Monday's PBA trade sent shockwaves through the local basketball circuit.
The San Miguel Beermen shipped 2017 No. 1 pick Christian Standhardinger to the NorthPort Batang Pier in exchange for 2015 top selection Mo Tautuaa. Reasons for the switch are still unclear, but signs point to an unhappy Standhardinger who had limited burn in his time with SMB.
What seems like a straight-up swap between two top picks actually has a greater significance for both teams:
At first glance, C Stan and Mo are pretty much the same players. Both are 30 years old; listed at 6'8"; slotted into center (and the power forward position to some extent); and have experience playing in the NCAA overseas. Both also have represented the Philippines in international tournaments and played in foreign professional leagues, particularly the ABL, before entering the PBA.
The similarities end there, though.
Whereas Standhardinger is the embodiment of physicality, Tautuaa is finesse personified. The Fil-Tongan is closer to European big men with his sharp footwork and shooting, while the Fil-German is similar to traditional bigs, who look for contact and rebounds. Christian gives up a good 20 pounds to Moala, but he's more likely to bang bodies than outfox opponents.
When Tautaa posted a career-high 34 points last July, he danced around the basket against a heavyweight Rain or Shine frontcourt and showed off his newfound three-point shot (5-of-9). Standhardinger, meanwhile, basically threw his weight around and worked his usual awkward angles versus the undersized Road Warriors on his way to his own personal high of 36 last year.
The two will not only exchange teams, but roles in their new situation. Moala was just hitting his stride as NorthPort's top big, after a forgettable first three years with his maiden team TNT. Coming off a stellar rookie season, Christian won two championships with San Miguel but saw his minutes, touches, and numbers drop each conference as backup to June Mar Fajardo — and even imports.
With the Batang Pier, Standhardinger will finally get the chance to shine as the team's biggest [frontcourt] star. Beermen coach Leo Austria admitted that they couldn't give him the playing time that he deserves: "I'm sure maipapakita niya 'yung full potential niya." Case in point: C Stan averaged 23.2 points and 13.6 rebounds in 35.4 minutes when Fajardo missed all but two games of the 2018 Governor's Cup.
As for Tautuaa, he might have to postpone his comeback tour with SMB. In six games with NorthPort this conference, he has normed 11.3 points, 8.8 rebounds. 2.3 assists, and a three in 30.4 minutes. Mo appears to be focused in getting that first chip, saying, "I just go over here and bring whatever I have to this new culture and hope I get accepted at how I am and fit what they need to continue to be successful."
As luck would have it, San Miguel and NorthPort are set to face each other next Wednesday, on October 23. This will be the first time that online pundits can validate their grade of the blockbuster trade, which many describe as a "win-win." NorthPort has a slight edge in our book because of Christian's talent level, but it all boils down to how the coaches integrate the player into their system.
If Mo proves to be a better complementary piece to June Mar, then the league should be scared. Expect the Beermen to sustain their all-Filipino dominance, at the very least, when he figures out how to be the perfect stretch four. Worst-case scenario: Tautuaa is relegated to the supporting role of the player that he replaced, which isn't too bad for SMB if you think about it.
Coach Pido Jarencio is receiving a superstar with a chip on his shoulder and the hustle of Sean Anthony — only supersized — in C Stan. The Batang Pier are relatively thin in the frontline (other centers are both 6'6"), so the luxury of having him in the middle is literally a huge plus. Standhardinger, whom we project will be an easy 20-10 guy, also forms a promising 1-2 punch with rookie Robert Bolick.