ONE of the most tightly-fought races for the season MVP award in PBA history will finally be settled on Sunday when anyone amongst Mark Caguioa, Gary David, and James Yap is declared the year’s best in the pro league.
The biggest winner out of the three will be known during the annual Leo Awards at the Araneta Coliseum, the season-ending awards ceremony of the league to be held just before Game Four of the Governors Cup Finals between Rain or Shine and B-Meg.
And any among `The Spark,’ El Granada’, and `Big Game James’, has a legitimate shot at the PBA’s highest individual award.
Caguioa, the current face of Barangay Ginebra, made a strong case for the MVP trophy Wednesday after he was named Best Player of the Conference of the season-ending tournament. He bested David in winning the award for the second straight time this season, becoming the first player to bag the conference title twice in a row after Jay Washington.
But the Kings shooting guard is only fourth in the Statistical Points Standings (SPS) with 28.2. Ginebra also failed to make it to any of the three conference finals.
David, Powerade’s top gun, is currently leading the statistical race with 34.00 SPS and was named Best Player of the Conference in the Philippine Cup when the Tigers enjoyed a magical ride in making it to the best-of-seven titles series opposite Talk `N Text.
Making a late case for the highly coveted award is Yap. The two-time league MVP from B-Meg ranks third in statistics (28.8 SPS) behind second-running Arwind Santos of Petron (31.00), but is in a good position to win another trophy following a second straight Finals appearance for the Llamados after winning the Commissioner’s Cup.
David however, has been vocal about his belief that more than anyone else, the 32-year-old Caguioa deserves the MVP award.
“Kasi for a long time, na-achieve niya na lahat. MVP na lang `yung kulang,” said the Powerade shooting guard.
Statistics count for 40 percent in the overall criteria for the MVP race. Media votes are allotted 30 percent, players’ votes 25 percent, and votes from the Commissioners’ Office five percent.
Voting officially ended on Saturday.
Equally interesting is the fight for the Rookie of the Year which has boiled down between Rain or Shine’s Paul Lee and Powerade’s JV Casio.
Both freshman guards carried their teams to the finals -- Lee in the Governors Cup, and Casio in the Philippine Cup), although Lee is slightly ahead in the SPS standings with 25.4 to Casio’s 24.1.
Caguioa, David, Santos, Yap, Lee, and Casio are also included as nominees for the season’s Mythical Selection.
Battling David and Caguioa for the guard spots are Talk `N Text’s Jimmy Alapag and Jayson Castro, Paul Lee and Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine, B-Meg’s Peter June Simon, Alex Cabagnot of Petron, Powerade’s Jayvee Casio, Barako Bull’s Willie Miller, Meralco’s Sol Mercado and Mac Cardona, and the Alaska duo of L.A. Tenorio and Cyrus Baguio.
Vying with Santos and Yap in the center/forward slots are Rain or Shine’s Jeff Chan, Ranidel de Ocampo and Kelly Williams of Talk `N Text, and Alaska’s Sonny Thoss.
A three-way fight also looms in the Most Improved Player award among Chan, Doug Kramer (Barako Bull) and Josh Urbiztondo (B-Meg), same with the Sportsmanship Award involving Casio, Simon and Larry Fonacier (Talk `N Text).
Norwood leads all guards in the All-Defensive team race together with Sean Anthony (Powerade), Wynne Arboleda (Air21), Jireh Ibanes (Rain or Shine), Lassiter, Ryan Reyes (Talk `N Text), and Chris Ross (Meralco).
In the center and forward slots, the candidates for the same award include Santos, Kramer, Thoss, Ranidel de Ocampo, Beau Belga (Rain or Shine), Rudy Hatfield (Ginebra), Reynel Hugnatan (Meralco), Willy Wilson (Ginebra), Marc Pingris (B-Meg), and Asi Taulava (Meralco).