For five seasons, June Mar Fajardo has been the PBA’s sheriff. He has established order in the league with him as its reigning four-time Most Valuable Player and the San Miguel Beermen as the team to beat.
After reaching the winning a seventh Best Player of the Conference (BPC) award during the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, a fifth straight MVP is mere formality. With him at the peak of his career, the end of his kingship is nowhere in sight.
While his PBA legacy will forever be established, this does not mean that he cannot be dethroned. After all, dynasties take a bow too. But right now, he has two conference best player crowns and is the favorite to win again in the Governor’s Cup. As mighty as The Kraken is, there are some players who can derail his BPC Grand Slam.
The shifty point guard of the GlobalPort Batang Pier saw an uptick to his production since Terrence Romeo was traded to the TNT Katropa. He clearly became coach Pido Jarencio’s main man and he did not disappoint. The Filipino-American finished third in the BPC race after a stellar Commissioner’s Cup campaign that saw him become the first local player since Asi Taulava to register a 50-point game.
Aside from racking up markers to bolster his statistical points, Pringle can also pop up high for rebounds and dish out assists after drawing multiple defenders. But his case for Governor’s Cup BPC will only be helped by a deeper run. They nearly eliminated the top-seeded Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals. If Pringle and the Batang Pier can keep the momentum, they end up playing more games for Pringle to boost his numbers.
Just like Pringle, the pride of Nueva Ecija benefited from Calvin Abueva’s suspension. Though he was relegated to the bench, the Muscle Man was able to score at least 20 points in 11 straight games before registering only 16 in Game One of their semifinals series against San Miguel. It was also during this series that Fajardo overtook Manuel in the BPC race due to superior performances.
Though he’s known as a potent low post threat, Manuel’s resurgence can be attributed to an improved mid-range jumper. This made him a multi-faceted scoring option that defenders must account for regardless of his position on the floor. Come third conference though, he will be tested even more because peskier imports can be tasked to guard him.
It’s fascinating how he can sky high for rebounds. Whatever his secret maybe, he is a walking stat machine that can collect ten rebounds and ten assists easily. But to stop Fajardo’s reign, he would have to increase his point production to have a serious run at BPC. That would be his biggest challenge given the loaded Gin Kings roster and the team-first philosophy of coach Tim Cone.
How can this happen if he is playing behind Fajardo? It is possible given his performance during the Commissioner’s Cup finals. Talent is not a question for the Filipino-German for he’s been hailed as an MVP in the Asean Basketball League. But during the series against Barangay Ginebra, he has averaged 15.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.2 steals in around 22 minutes of action. This includes a 26-point explosion in game one which they lost, 99-127.
His production will increase if only he will be given more playing time. But for now, he is relegated to the bench as Fajardo’s replacement because they play practically the same way. Given a chance to start, he can give the Cebuano a run for his money.