AFTER missing out on the PBA Commissioner's Cup playoffs, Tropang TNT is bent on addressing problems that have led to the decline of one of the pro league's marquee franchises.
One man is on the spotlight? Moala Tautuaa.
Sources told SPIN.ph on Thursday the flagship franchise of the MVP Group is shopping around for trades for Tautuaa, the top pick overall in the last PBA rookie draft who has had an underwhelming performance in his first two conferences with the Texters.
The problem, the source added, was not only Tautuaa's unimpressive production on the floor, but also the fact that he's more comfortable playing facing the basket - in the same mold as TNT's two other big men, Ranidel de Ocampo and Moala's fellow rookie, Troy Rosario.
The lack of a legit slotman has been pinpointed as one of the weak points of Tropang TNT, at a time when the league has become a veritable playground for big men June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter.
“What TNT needs is somebody who can bang bodies inside and give fluidity to the movement of the ball, plus someone who won’t back down against a June Mar Fajardo or a Greg Slaughter,” said a source.
Sources also said Tautuaa is still having problems fitting into the TNT system, which requires pinpoint passing and intricate ball movement to be effective.
Tautuaa is averaging 7.86 points and 3.36 rebounds in his rookie season and has been eclipsed by No. 2 pick Rosario, a rangy 6-7 forward who has found his place in TNT's scheme of things to raise his averages to 11.25 points and 4 rebounds a game.
No wonder TNT has made a pitch offering the 6-7 Fil-Tongan and another player to Mahindra for rookie slotman Bradwyn Guinto and the Enforcers' first-round pick, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Guinto was a second-round pick, at 14th overall, in the last rookie draft. But unlike Tautuaa, he is a natural slotman who has turned heads with his impressive play for a rag-tag Mahindra team.
However, it's not only TNT which is interested in Guinto, who, the source added, is also being pursued by the Star Hotshots and other teams.
Star's interest in Guinto is understandable. The Hotshots gave up rookie Norbert Torres and Yousef Taha in a multiple-player deal on Wednesday to get their hands on RR Garcia, Keith Jensen and Rodney Brondial, leaving Rafi Reavis and Ian Sangalang as the only legit big men in the lineup.
If Star can't get its hands on Guinto, sources said the Hotshots camp is looking to acquire Jay-R Reyes, a third-, fourth-string big man of San Miguel, through a trade that will require the help of a 'conduit' team.
Sister teams are not allowed to trade players directly in the PBA.