(Seventh of a 10-part series serving as our primer for the 2014 PBA season)
Alaska Milk Aces
2012-2013 record: 35-20
Head coach: Luigi Trillo
Rookie: Ryan Buenafe, Chris Eximiniano
Offseason free-agent additions: Leo Avenido
Gone from last season: none
Holdovers: Cyrus Baguio, Sonny Thoss, JV Casio, Calvin Abueva, RJ Jazul, Tony dela Cruz, Sam Eman, Eddie Laure, Nic Belasco, Aldrech Ramos, Dondon Hontiveros, Gabby Espinas
Reserves: Paolo Bugia and Raffy Reyes
Strengths: Alaska is happy with its current team. Its core is young, deep, and complete; the bench is a perfect mix of veteran players and youngters out to prove themselves in the league while Luigi Trillo and the rest of the coaching staff have little problem reining the team in.
Thats' the recipe which the Aces hope will be good enough to keep them in the league elite this season, especially in the Philippine Cup where the team that had to make the minimal adjustments usually end up on top. Add to that Calvin Abueva, a sophomore who is expected to be most effective without having to contend with imports in an all-Filipino tournament.
Rookies Ryan Buenafe and Chris Eximinano as well as Leo Avenido - a free-agent pick-up from the ABL - should also blend seamlessly with the rest of the Aces.
Weakness: Alaska, no doubt, has a good team. But while the Aces stood still, their rivals in the top half of the league's hierarchy became a lot better with Barangay Ginebra getting Greg Slaughter, San Mig signing Ian Sangalang, Rain or Shine acquiring Raymond Almazan and Petron having a June Mar Fajardo who is expected to be even better in his sophomore.
The result? Alaska suddenly looks like a mid-sized team with a frontline that will largely depend on 6-7 Sonny Thoss, Abueva and Gabby Espinas inside. That should be a problem in the all-Filipino tournament but may be solved by the arrival of a big import in the next two conferences.
Aside from that, the element of surprise is now gone for the Aces, who will be one of the teams targetted by the opposition this season.
Season outlook: Alaska is good enough to make the Final Four in the Philippine Cup. On how far they go after that will depend on whether Trillo can once again weave the magic he had last season.
Power rating: 4 stars