The current conference is just 2 weeks old and there have been a few interesting stories and subplots that occurred since the conference opened.
One of the main discussions revolves around the incident between Ivan Johnson and the Commissioner. Aside from that, imports are getting injured and/or replaced by other imports at an earlier timeframe.
As for surprises with regards to the team standings, the Bolts remain unbeaten, the Beermen are winless while 2 proud franchises can be found near the bottom with 1-3 records. The Power Rankings had a lot of movement during the 1st 2 weeks of the Commissioner’s Cup. So, let’s take a look!
1. Meralco Bolts (Last Ranking: 10; Trend +9)
The Bolts are the only unbeaten team left in the conference. They have quadrupled their win total from a forgettable Philippine Cup tournament.
Everything seems to be clicking for Meralco. Jared Dillinger is healthy and contributing a lot (he recently won the PBA Player of the Week award); even Cliff Hodge has been making perimeter shots. The most electrifying thing working for the Bolts has been the superb play of their import, Arinze Onuaku, who has provided everything they need for at the center slot (22 ppg on 67% shooting and 19 rpg).
2. NLEX Road Warriors (Last Ranking: 8; Trend +6)
The Road Warriors have the highest scoring import, Al Thornton, to thank for their decent start this conference. Thornton is averaging 37 ppg to go with his 8 rpg. His scoring increased compared to last year but his rebounding decreased. That is fine with NLEX because Asi Taulava and Sean Anthony averages almost 23 total rebounds.
Other sources of their early success can be linked to their young backcourt tandem of Garvo Lanete and Kevin Alas. Lanete achieved a new career-high of 21 points in a win vs Star while Alas has been averaging a career-high 11 ppg this conference.
3. GlobalPort Batang Pier (Last Ranking: 6; Trend +3)
The Batang Pier felt that import Brian Williams (16 ppg, 16.5 rpg) was not the right guy for them after only 2 games where they went 1-1.
Thus, GlobalPort sought the services of a “balik” import, Calvin Warner, who briefly played with GBP last year. Warner averaged 21 ppg and 23 rpg last season, albeit in only 4 games played. Warner is not someone they expect to score in bunches because the import just needs to do the dirty work, rebound and play defense.
Of course, Romeo will lead the scoring while Pringle will orchestrate the playmaking duties. Romeo won the Player of the Week award during the opening week of this conference.
4. Alaska Aces (Last Ranking: 4; Trend 0)
The Aces won’t have their original import Rob Dozier for a couple of games due to plantar fasciitis injury. So, Alaska got a temporary replacement that they hoped could hold the fort.
Oh boy, the Aces certainly found a very good stand-in in Shane Edwards, who tallied 36 points and 20 rebounds in a comeback win vs the defending champs, Tropang TnT. Edwards is long, athletic and explosive. He appears to be a slightly better version of Dozier.
However, it is just 1 game and opposing teams will now have a scouting report and can game plan against Edwards, so the next game or so will tell us more if Edwards is the real deal or not.
5. Phoenix Fuel Masters (Last Ranking: 9; Trend +4)
The Fuel Masters had an opportunity to win their first 2 games early in this conference. Unfortunately, they were unable to rally vs Meralco during the final minute of that game.
Still, their 1-1 record is not a bad start for Phoenix who continues to get strong scoring performances from RR Garcia (24 ppg) and the resurgent Mac Baracael. Aside from them, Willy Wilson, Rodney Brondial and JC Intal provide additional scoring support.
That setup is ideal for the Fuel Masters because their import, Kenny Adeleke, is not an offensive force. Adeleke focuses more on defense and he has been solid defensively, plus he is an amazing rebounder too (20.5 rpg).
6. Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (Last Ranking: 5; Trend -1)
The Gin Kings had 2 very disappointing losses to open the conference but a recent win lifted their spirits and brought confidence back to their team.
Their import, Othyus Jeffers, played his best game in their lone win as he finished with 38 points and 20 rebounds. Jeffers also hurt his back during that game so Barangay Ginebra and their legions of fans are on high alert because back injuries are very unpredictable.
Anyway, 2 guys who the fans always hope would play well and contribute are Joe DeVance and Sol Mercado. Both guys have been very good so far. DeVance and Mercado are averaging roughly 10 points each which are improvements from the last conference.
