2014 PBA Commish Cup Import Lowdown: Kevin Jones & Leon Rodgers

Now that the 2014 Philippine Cup has been handed to the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, the attention of all ten (soon to be twelve?) teams is going to be diverted to the season’s second conference — the Commissioner’s Cup. The unique feature of this conference, of course, is that teams are allowed to employ “big” imports. This is in contrast to the third conference, or the Governors’ Cup, where teams are allowed only the services of “small” imports. 

In this particular conference, unlike in the Commissioner’s Cups of 2012 and 2013, there will be a height limit imposed on the teams’ imports, and this limit is based on how well each team fared in the previous conference. Because they finished in the bottom two spots of the team standings, the Air 21 Express and the Meralco Bolts have the luxury to choose imports who can be as tall as 6’11 (around 210cm), while the rest of the field can employ imports who are, at most, 6’9 (around 205cm).

I’m here to look at the ten imports who will show their wares in the 2014 Commish Cup. Traditionally, PBA teams rely heavily on their imports for practically everything, from scoring, to rebounding, to defending, and, in some cases, even playmaking. The expectations are extremely high (which explains their skyrocketing salaries), and the pressure can really take its toll.

In this last part of the series, we will look at the imports of both San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra. These are, respectively, former Cleveland Cavalier Kevin Jones and three-time Dutch League MVP Leon Rodgers.


Former Cavs player Kevin Jones and journeyman Leon Rodgers are
set to light the PBA on fire.
(composite image by Enzo Flojo/Hoop Nut)


San Miguel Beer import: Kevin Jones
Home country: USA 
Born: Aug. 25, 1989 in New York, USA (24 y.o.)
Listed height: 6’8 (203cm)
US College: University of West Virginia
NBA Draft: 2012 — Undrafted
Has played in: NBA
Last played for: Canton Charge (NBA D-League)
Latest Available Averages: 16.9ppg, 8.0rpg, .505 FG%

Notes:
Without a doubt, Jones has one of the most impressive resumes of all the imports in the current conference. He went undrafted in 2012, but he still managed to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 3.0ppg and 2.4rpg in 32 games. He wasn’t renewed for the current NBA season, but he did play for the Canton Charge in the D-league. He eventually became a D-League All-Star after leading Canton in scoring and placing second in rebounding.

He’s mostly known as a scorer, though he can also haul down some rebounds. Back in West Virginia, Jones was a double-double machine, norming about 20 points and 11 rebounds per outing. He was named to the First Team of the Big East in 2012 and consensus Second Team All-American in the same year.

As we already now know, Jones will be replacing former NBAer Josh Boone, who was perhaps prejudged for his poor showing against Barako Bull in a tune-up game. In two games, Boone helped the Beermen with his inside presence, scoring easy baskets down low and battling for the boards. I think that, generally, Jones is a much better scorer — he can score from the low block or face-up from midrange — and he’s also a pretty solid rebounder. At 6’8, he will also be a fine partner for June Mar Fajardo (when he returns) up front, while helping Arwind Santos slide to the 3 spot. 


Can Kevin Jones do at least as well as Josh Boone did for SMB?
(image by David Liam Kyle/Getty Images)


Ginebra import: Leon Rodgers
Home country: USA
Born: June 19, 1980 in the USA (33 y.o.)
Listed height: 6’7 (201cm)
US College: University of Northern Illinois 
NBA Draft: 2002 - Undrafted
Has played in: Germany, France, Netherlands, China, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Colombia
Last played for: Jilin Northeast Tigers (CBA)
Latest Averages: 28.8ppg, 7.5rpg, 3.1apg, 1.0spg, .481 FG%, .407 3pt%, 22.1 EFF

Notes:
Rodgers is one of the oldest imports this conference, as he is set to turn 34 midyear, but he has also proven to be one of the most durable, playing in eight different countries ever since he finished his collegiate career at the University of Northern Illinois in 2002. By far the most impressive accolade on Rodgers’s CV is his being named the Most Valuable Player of the Dutch Basketball League for three seasons (2004-2007) while playing for Eiffel Towers Den Bosch.

His latest international stint was playing 22 games for the Jiline Northeast Tigers in the CBA. He led the team in scoring (28.8ppg), placed second in rebounding behind former PBA Best Import Denzel Bowles (7.5rpg), and shot better than 42% from beyond the arc. He averaged about 3.5 triples per game for Jilin, which, sadly, won just 12 of 34 games and missed the Playoffs. Rodgers, however, impressed on a purely individual level, finishing tied for fifth among the league’s best scorers and sixth in terms of three-pointers made per outing.

So far, even if Ginebra has gone 1-1, Rodgers has impressed in the PBA, averaging 32.0ppg, 9.5rpg, and 4.5apg. He has not been too sharp from rainbow country, making just 2 of his 18 attempts so far, but he has been really effective from the 2-point area, making around 52% of his attempts. He is also the smallest import of the bunch here in Manila, but he sure packs a wallop. If the locals can step up and regain their never-say-die attitude, then perhaps, with Rodgers, Ginebra can skyrocket to the top of the standings again.

Leon Rodgers has, so far, been a strong reinforcement for the Gin Kings.
(image by Pranz Kaeno Billones/Sports 5)


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