THE spotlight falls on the biggest pool of rookie hopefuls ever assembled in the PBA on Sunday when the league officially ushers in its 39th season with the holding of its annual draft for 2013.
While it may appear the top three picks are already a lock among big men Greg Slaughter, Ian Sangalang, and Raymund Almazan, the suspense is expected to heighten from the No. 4 pick onwards.
As it is, most of the record 79 rookie aspirants are just as capable of landing a spot in any of the 10 PBA teams, so much so several draft sleepers may come out in this Class of 2013.
And so after months of following all 10 teams and reading the coaches’ different needs, Spin.ph comes up with its own projected top 10 first-round picks according to the order of draft.
1. Barangay Ginebra: Greg Slaughter
The 6-foot-11 big man out of University of Visayas, and later Ateneo, is expected to land on Ginebra’s lap. Robert Non, the former league chairman and Ginebra’s board of governor, said despite the talent depth of this year’s rookie class, the franchise wouldn’t want to pass up the opportunity of selecting a big man in the person of Slaughter, whose skills are rare for his size.
Ginebra star point guard LA Tenorio said you can’t teach height, one reason why he’s excited to see the Kings finally acquire a legitimate big man that has been the missing piece in the puzzle as far as the league’s most popular ballclub is concerned.
“Seven-footer naman siya (Slaughter). You can’t teach height. At least may pantapat na kami kay June Mar (Fajardo) or Sonny (Thoss). Siyempre, makakatulong `yung size niya,” said Tenorio.
Slaughter’s entry should address the Kings’ gaping hole in the middle, which was made more pronounced after they were swept by the Alaska Aces in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals last summer.
2. San Mig Coffee: Ian Sangalang
Coach Tim Cone was quick to admit the 6-foot-5 Sangalang is a perfect fit for San Mig’s triangle offense owing to his ability to shoot from the outside, his high basketball IQ, and not to mention his size.
Selecting Sangalang as the No. 2 overall pick in the draft is a logical choice for the multi-titled Cone considering the Mixers’ frontline isn’t getting any younger, with 6-foot-7 slotman Rafi Reavis already 36 and 6-foot-7 Yancy de Ocampo now 34.
Sangalang, who formed one-third of the once dreaded 'Pinatubo Trio' of San Sebastian along with Calvin Abueva and Ronald Pascual, finished his final college season last year with impressive averages of 19.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 assists.
3. Rain or Shine: Raymond Almazan
With Slaughter and Sangalang expected to go one-two in the draft, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao has made it clear the team will be selecting the 6-foot-7 Almazan to reinforce the Elasto Painters’ undersized frontline of Beau Belga and JR Quinahan.
A native of Orion, Bataan and second cousin of Meralco center Kerby Raymundo, Almazan could easily add a major defensive presence for Rain or Shine, owing to his outstanding plays as a college star for Letran.
Almazan is a cinch to win the Most Valuable Player award in the NCAA this season after averaging 14.67 points, a tournament-best 14.28 rebounds, and 2.72 blocks in 18 games for the Knights.
Belga said Almazan won’t have any problem adjusting to the team’s system since he’s been playing under Letran coach Caloy Garcia, who happens to be the trusted deputy of Guiao.
"Di naman siya (Almazan) mahihirapang mag-adjust kasi pareho lang naman ang sistema namin with coach Caloy sa Letran,” said Belga.
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4. Barako Bull/ Ginebra: James Forrester/ RR Garcia
This is the part where surprises are expected to begin, with Barako Bull's pick expected to go to Barangay Ginebra in a trade for fit-again forward Dylan Ababou.
If the pick is Barako Bull's to make, it is almost certain the team will go for James Forrester, the Fil-Canadian guard who has made much noise in the pre-draft activities owing to his impressive tryouts with pro teams.
Forrester has long been on the radar of the Energy Cola since the team began conducting tryouts among rookie aspirants a few weeks ago. The athleticism and speed Forrester possess should add a new dimension to an aging and veteran-laden team like the Energy Cola.
However, with Bong Ramos taking over from Rajko Toroman as a full-pledged head coach before Draft Day, it is unclear if Barako Bull will go in the same direction with regards to its choices.
Also, the selection is expected to change once Ginebra takes over the pick, with RR Garcia, Jeric Teng, and Terrence Romeo entering the picture when that happens. However, the buzz - believe it or not - is that Ginebra will opt for Garcia once it takes over the No. 4 selection overall.
