Uytengsu says controversial KIA-SMB trade defeats very purpose of PBA rookie draft
Alaska team owner Wilfred Uytengsu says the controversial KIA-SMB trade defeats the purpose of the PBA rookie draft, which is to help strengthen the weaker teams. Jaime Campos

ONE of the most outspoken team owners ever in the PBA has spoken once more.

Alaska team owner Wilfred Uytengsu expressed concern over what he and fellow team owners perceived as a one-sided trade involving KIA and San Miguel that is seeking approval from the Commissioner's Office.

Uytengsu,  a former league chairman, said the idea of the draft is to strengthen weaker teams, which he said won't  be the case if the deal between the Picanto and Beermen is allowed to push through.

“The purpose of the draft is to strengthen the weaker teams. However, what we have seen lately is these weaker teams end up selling their top draft picks because if you look at who is being traded in return, it clearly doesn’t make basketball sense for the weaker teams, unless there is other consideration,” said Uytengsu in a statement on Wednesday.

Under the proposed trade submitted to the Commissioner's Office last week, KIA is dealing the top overall pick in this year’s draft for a slew of rarely used San Miguel reserves.

Initially, the Beermen were set to give away Jay-R Reyes, Keith Agovida, and Rashawn McCarthy. Later, the deal was revised and now involved veterans Yancy de Ocampo, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, and Gabby Espinas, as well as McCarthy.

Big Fil-German and Gilas stalwart Christian Standhardinger is the consensus No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.

Narvasa on Tuesday said he's considering a lot of factors and has already talked to the parties concerned – Alfrancis Chua for SMC and Bobby Rosales for KIA.

“At the end of the day, it has to be about what’s good for the PBA families themselves, and the teams themselves,” he said during the final day of the Rookie Draft Combine at the Gatorade Hoops Center.

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But Uytengsu still has his doubts.

“There is already a lot of doubt about KIA benefiting financially if this trade were to go through, and you have to wonder if they are even making the league minimum salary cap.”

Uytengsu also questioned how both San Miguel and Barangay Ginebra managed to stack up former first-round draft picks without going over the league salary cap.

He mentioned four-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, and Alex Cabagnot for the Beermen and the likes of Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Joe Devance, LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer for the Kings, making him wonder if both franchises don’t go over the ceiling as far as players’ salaries are concerned.

"It's difficult to comprehend how a team can fit within the team salary cap, paying those players all at approved maximum PBA salaries, while still maintaining a strong sixth through eighth players. I've done the math and it doesn't work," said Uytengsu.

According to the Alaska team owner, San Miguel has won five championships in the last three years while Ginebra, TnT Katropa, and Rain or Shine won one each. That made it 6-of-8 for the SMC Group - or a high 75 winning percentage.

He added San Miguel is expected to get even stronger should it acquire the rights to Standhardinger despite having won two of the three conferences staked this season.

But the Alaska executive is still giving Narvasa the benefit of the doubt, saying he expects him to eventually make a fair decision on the trade.

"The commissioner's responsibility is to enforce league rules such as the salary cap (team and individual), as well as ensure that dubious trades are not allowed,” he said. “So I'm trusting he will do the right thing for the PBA.”

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Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos