TWO of the biggest players in the pro league are as expected standing out this season.
Barangay Ginebra forward Japeth Aguilar and Petron sophomore sensation June Mar Fajardo have this early found themselves neck and neck in the statistical race for the Best Player of the Conference award in the PBA Philippine Cup, hinting of a brewing rivalry that may be the most interesting subplot of the season.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo currently leads the race with a 43.5 statistical point average through eight games in the season while the 6-9 Aguilar is a close second with 41.2 SPs over 10 games - which is no surprise considering the two big men are in the Top 10 in the league in scoring, rebounding, and shot blocks.
However, Aguilar has the chance to close the gap as his fellow Gilas mainstay has sat out two games and is projected to miss the rest of the eliminations due to an MCL sprain on his right knee suffered in practice before the Christmas Day game against Ginebra.
Fajardo also needs to meet a minimum amount of games to qualify for the award.
Fajardo's teammate, league MVP Arwind Santos, ranks third with 37.3 SPs, reigning Philippine Cup Best Player awardee Jason Castro of Talk 'N Text is fourth with 37.0 SPs, while Ginebra big man Greg Slaughter is in fifth and is No. 1 among rookies with his 36.5 SPs.
There are actually three Ginebra players and four from Petron in the Top 10 - which is no surprise since the two teams currently lord it over the standings with 9-1 (win-loss) and 8-2 records, respectively.
Players get 10 SPs as bonuses for won games.
In fact, GlobalPort's Jay Washington had the best numbers in the statistical tally first released by Philstar.com with his averages of 20.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.0 block, but could only place sixth overall owing to the Batang Pier's 4-6 mark.
Rounding out the Top 10 are Ginebra starting guard LA Tenorio (31.3 SPs) at No. 7, Globalport’s Sol Mercado (30.3) in eighth place, and Petron guards Marcio Lassiter (29.9) and Chris Lutz (28.8).
On the other hand, Slaughter, the top pick overall in the last draft, leads GlobalPort's Terrence Romeo (23.8) by a wide margin in the rookie race. Others in the upper rungs are San Mig's Ian Sangalang (20.1), Rain or Shine’s Raymond Almazan (17.8), Globalport’s RR Garcia (17.5) and Justin Chua (14.6), and Painters Jeric Teng (12.4) and Alex Nuyles (12.3).