5.Barako Bull/ Petron: Justin Chua/ RR Garcia
This is another pick Barako Bull is reportedly giving away, although before Toroman was given the pink slip, he had glowing words for former UAAP Most Valuable Player Garcia who he had described as a fine point guard with a “high basketball IQ.”
And with the departure of last season’s starting point guard Eman Monfort a following a trade with Ginebra for Rob Labagala, Garcia could have all the breaks he needs to become the team’s next star player.
However, Justin Chua and Garcia could end up disputing the No. 5 position once Petron takes over the rights in a pending trade for subs Mark Isip and Magi Sison (this trade is not final, with Barako Bull reportedly haggling for more pieces to complete the transaction at posting time).
Garcia should be perfect for Petron, which gave away longtime back-up point guard Denok Miranda in a previous transaction. That's notwithstanding Chris Ross' arrival. However, the Boosters may also go for Chua, the longtime Ateneo back-up center who has made great strides since stepping out of Greg Slaughter's shadow.
Coaches in fact believe Chua is the best big man in the draft after the so-called Big Three.
6. Barako Bull/ Globalport: Jeric Teng
The University of Santo Tomas scoring guard could be a good catch for Barako with the No. 6 pick, which unfortunately like its first two first round picks earlier, is also on the trading block.
Globalport is also likely to tab Teng once it takes over the No. 6 selection in exchange for Denok Miranda.
Barako Bull coach Bong Ramos said he’s impressed with the shooting and good basketball sense of former PBA player Alvin Teng’s older son, making him a viable pick in the off-guard spot.
Teng averaged 23.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in his fifth and final playing year with the Tigers, who fell against the La Salle Green Archers in the deciding game of this year’s UAAP Finals.
7. Globalport: Terrence Romeo
The reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player is no doubt, Romeo is one of the most talented guards to come out of this year’s draft. The shifty 5-foot-9 guard is coming off an impressive season for the Tamaraws, averaging 21.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 15 games.
No wonder franchise owner Mikee Romero has been vocal in the past how he wants Romeo to be part of the team. Globalport, in fact, was reportedly the team that convinced the flamboyant college star to turn in his application at the last minute.
Though noted for being too individualistic, Romeo is expected to learn to play controlled basketball under coach Junel Baculi in the company of veterans Willie Miller, Solomon Mercado, and Jay Washington.
Romeo could also share the backcourt with Sol Mercado, giving the team more offensive arsenal and another player who could slash hard to the basket.
8. Alaska: Nico Salva
Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said time and time again the team intends to keep its roster intact for the coming new season. But he’s also the first to recognize the fact the Aces need to get fresh legs, especially with veterans Dondon Hontiveros, Tony dela Cruz, and reliable two-guard veteran Cyrus Baguio not getting any younger.
And Salva, the two-time UAAP Finals MVP, could fit the bill for the Aces, whom Alaska can train as understudy of De La Cruz or Hontiveros.
The hard-working power forward out of Ateneo finished his collegiate career by helping the Blue Eagles to their fifth straight UAAP title last year against University of Santo Tomas.
Salva averaged 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in his final season with the Blue Eagles.
Another Alaska option is to trade the pick. Trade offers from Talk 'N Text and some teams are pending going into Draft Day.
9. Rain or Shine: Ryan Buenafe
Had he been in shape for much of his career, Buenafe would've been a cinch for a Top 5 place in the draft. But even with his constant battle with the bulge, the former Ateneo star has enough upside to go in the first round.
Noted for taking tough defensive assignments and making tough shots during his collegiate career with the Blue Eagles, the 6-foot-2 Buenafe can easily fit in a team noted for its physical plays such as Rain or Shine.
The cousin of Ronjay Buenafe averaged 11.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.4 steals in his final year with Ateneo, and can learn the ropes from Rain or Shine’s burly big men of Beau Belga and JR Quinahan.
His stock rose during the 2011 UAAP Finals when he drained a dagger three-point shot in the deciding Game Two to lead Ateneo to a two-game sweep of Far Eastern University. He was later adjudged as Finals MVP.
10. San Mig Coffee: Alex Nuyles
With San Mig swingman Allein Maliksi out of commission till summer of next year, San Mig can wind up the first round of the draft by tapping former Adamson Falcon gunner Alex Nuyles.
Coach Tim Cone made it clear he’s trying to find someone who can fill the spot vacated by Maliksi and be a solid support for resident stars James Yap and Peter June Simon.
Nuyles has recovered well from a shoulder injury that forced him to finish prematurely his final year with the Falcons during Season 75 of the UAAP.
He played for EA Regens in the PBA D-League, further honing his shooting skills while playing alongside top rookie prospect Ian Sangalang.
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