THE absence of June Mar Fajardo this PBA season – if and when it resumes – has opened a window of opportunity for other stars to shine bright.
With the San Miguel cornerstone recovering from leg surgery that repaired a fractured right tibia, other standouts are expected to emerge as candidates to dethrone Fajardo as the league’s MVP.
Who are them? Who better to ask than the six-time defending MVP himself?
In a recent guesting on 2OT with Carlo Pamintuan and Magoo Marjon, Fajardo rattled off Christian Standhardinger, Jayson Castro, Japeth Aguilar, Chris Newsome, and CJ Perez as the ones who have a shot at claiming the top individual award.
Standhardinger is the reigning Best Player of the Conference of the last Governors’ Cup and is expected to contend for the MVP as he tries to lead NorthPort to a deeper playoff push.
Castro has been a perennial MVP contender as TNT’s leader, but has always ended up bridesmaid to Fajardo.
Aguilar, for his part, is oozing with confidence following his Finals MVP performance for Ginebra in the Gin Kings’ Governors’ Cup championship conquest and is expected to flourish even further with frontcourt partner Greg Slaughter taking a sabbatical.
Two new names have cropped up in the conversation in Meralco’s Newsome and Perez of Terra Firma.
Newsome has been the Bolts' most consistent player, forming a potent backcourt combination with Baser Amer and leading the team to regular finals appearances with import Allen Durham also carrying most of the load.
Fajardo said Perez deserves to be in the list after making waves not just in the pro league, but also with the Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba World Cup as he capped his debut season with a Rookie of the Year award.
“CJ andun na yan, kasi maganda nilaro niya last conference at last season eh,” Fajardo said of the 26-year-old young star. “Magaling siya. Hindi siya natatakot mag-take over.”
What do you think of Fajardo’s picks?