2013 PBA Draft Vibes Part One

The 2013 PBA Draft was one of the most interesting in recent memory, thanks in no small part to the slew of transactions and surprises that happened right on the floor! Let’s take a look back at each team’s picks and see where they stand.

Air21 Express
Picks: Eric Camson, Joshua Webb, Angelo Ingco, Randy Chua
I love Camson going to Air21 simply because he plays PF, and that's the spot where the Express need the most work. Right now, Air21 has Vic Manuel and Mike Burtscher at that position -- not exactly the basketball equivalent of Christmas morning, eh? Camson, if he can be consistent with that mid-to-long range shot and also battle for those rebounds, might get the nod to start. Joshua Webb, for his part, might not even crack this roster. I mean, look at the guys at his natural SF position -- KG Canaleta, Ogie Menor, and Mark Borboran. Heck, even Mac Cardona can moonlight as a small-ball SF. Webb will have to add something special to his repertoire to make the cut. Another intriguing pick here is Randy Chua. He's an unknown, but he's intriguing because, well, he was a former student of mine at Xavier School. He graduated from Xavier in 2004, and was one of the stars of the Golden Stallions' basketball team that year. When I saw him at the Rookie Camp, I was surprised to say the least. He was more plump than before and was not as agile as I remember. I highly doubt he will make the final lineup, but I'm just happy to see him get drafted. As a team, I don't think the Express got a lot deeper. I also don't think they're a title threat, mainly because they weren't able to address another pressing need -- a tried and tested trooper at the PG position. Having said that, they have some talented young pieces who might prove to be solid building blocks for the future.
GV or BV? I have low expectations as of the moment, so good vibes, Air21!

Joshua Webb is just happy to hear his name.

Alaska Aces
Picks: Ryan Buenafe, Ping Exciminiano, Raymund Ilagan
Luigi Trillo dropped a bombshell by picking the seemingly overweight and underperforming Ryan Buenafe late in the first round. Just when everyone and his uncle expected someone like Alex Nuyles or Jeric Teng to get drafted, the Aces picked one of the most reviled players outside of the UAAP (unless you're an Ateneo fan, of course). It seems Trillo has made it a point to draft not with the image of his players as top of mind, but, rather, to find the pieces that would fit his triangle offense. In that respect, Buenafe, considering his sky-high basketball IQ, should fit in like a T. He was not the most consistent player who was left available, and definitely not the most lithe, but his penchant for making big shots and big plays should come in handy for the defending Commish Cup titlists. Exciminiano is another quality talent who has a couple of specialized skills that can be useful in a pinch -- defending wing players and finding himself in open spots for gimmes. The former FEU guard should play behind guys like RJ Jazul and Dondon Hontiveros in the rotation, but his presence means Alaska's backcourt won't suffer a big drop in talent once coach Trillo decides to go to his bench. As is, the Aces are already one of the most well-balanced teams in the league, but I would've loved for them to get better quality big men to spell Sonny Thoss and Gabby Espinas. Despite that, I still think getting both Buenafe and Exciminiano is a calculated risk that has the potential for a big payoff.
GV or BV? Abueva + Buenafe at both forward spots? Short in ceiling, but big in attitude! Good vibes, Alaska!

Ryan Buenafe's expression is definitely... memorable.

Barako Bull Energy Cola
Picks: Jeric Fortuna, Carlo Lastimosa, Darwin Cordero, Jett Vidal, Mike Silungan
Here's the only thing I really want to say -- good luck to any of these guys contributing significantly to maybe the most enigmatic franchise since, well, they let go of Rajko Toroman last week. Days after the Rookie Camp, former Gilas coach Toroman was sent packing by Barako, and then the Energy Cola traded away three first round picks in what is maybe the deepest draft class in years (no offense to the 2011 and 2012 bunches) for the following: Rico Maierhofer, Willie Wilson, Mark Isip, Magi Sison, and Denok Miranda. Which picks did Barako "give up?" How about James Forrester, Terrence Romeo, and RR Garcia? That's one helluva scorer from the NCAA and two UAAP MVPs. Now, Maierhofer, Wilson, Isip, Sison, and Miranda aren't chumps (okay, maybe Sison, but he's 6'7, so I won't tell that to his face), but none of those guys is a bona fide star. I mean, THREE first round picks for these guys? Anyway, like I wrote earlier, most of Barako’s actual picks probably won't make the final roster. The only one we cannot sleep on is Jeric Fortuna, who, in my book, is the best pure point guard in the 2013 class. Romeo and Garcia are both excellent, but I wouldn't classify them as "pure PGs." I would go even so far as to say that Fortuna just might start more than a few games for Barako. If he plays his cards right, he might have the same effect on the Energy Cola that JV Casio had on Alaska. The other guys, in contrast, will have to fight for very few slots against some really quality veterans. Lastimosa, Cordero, and Vidal have their work cut out for them against Mark Macapagal, Ronjay Buenafe, and Willie Miller, while Silungan's erratic shooting might not be enough to get him the nod over the likes of JC Intal, Keith Jensen, and Elmer Espiritu at the 3 spot.
GV or BV? Just so much intrigue surrounds this team right now, and that's not exactly what they need. BV to the max, Barako!

