JUST when Barangay Ginebra is looking forward to a chance to infuse young blood into an ageing lineup through the coming PBA rookie draft, something's gone wrong.
Ginebra and Phoenix stand to lose the most once the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) gets the ball rolling on a plan to return to the original Gilas program, which would see top amateur stars signing long-term contracts with the national team and consequently passing up on the PBA draft.
That would deal a big blow to teams like Ginebra, which, instead of adding a piece or two from a draft pool projected to include the likes of Kiefer Ravena, Bobby Ray Parks, Kevin Ferrer, Mac Belo and Mike Tolomia, may end up holding an empty bag if these players sign up with Gilas for the long term.
Unless any more trades happen, Ginebra will have two first-round picks in the October 30 draft - one its original pick, and the other coming from Barako Bull (now Phoenix) in a trade that sent Nico Salva to Ginebra in exchange for Emman Monfort, Jens Knuttel and Josh Urbiztondo.
Both picks are projected to be go high in the draft, considering the struggles of Ginebra in its first two conferences under Tim Cone and Phoenix's failure to reach the playoffs in the Commissioner's Cup after an eighth-place finish by its forerunner Barako in the Philippine Cup.
Those picks, however, may end up with so little value, no different from the 2010 draft - the year the original Gilas program was launched - where Noy Baclao and Rabeh Al-Hussaini ended up as the top two picks.
It was only the following year when the PBA draft class got filled with talent like Gilas stalwarts Marcio Lassiter, Mark Barroca, top pick overall JVee Casio, Mac Baracael as well as Allein Maliksi and No. 2 pick Paul Lee, who was also a Gilas candidate at that time.
Despite trading away its original first-round pick, Phoenix is also holding two 2016 first-round selections which it acquired from trades with Star and San Miguel. The Hotshots pick may go high considering the team's struggles in its first season under Jason Webb.
Phoenix, then known as Barako, got the SMB pick in a package with Jojo Duncil, Chico Lanete and a 2014 second-round pick in exchange for Phoenix's 2014 first-round pick which the Beermen used to draft Ronald Pascual.
SMC-controlled teams Star and San Miguel also have first-round selections, although not their own.
Star holds the rights to the GlobalPort pick which it exchanged for the Hotshots' 2014 frst-round pick that enabled the Batang Pier to draft Anthony Semerad while SMB got the 2016 pick of NLEX in exchange for the Beermen's pick in 2015.
NLEX also has one remaining first-round pick from sister team Tropang TNT, which sent the draft right and Nino Canaleta to former franchise owner Air21 in a 2014 deal for Sean Anthony and Eliud Poiligrates.
So far, Blackwater and Mahindra have the inside track on the top two picks overall based on their finishes in the season's first two conferences.
The drafting order will now be solely based on the teams' performances during the season after the pro league did away with the draft lottery following the 'Salamangkero' controversy during Chito Salud's time.
Meanwhile, here is a quick look at the 2016 first-round draft picks and its owners: (Not in any particular order)
GINEBRA – FROM PHOENIX
STAR – FROM GLOBALPORT
SAN MIGUEL – FROM NLEX
PHOENIX – FROM STAR
PHOENIX – FROM SAN MIGUEL
NLEX – FROM TROPANG TNT
RAIN OR SHINE