NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said the PBA ballclub let go of Mike Ayonayon and Will McAloney 'with a heavy heart,' explaining that he feels the two young players will be better off with other teams than staying with the Road Warriors.
Speaking after news leaked about the trade that would send Ayonayon and McAloney to Blackwater for Marion Magat and a future second-round pick, Guiao admitted the two bench players got lost in a stiff competition for places in the NLEX rotation.
Ayonayon was one of the unheralded players to rise out of the MPBL, getting drafted at third overall in the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft by an NLEX side that even had to wait for him to wrap up his commitments with the San Juan Knights.
However, the six-foot high-flyer never fully settled at NLEX and all but fell out of Guiao's main rotation during the last PBA Philippine Cup bubble in Bacolor, Pampanga, playing in just five games and scoring a grand total of two points.
Guiao admitted it was becoming more and more difficult for him to give Ayonayon the playing time he deserves with rookie Calvin Oftana and Don Trollano added to an already deep backcourt led by Kevin Alas and Jericho Cruz.
"We liked Mike and we traded him with a heavy heart," Guiao told SPIN.ph on Monday. "We feel he and McAloney can mature and get more opportunities in another team rather than if they stayed with us."
Asked why the Road Warriors went for Magat, an unheralded center who had a previous stint with the team back in 2017, Guiao said he tried to address the need to reinforce his frontline for future battles against June Mar Fajardo, Christian Standhardinger, Ian Sangalang, and other top bigs in the league.
Guiao explained NLEX has a solid frontline bannered by JR Quinahan, Raoul Soyud, and Michael Miranda, but pointed to the lack of a big man that can stop Fajardo and Co. on single coverage.
While 6-7 Magat may not be up for the job, Guiao said he will be able to add size to the Road Warriors' frontline.
"We really need more size," he said.
It was for this same reason that NLEX decided to let go of McAloney, the 6-foot-5 draftee from Cebu who Guiao said was in the same boat as Quinahan, Soyud, and Miranda.
"We have big men who aren't really big," he said.
Can Magat mitigate that weakness?
"Size is what we need right now," the former national coach said of Magat, who played briefly for NLEX in 2017 but had to be shipped to TNT so the team can pull off the trade for Jericho Cruz. "And he did well for us the first time he was here."