaga sa amin si Chris,” said Garcia. “Looking at our line up now, the only natural point guards in our team are TY Tang and Jonathan Uyloan. We have Paul Lee, who is injured and we have Gabe Norwood, who is loaned to the national team. When Gabe comes back, he will be back to his natural big guard position with Chris Tiu around.”
Mallari up, Hodge down
For Garcia, the first surprise of the draft was Petron drafting Alex Mallari third overall, saying he had expected the Boosters to select either Tiu or Cliff Hodge.
But Pumaren said it was a great selection for Petron.
“Kung meron ngang direct hire sa Fil-Am siya kukuhain ko,” said Pumaren. “How I wish I could be in the shoes of Petron. I would certainly take him in. He’s a tall guard who can stabilize your guard spot.”
Cliff Hodge, the fourth overall pick by Meralco, had a slight fall during draft day. Before Fajardo’s entry into the field, he was touted as a possible top pick. In the days leading up to the draft, experts were saying that the choice for No. 2 came down between him and Abueva.
“His stock became lower during the tryouts when guys like Mallari and Abueva were able to stand out,” said Pumaren. “But I find him as maliit sa power forward and not suited for small forward. Para siyang Sean Anthony.”
Ramos good fit for San Mig Coffee, Ginebra needs balance
Aldrech Ramos was another surprise at No. 5, but both Pumaren and Garcia agree that he would be a great fit for San Mig Coffee, the team that ended up with his rights during the draft.
“He’s a big guy who can shoot, someone who looks fitted in the triangle offense of Tim Cone,” said Pumaren.
“Coach Tim was right when he said his frontliners are getting old. Aldrech is the right choice as he opens up things inside for a B-MEG team with a tall line up.”
Ginebra San Miguel, meanwhile, tabbed talented Fil-Ams Chris Ellis and Keith Jensen in the first round, but questions remain about how they’ll fit into the rotation.
“The dilemma there is how will you give these guys the minutes,” said Pumaren. “Chris Ellis will have to fight for a spot with guys like Allein Maliksi, Dylan Ababou and Willie Wilson, while Jensen will have to slug it out for minutes with Enrico Villanueva, Kerby Raymundo, Rico Maierhofer, Eric Menk and Billy Mamaril.”
Questions about Manuel, Deutchman
GlobalPort wrapped up the first round by selecting forwards Vic Manuel and Jason Deutchman, both of whom still have questions about how they’ll adjust to the PBA game.
Manuel, who played power forward in the commercial ranks, will need to adjust to playing the small forward spot in the PBA, said Pumaren.
Deutchman, on the other hand, is a talented big man who can shoot, but questions remain about his health.
“He’s coming off an injury, so we don’t know if it’s worth it picking him up,” said Garcia.
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