Jeric Fortuna might be one of the big steals of the draft!

Bgy. Ginebra Gin Kings
Picks: Greg Slaughter, James Forrester, John Usita, Alvin Padilla, Jens Knuttel
Just imagine the ceiling of this team. Coach Ato Agustin has Slaughter, Usita, Japeth Aguilar, Jay-R Reyes, and Billy Mamaril as his main frontline rotation. Mamaril, at 6'6, is already the shortest guy in that set, while Slaughter, at 7 feet, is the tallest. The former Ateneo Blue Eagle will, obviously, add a different dimension to this team. I think, at least offensively speaking, he will have an adjustment period similar to what June Mar Fajardo went through last season, but he should have an immediate impact defensively. He will alter shots, block shots, clean the glass, and just be one of the most imposing centers this coming season. Some people foresee him not developing as quickly as Fajardo did, but what these people seem to miss is the fact that Slaughter has high basketball IQ, and he has trained under two really great coaches -- Norman Black and the aforementioned Toroman. Those will be more than enough to compensate for his biggest weakness -- mobility (or the lack thereof). That's not to say Slaughter is EJ Feihl 2.0, but he's certainly not as agile as the next guy Ginebra picked -- James Forrester. During the draft, many gasped in wonder as the Arellano Chief's name was called. A lot of people expected someone like Romeo to go to Ginebra, but I think Forrester was actually a wise pick and here's why: he is more versatile than Romeo. Forrester's size and skill-set afford his team the luxury of playing him in any of the wing positions. I see him mainly as a great back-up to either Mark Caguioa or Chris Ellis, but I also see him playing alongside BOTH guys if and when coach Ato decides to go small-ball with someone like Japeth or Jay-R at the slot. Forrester will need to be more consistent from long range, but he has the potential to be an energy-type of wingman like Alaska's Abueva. Usita is also an intriguing pick, if only because he looks so intimidating. This is a 6'8 guy who has a wide body that's inked like crazy. I don't expect him to get heavy minutes, but something tells me that he will certainly be someone to watch every time he's on the floor (Alex Crisano redux?). I'm sorry to say this, but both Padilla and Knuttel might not make the cut, much less see much daylight.
GV or BV? As far as I'm concerned, and as long as expectations are modest, Slaughter and Forrester are both can't-miss prospects. They instantly make Ginebra a serious contender. Good vibes, Gin Kings!

Greg Slaughter is billed to be a game-changer for the Gin Kings.

GlobalPort Batang Pier
Picks: Terrence Romeo, RR Garcia, Isaac Holstein (since traded to San Mig Coffee for Justin Chua and Leo Najorda), Nico Salva, Jopher Custodio, and LA Revilla
This may just be the richest haul of the 2013 PBA Draft. The only thing that really makes me scratch my head is this -- why draft Holstein at seventh only to trade him for Chua, who was drafted tenth? Why didn't GlobalPort just nab Chua in the first place? Was 31-year old Leo Najorda the kicker that GlobalPort REALLY wanted (haha… umm NO)? Still, I guess everybody got what he wanted (especially since, reportedly, Holstein was really pining to pay for Tim Cone at SMC). So where does this leave the Batang Pier? I daresay they're in a pretty prime position to be a threat this coming Philippine Cup. I still won't pick such a green squad to be in the top half of the standings, but I would be really disappointed if they don't make it past the elimination round (eight teams make it and only two get the axe). I think the likes of Jay Washington and Sol Mercado will mesh well with notable newbies like Romeo, Garcia, Chua, and even Salva. With the exception of Salva, however, who still needs to develop higher-level swingman skills, I believe all those rookies have the potential to pay immediate dividends for GlobalPort. I wouldn't be surprised if Chua becomes the primary back-up at the slot or at the 4, while Garcia has a strong chance to be the finisher at the point. I also like Romeo's derring-do joining forces with Mercado's penchant for pace-changing. Garcia, Romeo, and Mercado should form maybe the most explosive combo-guard trio in the league. In fact, I can imagine that coach Junel Baculi will be content to divide the 96 available guard minutes almost evenly among the three. What GlobalPort still lacks, though, are two things -- a top-flight natural small forward who can match-up with the Marcio Lassiters of the league, and a top-shelf center who can do more than give up size and fouls against June Mar Fajardo. Still, this will definitely be one of the most fun teams to watch (bets on who will take the most shots are going to open really soon).
GV or BV? Some holes still need plugging, but the talent here is undeniably promising. Moderate good vibes, Batang Pier!

Bro makes it to the PBA!

All images are by Pranz Kaeno Billones/InterAKTV.

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