Is Richard Howell the Best Import of the 2014 PBA Commissioner’s Cup?

Is TNT import Richard Howell a lock for the Best Import award?
(image by Pranz Kaeno Billones/Sports 5)

Like past iterations of the PBA Commish Cup, there were many imports who impressed local hoop nuts this year. One of the most recognizable ones, of course, was returning and reigning Best Import Robert Dozier of Alaska. Many still remember how he was able to lead the Aces to their first post-Tim-Cone title last season as they beat the Ginebra Gin Kings in the Finals of the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup.

Unfortunately, Dozier and the rest of Alaska weren’t able to duplicate that feat this year. Despite being one of the most effective reinforcements out there, the former Memphis Tiger fell short of leading the Aces back to the Finals. Alaska lost in the quarterfinal round to eventual finalist San Mig Super Coffee. In the end, Dozier averaged around 20 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks per game while shooting 54% from the floor and showing a new weapon by making 40% of his threes.

Rob Dozier was impressive despite Alaska failing to defend its title.
(image by Paul Ryan Tan/Sports 5)

Another import who turned some heads, although he had to leave after six games, was former Meralco import Brian Butch. The former Wisconsin Badger and Team USA member was actually the only player to record at least 40 points, at least 20 rebounds, and at least 4 triples in a game, and he did it TWICE. Last March 15, he scored 42 points, grabbed 24 rebounds, and hit 6 triples against GlobalPort, and then two games later on March 23 dropped 40 markers, 30 boards, and 4 treys versus Air 21. With his combination of size and shooting, Butch reminded not a few PBA fans of Dallas Maverick superstar Dirk Nowitzki.

Brian Butch was one of the most memorable imports this conference.
(image by Paul Ryan Tan/Sports 5)

Now that we’ve reached the Finals, however, there are only two teams and two imports left standing. The Talk N Text Tropang Texters, led by Richard Howell, swept their first 13 games of the conference (longest since Crispa won 19 in a row way back) before losing to San Mig Super Coffee in Game 1. It was a good thing, then, that TNT rebounded with a huge W in Game 2. The Mixers, meanwhile, had to slog through another slow start en route to beating the Aces in the quarterfinals and the surprising Express in the semifinals to reach this stage. Needless to say, import James Mays has been a big part of that success.

The big question, though, is this: who between Howell and Mays will actually be able to lead his respective team to the title and perhaps be named the 2014 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Best Import?

Naturally, there are compelling arguments on either side. On one hand, Richard Howell has been the perfect complement to the plethora of weapons at TNT’s disposal, while James Mays has generally been effective for SMC. Still, with at least two games to go, it’s pretty exciting to think about who will actually cop this year’s award as best reinforcement.

Let’s talk about James Mays first. The former Clemson Tiger isn’t the typical PBA import. He isn’t out there to score 30+ points, grab 20+ boards, and dominate the game on both sides of the ball. Instead, he provides a consistently solid inside presence for a team that has a pair of great power forwards, but no true star slotman. Mays’s season-high in scoring is only 33 points, which is quite underwhelming when compared to the 40+ games put up by the likes of Butch, Barako Bull’s Josh Dollard, or even Air 21’s Wesley Witherspoon. He also isn’t the do-it-all guy who can carry a team on the way to victory – that’s reserved for someone like Rob Dozier or even Evan Brock. If I were to suggest an analogy, Mays is to SMC what Wayne Chism is to Rain or Shine. They’re not exactly dominant, but they’re steady complementary pieces who can potentially be game-changers.

James Mays might be a dark horse candidate for Best Import.
(image by Pranz Kaeno Billones/Sports 5)

And now to the guy whose name appears on the title – Richard Howell. At just 23 years old, Howell is one of the youngest guys – local or foreign – in the league. And yet he has been competing like a seasoned vet, content to play within himself and not force the issue. He knows that the Tropang Texters have one of the deepest rosters in the country, and that they didn’t get him to score tons of points. Instead, he’s there to fill TNT’s hole and be the man in the middle they sorely lacked in the Philippine Cup. He’s there really for just three things – to rebound, to play solid interior defense, and to get himself in spots for easy buckets. Among all imports who played at least 3 games and led their teams to the quarterfinals, he is tops in rebounding and among the most efficient. The former NC State Wolfpack cager also recorded double-doubles in every single  game save for the one where he got injured. Of course, he’s also the only import who can claim that his team has the best win-loss slate in the conference at 14-1.

It’s clear that, if we go by numbers and win totals, Howell is an easy pick to be the Best Import of the Conference, but one cannot also sleep on the fact the Mixers stuck with Mays despite their struggles in the elims, quarters, and semis. In the end, unless Howell puts up another 40-20 game, I guess whoever tows his club to the title also cops the Best Import plum.

Next Post »
0 Comment