PBA Commisioner’s Cup preview: Driving forward is the only way for NLEX

By Anton Tioseco

Kiefer Ravena is for real, but the rest of the team has to catch up with its rookie phenom if they are to be called one of the league’s legitimate contenders.

After making an unexpected run towards their first franchise semifinals appearance in the Philippine Cup, Ravena and the rest of the NLEX Road Warriors cannot expect to catch anyone by surprise anymore. They can, however, build on their experience from last conference and use that to propel the team into one of PBA’s elites.

While the team will miss one of their key contributors last conference in Kevin Alas (torn ACL), they fortunately have a plethora of guards that can ably fill his place. Coach Yeng Guiao is known as a coach who maximizes his entire roster – no one on the Road Warriors averaged more than 30 minutes per game in the Philippine Cup. This makes it easy for anyone to step up whenever needed.

Of course, the team will be boosted by former NBA 1st round pick Arnett Moultrie, their import for the upcoming reinforced tournament. The Mississippi State University alum should give the Road Warriors a go-to option inside with the size and athleticism to impose over opposing teams’ froncourts – something that NLEX just doesn’t have in its local roster. Moultrie can also hit jumpers from mid-range. As long as the team continues its selfless ways on offense (second in assists in the Philippine Cup), he should fit right in.

NLEX also hopes that their import can help address their weaknesses on the other side of the court. The Road Warriors were the only team in the semifinals that had a negative net rating (-3.4) and was ninth in the league overall, just above three non-playoff teams. They also ranked in the bottom-half of the league in a lot of defensive statistics, such as steals (ninth), rebounding (10th), shot-blocking (10th), turnovers forced (seventh), and defensive rating (ninth). Moultrie’s youth and athleticism should help aid some of those issues.

With Moultrie filling in for the team in the middle, the NLEX Road Warriors have the talent to be one of the top four to six teams this Commissioner’s Cup. The future of the team is also in good hands with Ravena in charge of the wheel, but the Road Warriors also have a lot of aging veterans in their roster that are definitely hoping to win as much as they can as soon as possible. If the team’s young guns grow even more from their experience last conference and if Arnett Moultrie proves to be as good as advertised, then NLEX may not have to wait any longer for their time to come.