The San Miguel Beermen are on the verge of winning a rare grand slam this year in our very own Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Palawan. It was a series that would have gone 7 games if not for a bad off night from the Talk n Text (TnT) Katropa last Friday.
As the Beermen shift their focus on dominating the next conference (and the paint anchored by 6’10 Junemar Fajardo) yet again, what do the TnT Katropa have up on their sleeves?
They already have an NBA caliber import joining them next conference in another former Houston Rocket in KJ Mcdaniels. It seems active consultant Mark Dickel is patterning his style off small ball, speed and space conceptualized, some say initiated, by former Phoenix Suns “organised chaos” mentor and now Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni … but would an NBA reinforcement help against the mighty wall of the Beermen?
I believe the KaTropa needs to overhaul their local roster. Jayson Castro still has some spurts of brilliance bagging the best player of the conference award last Friday but he is pushing to the mid-30s in age and has already served thousands of minutes and mileage for the KaTropa. Needless to say, he is bound for some “load management” deserving of a veteran of his stature.
They still have a good young core in the trio of Troy Rosario, a 6’6 stretch 4, tough as nails Roger Pogoy, Brian Heruela (he should log more minutes to preserve Castro for crunch time), and some good and young role players in the Semerad twins and Don Trollano but on the flip side, they have Ryan Reyes, Kelly Williams and Harvey Carrey up on their mid to late 30s on average age.
I have seen the trio of Reyes, Williams and Carey through their ups and downs. The three are hard working and highly respectable professionals who have served TnT very well throughout the years. They can still produce great minutes however, they form a group within the TnT roster that needs load management.
Outside of “Machine Gun” Kelly, do the KaTropa have the height to match up against the San Miguel wall or even against Ginebra, the league’s perceived second dominant team on the paint? Head coach Bong Ravena would have Jay Washington, Yousif Taha, Frank Golla and Ken Bono to rotate but they won’t necessarily cause The Kracken Fajardo or 6’8 Christian Standhardinger or even the Ginebra pair of Greg Slaughter and Japheth Aguilar sleepless nights.
I strongly believe it is time to do some overhauling of the TnT roster over the summer. They need to have someone to turn the backcourt torch over to and spare some solid minutes from Castro while also building some youth and bulk down low. Troy Rosario can log majority of the power forward minutes but they need a pair of solid post defenders to match up against the giants of the league. So what options do they have?
TnT will always be the flagship of the Manny V Pangilinan teams in the PBA. It is of their best corporate interest to build that team as constant contenders. There is one player missing that yours truly knows should have worn a KaTropa jersey this season in 6’8 Arnold Van Opstal but to date, it seems the former Dela Salle Green Archer is missing in action. If they do manage to get him on the roster, develop him and bulk him up, he could be a good alternative at the slot. Other options are to trade or build over through the draft.
Alas, unless the UAAP follows the footsteps of the NCAA who now will go all filipino starting next year, our local college talent would find it hard to produce quality big men for the PBA. The ABL or the PBA D League may give a few fil ams with bulk and height so let’s see what the next PBA draft would look like and how favourable that would be for TnT.
With their ways of partnering with other teams for straight up trades or to do 3 way deals, a strategy sister teams typically employ, the KaTropa can set their sights on some quality bigs but it may take a few sacrifices from their veteran crew or young role players.
I expect a busy off season for TnT as they definitely need to ponder their future. They are still good enough to contend perhaps this season and next but the time to infuse young blood and more depth is a priority for them this off season.
The Ahanmisi Trade
In a surprising side twist this season, the Rain or Shine Elastopainters seem to be on rebuild mode. Already recovering from the retirement of Chris Tiu and the trade of Raymond Almazan earlier this year, RoS secured the services of Chris Exciminiano and a first round draft pick from the Alaska Aces in exchange for all around player Maverick Ahanmisi. It is rebuilding strategy for RoS while Alaska is trying to upgrade their roster further.
From the outside looking in, it seems Alaska got the better of the trade but that depends on the health of Ahanmisi, who has been injury riddled this season. RoS, on the other hand, got what they typically want in a player. A blue collar, hard working stud, who wouldn’t mind crashing the boards, dive for the loose ball and even run after the opponents’ best wing player or guard up to the locker area.
It seems teams can’t wait for the off season to start wheeling and dealing as we also see an upcoming exchange between Michael Miranda (NorthPort) and Juami Tiongson (NLEX). Due to the “flavour” of the conference, teams need some tinkering depending on match ups on imports, size and positional needs.
Will TnT pull off a big one before close of the season? It’s anyone’s guess but I believe they are bound for some shake up, Palawan.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)