2016-17 PBA Season: Top Ten Rookies to Watch

By sydrified
Nov. 13, 2016


So the 2016-17 PBA season is just around the corner. So I’m going to do what I do best (or worst) and that’s to give you a low down on the rookies I think will turn heads this season.

Now just so you know, my favourite time in the entire PBA calendar is the draft. My page views rock because people like checking out the possible landing spots of their favourite collegiate stars and in the process, dread the sight of a possible bust of a career.

The coaches will draft for two reasons: one is to get the best players available in the draft and the other is to get the player that will complete their lineup. Meanwhile, the players hope they land on the team that would give them the most exposure... and quite possibly, the popularity boost.

Let’s use Scottie Thompson as example. Thompson is a player that can lead a team. However, he got drafted to Ginebra – whose claim to fame is their high-scoring guard rotation. After two conferences of somewhat sporadic appearances, Thompson finally got his spotlight during Ginebra’s 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup title charge.

History can repeat itself... but lightning doesn’t really like to strike in the same spot twice.

I usually do things with an Excel file, a Word file, and a Google Chrome window. Since I can’t use stats, this is more of a prediction article.

Game starts now.

10 – Kevin Ferrer
Barangay Ginebra Kings

I know Tim Cone has this knack of distrusting rookies but that’s only if he’s sold on his players. The mere fact that he gave a bunch of minutes to Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand meant he’s still lacking of options. The operative term for using the former UST hotshot is combo forward. If Greg Slaughter is still injured, he’s going to rely on Japeth Aguilar but I can also see Cone relying on Kevin Ferrer especially if they need scoring. Kevin Ferrer is built like Chris Ellis but with range and he’s going to be helpful in Cone’s run and gun/triangle hybrid offense.

9 – Jio Jalalon
Star Hotshots

I don’t really get why people see his entry to Star as a bad thing. For one, Chito Victolero is their coach and he has the option to use either Jio Jalalon or Mark Barroca. If you didn’t get the Hotshots’ player movement, Victolero traded for Aldrech Ramos because he is his guy in Mahindra. Barroca didn’t really work well under Jason Webb (obviously he’s a Tim Cone guy) and Victolero has an option of ditching the FEU guard if he doesn’t follow his bidding. There are two things working against Jalalon however – and it’s either Victolero will start and finish the season favoring Barroca or if he would rather have Paul Lee as his primary point guard to pair up with the other Star vets.

8 – Ed Daquioag
Meralco Bolts

If Ed Daquioag is going to be asked to play shooting guard, then he’s toast. When they took Joseph Yeo and Jonathan Grey, they finally got their replacement for Gary David. But if the former Growling Tiger is tasked to act as a scoring point guard, then there’s a possibility that he’s going to rule. Jimmy Alapag just retired and I can see Daquioag becoming a backup at worst with Baser Amer contesting for the starter’s spot and Anjo Caram taking third string status. Gilas Pilipinas will also need him to evolve because he’s going to represent the country and I bet MVP will give out a memo to make sure Daquioag will get his fair share of exposure.

7 – Roger Pogoy
TNT KaTropa

As stated in my previous blog, I never saw the former FEU Tamaraw as the last option available in the draft (since in terms of picking order, TNT never had a first and second round pick in the 2016 PBA Draft so that automatically puts them last). With that said, Larry Fonacier is in line for decreased minutes. It helps Roger Pogoy that Nash Racela knows what this guy is capable of since he coached the guard/forward during his college days. TNT also has this tendency of resting their old hands which makes Pogoy – and in some ways Levi Hernandez – a valuable option to check out. Now imagine the new age TNT with Troy Rosario, Pogoy, and Moala Tautuaa backstopping Jayson Castro. People should dread what they have in store for their enemies.

6 – Fonzo Gotladera
NLEX Road Warriors

Shocked? Well don’t be. The former Ateneo big man just hit jackpot when Yeng Guiao chose him as his special round rookie. Coach Yeng had since stated that Asi Taulava and Enrico Villanueva are in line for minutes reduction and it looks like Fonzo Gotladera is bound to benefit with this call. Last season, Guiao made Jewel Ponferada his pet project and that led to great results. In past seasons, the fiery mentor has seen the likes of Mick Pennisi, Beau Belga, JR Quinahan, and Carlo Sharma evolving to top-of-the-line enforcers. Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Noy Baclao had their best years under his tutelage and Mike Hrabak had his time in the spotlight under his watch. Gotladera should brace for a dogfight for Guiao’s trust especially with the likes of Bradwyn Guinto, Eric Camson, and Raul Soyud also putting their names on the proverbial hat.