7. San Miguel Beermen (Last Ranking: 3; Trend -4)
San Miguel is the only winless team but that should not last for long because if that happens, then another championship hangover might be happening. That’s not great news because SMB vowed to avoid another letdown similar to what happened last year.
Now, their loss to Mahindra was not totally surprising because Alex Cabagnot did not attend that game due to a personal matter. Additionally, the Enforcers have beaten SMB in 3 of the past 4 conferences. It seems that they have the Beermen’s number when imports are involved.
Anyway, their import, Tyler Wilkerson, appears to be a decent fit for their team (29 points & 12 rebounds) but the wins will only increase if June Mar Fajardo becomes completely healthy and ready to dominate.
8. Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (Last Ranking: 2; Trend -6)
The 2015 Commissioner’s Cup Best Import, Wayne Chism, hurt his hamstring during their 2nd game. Chism was already not doing too well during his first 2 games and now this injury made things worse. The nature of Chism’s injury is somewhat unpredictable, thus, his expected time of recovery could be from 2-4 weeks (or more).
Therefore, RoS had no choice but to recruit a temporary import, Antoine Wright, who did not impress during his maiden game. Wright was severely jetlagged and tired so he had an excuse for having a lackluster game (16 points and 8 rebounds).
Another possible bad sign for RoS concerns Paul Lee, who has not played this conference. Lee might still be 2 weeks (or more) away from playing competitively. On the bright side, JR Quinahan is playing extremely well.
9. Tropang TNT (Last Ranking: 1; Trend -8)
The defending champions started the conference on a disadvantage due to the erratic and volatile behavior of their previous import, Ivan Johnson. He gave Tropang TNT a handicap when he got suspended for a fight during the preseason and Johnson confounded the situation when he was involved in an incident with the PBA Commissioner.
Moving on, TNT went with a new import, David Simon, who played amazing with 35 points and 19 boards but Tropang TnT still lost. Their 1-3 record is not the end of the road for the Tropa, but they are very close to losing the opportunity to reach the next round.
They can still make the playoffs but they need to win now and avoid any more losses. On a positive note, Ranidel de Ocampo and Troy Rosario are both healthy and playing for TNT already.
10. Star Hotshots (Last Ranking: 8; Trend -2)
The Star Hotshots are very happy to finally win a game after dropping 3 straight to start the conference. Things weren’t looking too good for them last weekend when questions, criticisms and doubts surrounded the team. Their last win helped change the mood and mentality of the team.
Now that they have a win, the Hotshots will focus all their energies and efforts into preparing for their “Manila Clasico” matchup vs Barangay Ginebra on Sunday. Another loss for the Hotshots will drastically dampen their chances of making it to the next round, thus, expect Denzel Bowles and the rest of the guys to play their best against former coach, Tim Cone and former teammate, Joe DeVance.
11. Mahindra Enforcers (Last Ranking: 12; Trend +1)
The Enforcers would love to play SMB more than once in conferences that utilize imports. Mahindra has beaten SMB 3 times already since last year. In fact, the Enforcers have their most number of wins against SMB.
They seem to have an edge vs San Miguel due to the sweet shooting duo of Aldrech Ramos and KG Canaleta. Ramos, in particular, burned the Beermen with 26 points and 8 rebounds while Canaleta was also supportive with 15 points.
As for their import, Augustus Gilchrist, the Enforcers will need more contributions coming from him. Gilchrist is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds which are okay numbers when compared to other locals. However as an import, Gilchrist needs to produce more on both ends of the floor.
12. Blackwater Elite (Last Ranking: 11; Trend -1)
The Elite are 2-2 in the standings after their recent loss to the Star Hotshots. In their 2 losses, MJ Rhett has performed inadequately. Rhett needs to be more aggressive and productive every game to give Blackwater a realistic chance of winning the game. Another loss might send their import packing if that decision has not been made yet.
Moving on to the locals, Carlo Lastimosa continues to impress and surprise when it comes to his scoring prowess. Lastimosa is currently the 2nd best local scorer after Terrence Romeo. The Elite rely on Lastimosa to score in bunches and makes plays but others like Reil Cervantes, JP Erram and Mike Cortez can also provide a little bit of support. — By Rolly Mendoza