(Eighth of a 10-part series serving as our primer for the 2014 PBA season)
2012-2013 record: 24-28
Head coach: Renato Agustin
Rookies: James Forrester, Greg Slaughter
Offseason free-agent additions: Bryan Faundo, Emman Monfort, Jay-R Reyes
Gone from last season: Willy Wilson, Rico Maierhofer, Kerby Raymundo
Holdovers: Billy Mamaril, Joshua Urbiztondo, LA Tenorio, Jayjay Helterbrand, Japeth Aguilar, Dylan Ababou, Chris Ellis, Mac Baracael, Mark Caguioa
Strengths: Not since the glory days of Robert Jaworski's last few teams at Ginebra - one studded with stars like Marlou Aquino, Noli Locsin, and Bal David - have the Gin Kings stirred this much excitement in the offseason than they had this year.
The league's most popular team struck gold in the rookie draft when it won the top pick overall in a lottery then used it to tab Greg Slaughter, a six-foot-11 find from Cebu who gives Ginebra the dominant big man it has not had since the peak of Aquino and Eric Menk's careers.
That's not all. The Gin Kings also maneuvered to get Fil-Canadian James Forrester by trading for the No. 4 pick overall on Draft Day, pulled off a trade for point guard Eman Monfort, then boosted their frontline with two more acquisitions in Jay-R Reyes and Bryan Faundo.
From a mid-sized team constantly pounded inside by the opposition, Ginebra has turned into one of the tallest teams in the league. Another upside to Slaughter's arrival is that it allows Japeth Aguilar to slide down to his favored four spot where there will be no pressure on him to play with his back to the basket. No wonder the enigmatic big man looks as happy as he has ever been in his career.
The benefits of a new 'Twin Towers' tandem is also expected to cascade into Ginebra's crack guards, who should have more confidence with their shots knowing they have two of the biggest players in the league to go for the rebound in case they miss.
Weaknesses: As in most star-studded teams, the challenge is on how to put the pieces together and turn it into a winning unit. This early, there are warning signs that players like Mac Baracael, Josh Urbiztondo, and Billy Mamaril are bound to get lost in the shuffle. Ginebra must find a way to keep them productive and happy.
Also, Ginebra's 'Twin Towers' may raise a lot of excitement, but both Slaughter and Aguilar have a reputation for being 'soft' players. On how the two will respond to the constant banging inside will dictate how far Ginebra will go this season.
Season outlook: The bigger question for Ginebra should be, is Ato Agustin the man to bring this star-studded team together? The former PBA MVP is himself new to this team and has relatively little coaching experience, but it takes a lot of wise, subtle moves to keep a team like this humming amid all the pressure of the suddenly heightened expectations.
If Agustin proves up to the task, and if his top players stay healthy, Ginebra fans should have a giant party before this season is over.
Power rating: 4.5 stars