#PBA2015 Roster Review: The Alaska Aces

With the 2014-2015 PBA season only a few days away and the official rosters released, I found it only logical to look at each line-up and see where each team stands. In this series of posts, I’ll be breaking down each team’s bigs, wings, and floor generals while also looking at what kind of damage they’ll do this season.

Let’s begin with the Alaska Aces.

Can the Aces ascend again this season?

Overall 2013-2014 Record: 22 wins and 22 losses.

Best Finish: Semifinals in the 2014 Governors’ Cup.

BIGS: Samigue Eman, Paolo Bugia, Vic Manuel, Gabby Espinas, Eric Menk, Sonny Thoss
- Despite the advanced ages of Sonny Thoss, Eric Menk, and Paolo Bugia, this should still be a pretty solid pro frontline. Gabby Espinas is coming off maybe his best season, while Vic Manuel holds a lot of promise. Samigue Eman, meanwhile, is the behemoth who could have been the first June Mar Fajardo. Instead, he’s just another big with unmet potential.

Sonny Thoss is still one of the best bigs in the country.
(image by Paul Ryan Tan/Sports 5)

- Thoss usually does his best in the Philippine Cup, and I don’t think things are going to change much. He’s still maybe the best back-to-the-basket player in the league, and he should be able to continue teaching Manuel some nifty low-block moves. Menk won’t wow anyone with his age, but his experience should make him a serviceable back-up, while Espinas should remain a double-double threat on a nightly basis.

WINGS: Cyrus Baguio, Calvin Abueva, Rome dela Rosa, Dondon Hontiveros, Tony dela Cruz
- This group is a good mix of young athletes (Abueva & dela Rosa) and solid veterans (Baguio, Hontiveros, and dela Cruz). Abueva’s numbers dipped a bit last season after a stellar rookie campaign (He was in the conversation to be 2013 MVP, remember?), but he will always be this team’s motor. Any of the three vets here can pop the cap on any given night, but all three can also show their age at the exact same time. Coach Alex Compton will be hella lucky if he can get consistent offense from dela Rosa, so, again, the onus will be on Abueva to guard the other team’s best winger and then carry this team on the other end. Translation? He’ll probably shoot too much and make too few (shot 33% from the field last season).

Can Calvin Abueva regain his beastly form this season?
(image by Pranz Kaeno Billones/Sports 5)

FLOOR GENERALS: Chris Banchero, Ping Exciminiano, RJ Jazul, JV Casio
- Money. That’s what this backcourt is. Coach Compton has an awesome threesome in Banchero, Casio, and Jazul. Banchero will probably be this team’s main playmaker, while Casio and Jazul can alternate as small-ball shooting guards (yes, they’ll moonlight as PGs, too). Exciminiano, meanwhile, will be a situation player – he’ll play mainly to defend the other team’s best guard and/or if the team needs a shot of adrenaline.

- Expect Banchero to turn a lot of heads with his scoring, rebounding, and playmaking. He should create, attract the defense, and open up the perimeter for Jazul, Casio, and Hontiveros. That is, unless Abueva doesn’t follow the gameplan, puts his head down, and just makes a beeline to the hole wily-nilly. I think Compton can make things work, though, and, well, I’d really like to see Banchero challenge Stanley Pringle in the 2015 ROY race.

Chris Banchero should be a vital cog for Alaska.
(image from the ABL)

Final Word: Middle
- One possible starting unit for the Aces is this: Thoss, Espinas, Abueva, Casio, and Banchero. That’s a pretty strong five that can contend with the best of ‘em, but the painful fact here is that there’s nobody on this team (not even in that starting five) that can really say, “I’ll carry this team through boatloads of crap.” Thoss is a star, but he was never really a “main guy,” while the jury is still out on whether Abueva can live up to his moniker on a consistent basis. Espinas, Casio, Jazul, and Manuel are currently solid support guys, while Banchero is still gonna go through some growing pains. Alaska will have its moments, but unless someone has a “You didn’t see this coming, didn’t you?” kind of season, then the Aces are destined for nowhere but the middle.

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