After the first three days of competition in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, all teams have now seen action. In turn, all teams have also finally gotten to see their rookies from the Season 46 Draft make their professional debuts.
As always, there were players who met expectations, while others might need some more time to get acquainted with this brand of basketball. A game or two under their belts will by no means determine what career they will have in Asia's first pay-for-play league, but here's our early assessment of the newest members of the PBA family.
Self-proclaimed "The Project," the Fil-Aussie actually had a decent performance in his PBA debut with six points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes. Expectations weren't too high on him, but Terrafirma just couldn't pass up on his 6-foot-10 frame and long wingspan at no. 8 in the draft. So far, it looks like they made the right decision.
Ilagan debuted when Alaska already had the win over Blackwater in the bag, but he immediately showed that his game may very well translate into the PBA. The former San Sebastian flamethrower was a perfect 3-of-3 from the field, including a couple of his trademark bombs from Steph Curry-Damian Lillard range, and finished with eight points. Not bad at all for the 31st pick.
Although it was clear that he didn't want to take too many shots, Demusis had a good overall performance with some Phoenix Super LPG fans noting that he does some of the things Calvin Abueva once did. The Fil-American is a hard worker and that may be why he got the start versus Magnolia where he finished with four points, eight rebounds, an assist, and a block.
As good as advertised
Alaska has built a solid rotation of power forwards and centers. Letting Vic Manuel go became acceptable in exchange for the sixth spot in the draft as that's where they picked up Adamos. While veteran frontcourt-mates Abu Tratter and Yousef Taha also played well, the rookie still managed seven points and five rebounds in 14 minutes.
When Meralco selected Pasaol at no. 9, it was clear what the Bolts wanted: a player who can come off the bench and immediately chip-in on offense, at the very least. Norman Black's wards have long had problems with scoring droughts at the most inopportune moments, so the erstwhile second-ranked 3x3 Filipino player was the perfect addition. In his PBA debut against NorthPort, he scored five points with three assists and two rebounds then had seven points and two rebounds against San Miguel. Those might not be eye-popping numbers, but in Meralco's equal-opportunity offense, this is definitely a solid start for Pasaol.
Look, no one will be wowed with three points, four rebounds, and a steal in 26 minutes on the floor, but NorthPort played their best basketball in their 22-point defeat when Rike was on the floor, when they were only a -2. Yeah, yeah, that's still a negative, but the Fil-American still proved a capable rotation big who can hit the occasional long shot. It will be interesting to see how well he adjusts once Greg Slaughter debuts for the Batang Pier.
Rain or Shine picked up Santi Santillan (5th), Franky Johnson (17th), Anton Asistio (22nd), and Andrei Caracut (23rd) in the draft and only Johnson isn't on the active roster just yet. New head coach Chris Gavina obviously needed to start the season on a strong note, and that may have forced him to limit his rookies' minutes in favor of veterans. It has worked out well so far as they are 2-0. Santillan already showed glimpses of what he could do in the PBA as a forward, while Asistio and Caracut have also seen some minutes at point. What's clear, however, is that all of them will have to earn their minutes in the Elasto Painters' deep rotation.
Two games into his PBA career, Oftana has yet to show his NCAA Season 95 MVP form. The one-time San Beda King Lion only had a single point and four rebounds in 15 minutes against Rain or Shine followed by two points and three rebounds in nine minutes against Ginebra. Luckily for him, Yeng Guiao is the type of coach who will keep giving him opportunities to perform and get better. After all, this slow start isn't necessarily cause for worry as Oftana has already displayed his ability to perform on the international stage with Gilas Pilipinas Men.
A lot was expected from Jamie Malonzo, being the second overall pick in the draft, but he has struggled from the field thus far. While nine points and nine rebounds certainly aren't bad numbers for a rookie, and a debuting one at that, it's obvious that he can play better and with a bigger role in NorthPort. We got to see his first highlight - an alley-oop slam from a Robert Bolick assist - and we should be treated to a regular dose of that from the Fil-American high-flyer for his next games.
Well, if you're mentioned as a player who could replace the output of CJ Perez, a six-point performance (3-of-15 FGs) will certainly be looked at as underwhelming. Admittedly, the former no. 1 3x3 Filipino player is still trying to feel out the full-court game once again after spending the last couple of years in the 3x3 circuit. He should play much better in their second game.
The sniper drafted 10th overall was given every opportunity by coach Chito Victolero to chip in as he played 23 minutes. However, he only managed to score three points on 1-of-8 shooting. As with any good shooter, this performance should be quickly forgotten by Ahanmisi because he'll surely get more opportunities with Magnolia's wealth of playmakers.
With RJ Jazul struggling with his shot, it could've been the perfect opportunity for Melecio to make a statement. He played a decent amount of minutes at 13, but failed to score a single point while also dishing out a couple of assists. The ex-La Salle playmaker is capable of being a solid option as a point guard off the bench, especially for a former sparkplug point guard himself at the helm in coach Topex Robinson, so expect him to get more chances and play much better.
Not enough minutes
Taylor Browne, Andre Paras, Rey Marc Acuno, Joshua Torralba, Brian Enriquez, Ken Sagulo, RR De Leon, Alvin Capobres, Loren Brill, Larry Muyang
There were a lot of players who weren't able to get a decent amount of minutes with Muyang, the seventh overall pick, being most surprising. This is understandable, however, with the solid rotation of veteran bigs for Robinson's Fuel Masters. There's also a big-name rookie who is yet to even see the venue as Mikey Williams is still clearing health protocols before being able to join TNT.
After three game days, there have been enough good performances to make us continue to believe this will indeed be a great batch of rookies who will help change the PBA's landscape.