Less than a week after the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup will debut on February 10, Wednesday, at the Araneta Coliseum.
Truly, basketball never stops for Filipino fans. To welcome the import-laced conference, here are the initial Power Rankings for all 12 PBA teams before the tournament officially starts.
1. Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters
The defending Commissioner’s Cup champions will start at the top, especially since Ivan Johnson will reinforce them again after a successful stint last year.
Johnson will miss a game due to a suspension but the Tropang Texters should have enough firepower to compete in their first game. Furthermore, sweet-shooting forward Ranidel de Ocampo is expected to be ready to play after missing the Philippine Cup. In case RDO is not 100% ready, TnT’s prized rookie tandem of Moala Tautuaa and Troy Rosario will be available to pick up the slack.
Of course, the reigning Best Player of the Conference last year, Jayson Castro will lead them.
2. Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
The 2015 Commissioner’s Cup Best Import, Wayne Chism, will be back for another tour of duty with the Elasto Painters. Chism has unfinished business with RoS who lost to TnT in an epic Game 7 double-overtime heartbreaker during the finals a year ago.
RoS expects Paul Lee to be healthy soon while Raymond Alamazan seems ready to rock and roll. In addition, JR Quinahan looks poised (and fit) to follow-up an impressive Philippine Cup showing and his tag team partner, Beau Belga said that they are hungry for a title because their last championship was 3 years ago.
3. San Miguel Beermen
The Beermen are targeting a Grand Slam and next on their list is the Commish Cup trophy. They will parade import Tyler Wilkerson who they hope will mesh with June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos.
SMB will not play until after February 19 so they have 3 weeks to prepare, practice and rest. That should be enough time to have JMF at full capacity.
Expect Chris Ross to have a bigger role in their offense after his magnificent showing at the just concluded finals. SMB also wants to erase their awful performance from last year where they did not make it past the elimination round.
4. Alaska Aces
The Aces will tap the services of Robert Dozier again for the 3rd time this coming conference. Dozier previously played with the Aces during 2013 and 2014. He was the 2013 Best Import when he piloted Alaska to the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup title. Dozier has career averages of 20.9 points, 15.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.6 blocks. He is a proven import who is familiar with Alaska’s players and their culture.
The Aces are hurting from a monumental collapse and they want to quickly erase the bad taste in their mouths by performing very well in the upcoming conference. The Aces are also hoping that Vic Manuel and Calvin Abueva can coexist with Dozier when all 3 play together.
5. Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Gin Kings
The Gin Kings had a solid debut with Coach Tim Cone during the Philippine Cup where they finished with a 7-4 record and placed 4th after the eliminations. Ginebra did not make it past the quarterfinals but they still took a step in the right direction.
The arrival of import Othyus Jeffers should bolster their lineup, especially when it comes to scoring in the shaded lane but Jeffers does not solve their outside shooting woes. BGSM hopes that Jeffers’s presence, which Coach Cone called the “perfect fit” for the triangle offense, will catapult the Barangay towards a better finish compared to past conferences and perhaps end up with a title.
6. GlobalPort Batang Pier
The Batang Pier had an impressive start to their season when they reached the semifinals of the past conference. That was the farthest their franchise has gone in their 4 years in the PBA.
In their minds, GlobalPort should continue to rise and that is hard to argue against since they have the best duo in the league: Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle. Both guys are perennial BPC contenders and they have the ability to win games by themselves.
Their import, Brian Williams, is expected to defend and rebound for them which should improve their frontcourt deficiencies immensely.
7. Star Hotshots
Another former Best Import, Denzel Bowles, is back in town to reinforce the Star Hotshots. Bowles will play for a new coach (Jason Webb) compared to his last tour of duty and Joe DeVance is gone, but this is still mostly the team that Bowles played with last year. Thus, the familiarity with the other players is there but the system will be different because Coach Webb does not employ the triangle offense.
The faster pace and more up-tempo system has benefited James Yap and their slew of backcourt finishers (Mallari, Barroca, Melton, Simon) but the wins have arrived slower. Star hopes that Bowles will give them more wins than losses this conference.
8. NLEX Road Warriors
The Road Warriors had their best record with their fairly new franchise during the Commissioner’s Cup last year where they finished 6-5 and placed 4th after the eliminations. Therefore, they are bringing in the same import that helped them reach that level, Al Thornton. This guy averaged 31.5 points and 12.7 rebounds plus he scored 50 points once in a win vs Ginebra. He can definitely score but this time around, he will have more help.
Asi Taulava continues to defy Father Time as he currently averages 20 points and 12 rebounds. In addition, Sean Anthony has been playing on another level with 20 points and 9 rebounds per game, both career-highs.
9. Phoenix Petroleum Accelerators
The Accelerators acquired Barako Bull and kept their roster intact. That was a good move because they have some players worth keeping like JC Intal, Willie Wilson and RR Garcia. Wilson had a breakout performance last conference as he averaged about 18 points and 12 rebounds. Wilson actually edged out RR Garcia for the team lead in scoring. If Wilson continues performing that way, then Phoenix might be able to creep up within the top 6 teams in the standings.
The Accelerators will have Kenny Adeleke as their import. Adeleke was described as a versatile professional player with a lot of experience playing international basketball.
10. Meralco Bolts
The Bolts suffered through a 1-10 record during the last conference but this team is a lot better than that and they are aiming to prove that this conference.
How can a team with Jimmy Alapag, Jared Dillinger, Gary David, Cliff Hodge, Al-Husseini and rookie Chris Newsome do that poorly?
Well, they struggled scoring and playing defense, so their first choice for an import was supposed to answer those problems. However, things were not looking too good this early because the Bolts scampered to replace injured import Malcolm Thomas.
They now have his replacement, Arinze Onuaku, who was described as hardworking and a decent low-post operator. The Bolts hope that Onuaku can give the Bolts more than a win this conference.
11. Blackwater Elite
How many here expected Carlo Lastimosa to lead the Elite in scoring? I don’t think a lot of people expected that, including myself. Lastimosa was their top scorer (15.4 points) and Blackwater hopes that he can continue playing that way moving forward.
The Elite also got decent production from their top rookie pick, Art Dela Cruz. They will be reinforced by import Malcolm “MJ” Rhett who Coach Leo Isaac likened to Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat. Rhett is a lefty forward-center who has a decent midrange game but is unproven from the 3-point line.
Blackwater envisions a lot of pick and roll/pops between Mike Cortez and their import.
12. Mahindra Enforcers
The Enforcers have some young players that can become very good in the future. LA Revilla is their floor general who led them in assists and was 2nd in scoring. They also have Aldrech Ramos who is an above average scorer and can make threes. Plus, rookie pick Bradwin Guinto showed flashes of brilliance (8.5 points & 8.7 rebounds).
Their import is Augustus Gilchrist who has 3-point range and is capable of scoring in bunches. He will be tasked to carry the Enforcers to their 1st-ever taste of the playoffs. — By Rolly Mendoza