5 – Joseph Eriobu
Mahindra Floodbuster

Chris Gavina is left in a bind to assemble the best possible unit from his otherwise ragtag core so when he said he wants Joseph Eriobu to be his own Calvin Abueva, maybe he’s not delirious as one would think. Rookies can afford to excel in Mahindra – believe it or not – and I can’t see Mahindra investing time on journeyman Rob Reyes (due solely on his age and string of injuries) as well as their other holdovers like Mark Yee. I know Eriobu is not in the same league as The Beast but if he can be an upgraded version of Marvin Hayes or Hans Thiele or a downgraded version of Willy Wilson, then I can see Mahindra to pour on this guy an insane chunk of playing time.

4 – Ael Banal
Blackwater Elite

I still see the special round as the first rounders. With that said, I think there’s truth in the whole Raphael Banal hype drive. If he has polished his point guard skills as he has been saying in various interviews then he could be the beautiful fragrance to rub out Blackwater’s otherwise putrid gutter hell stench. As per last season, Lastimosa and Arthur dela Cruz are the only players to average at least 25 or more minutes. I see Banal as the rightful heir to Carlo Lastimosa’s minutes but perhaps he’ll also get the duties Mike Cortez vacated. Banal just scored the best possible scenario for the rookies by getting drafted by the worst team in the league and it’s hard to mess this scenario up especially given his talents.

3 – Russel Escoto 
Mahindra Floodbuster

In terms of player development and with regards to career opportunities, Russel Escoto just gained the best spot out of all the rookies. During his time in FEU, he is more of a fifth option and is often regarded solely for his defense. But perhaps there’s more than meets the eye with Escoto. After losing KG Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos, Bradwyn Guinto, and Paolo Taha, Escoto is left by his lonesome to prove his worth. Chris Gavina has no choice but to shape Escoto into a frontcourt menace. If you’re Chot Reyes, then you’ll like this development because unlike most Gilas pool members, he is pushed to the spotlight. Escoto will have two years to train himself to be a powerhouse on both offense and defense in Mahindra – because he’ll probably wind up going elsewhere after his no-trade clause wears off no thanks to Mahindra’s roster system. Escoto has no one to blame but himself if he manages to bungle up this chance.

2 - Matthew Wright
Phoenix Fuel Masters

Of all the players in the draft that is not named Mac Belo, Matthew Wright is the player that will most likely exceed everyone’s expectations. First up, Ariel Vanguardia knows his gameplay since he coached Wright in the ABL. These two helped the Westsports Malaysia Dragons to the ABL title with Wright claiming Best Asian Import honors. Next, he had a stint with a French league. Sure, the league is pretty much our D-League but it helped him claim a lot of accolades. Finally, the mere fact that the powers-that-be ironed out his papers so he can sign up with Gilas Pilipinas to zero opposition means he’s the real deal. The last time Phoenix and their genealogy had this kind of firepower... Arwind Santos helped the Air21 Express to their first and only finals trip. The only thing working against Wright is if Cyrus Baguio and JC Intal are willing to give up their minutes so Wright can work on his game.

1 – Mac Belo
Blackwater Elite

The former FEU combo forward took home the biggest prize when the Blackwater Elite made him the first pick of the 2016 PBA Draft. Again, I think the special round is the first round of the 2016 PBA Draft and despite the manner they were introduced (ha, ha, ha... alphabetical), Mac Belo is still the top pick! Belo is a winner – piloting the FEU Tamaraws to a UAAP title as well as helping the Phoenix Accelerators win the 2016 PBA D-League Foundation Cup and earn a gold medal at the 2016 SEABA Cup. Belo can muscle his way to the basket or he can drop a fireball from deep. But more importantly, he has the confidence to act as Blackwater’s long awaited superstar and that’s the franchise’s first step to win games. Blackwater will have this youthful frontline with the likes of Belo, former Rookie of the Year runner up Arthur dela Cruz, JP Erram, and fellow FEU alum Reil Cervantes in tow. It’s incomparable to the big squads but for import-laden conferences, this could be a good team. It’s easy for Belo to have at least 13 to 15 points per game, at least eight rebounds, and perhaps a dime or two a night but the real question is if he can pilot his team to prominence. If he plays like how he usually plays, then even if he’s with Gilas Pilipinas, no question... Belo could claim top rookie honors.

So what do you think? Did I get this right? Sound off your comments on the box below and if you like what I wrote, share it with your friends.

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