Ranking the Gilas Pilipinas cadets
Paul Lintag on Dec 31, 2016 07:59 AM
The Gilas cadets have endured half of the Philippine Cup. Just how they stack up against one another so far?
Every year, we label the PBA Draft hopefuls as the future, and rightfully so.
However, this year is different as batch 2016 is THE future. Not only does this year feature an impressive collection of talent -- impressive enough that the powers that be decided there was need for a special selection -- but the class of 2016 is the future of Philippine basketball as they make up the new young core of Gilas Pilipinas.
While the actual order was never revealed, all 12 teams got their pick in the Gilas Pilipinas draft, making sure that they have at least one key piece moving forward. But those pieces aren't created equal and to end 2016, we rank the Cadets based on their performance so far in the Philippine Cup.
These rookies were picked in the so-called PBA draft, however, these fresh faces are outperforming some of the Gilas cadets in the PBA so far.
JOSEPH ERIOBU, Mahindra Floodbuster
The sleeper pick of the "regular" draft, Eriobu has been a steady contributer for a Mahindra team struggling to put together victories in the Philippine Cup.
Despite a woeful 1-5 record, the Floodbuster are getting the most out of their rookie as Eriobu has put up a solid 8.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in just over 20 minutes of play. The former Mapua Cardinal has also been active on the defensive end, averaging 1.3 steals per outing.
Eriobu has been playing well so far that Mahindra actually gets more from him compared to Gilas cadet Russel Escoto. The scrappy Fil-Nigerian even helped the Floodbuster push defending two-time defending champion San Miguel Beer to the limit earlier this season.
JONATHAN GREY, Meralco Bolts
While he wasn't selected in the Gilas Pilipinas draft, the sweet-shooting Jonathan Grey certainly has national team potential in the long run.
The former CSB Blazer took his offense to the pros, going for 8.3 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep in only 14 minutes per outing.
Grey's best game so far came when the Bolts returned to the San Juan Arena just before Christmas, scoring a career-high 24 points at his old stomping ground.
12. ALFONZO GOTLADERA, NLEX Road Warriors
A late addition to the Gilas draft, Alfonzo Gotladera's PBA stint has been off to a slow start with NLEX.
The big man out of Ateneo only played in three games under new head coach Yeng Guiao so far, going for 2.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in 7.3 minutes.
The reason why Gotladera is number 12 is his inability to see court time for the Road Warriors, a team that has lost Enrico Villanueva due to injury and Asi Taulava struggling to get his former points and minutes with the squad. With NLEX basically short two big men, you'd figure the Fonz should bee seeing more action.
11. ARNOLD VAN OPSTAL, San Miguel Beermen
Just like Gotladera, Arnold Van Opstal has seen super-limited minutes in the PBA so far.
At the halfway point of San Miguel's Philippine Cup campaign, AVO has only played two games, going scoreless in about 10 total minutes.
However, unlike the Road Warriors, the Beermen have a talented frontline in reigning three-time MVP June Mar Fajardo and 2013 MVP Arwind Santos, making it hard for any big man to actually crack the rotation of head coach Leo Austria.
One thing going for AVO though is he gets to keep the Kraken sharp day in and day out at practice, speeding up his growth process that should come in handy when he actually plays.
Also, he has grey hair, keeping him relevant in a team that has an incredible collection of star power its not even funny.
10. RUSSEL ESCOTO, Mahindra Floodbuster
Just like his days as a Tamaraw, Russel Escoto's contributions to his team have gone unnoticed.
It doesn't mean he's doing nothing though.
Escoto is not the flashy type but he gets the job done. Granted, his new team is way down the standings -- his previous squad was at the top of the mountain -- but the lanky forward has quietly produced a solid 6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in less than 20 minutes.
One gripe about his game though is that he's only shooting 30 percent from the field. As a big man, that's not quite enough.
9. KEVIN FERRER, Brgy. Ginebra San Miguel
Aside from those two big games he had a couple of weeks back, Kevin Ferrer has had little impact with Brgy. Ginebra in the Philippine Cup.
Of course, head coach Tim Cone is notorious for not giving rookies heavy minutes and the Gin Kings' championship core from the Governors' Cup are back for the All-Filipino, making it doubly hard for Ferrer to see ample court time.
Despite only playing 12.6 minutes per game, the former UST Growling Tiger does average a respectable 5.7 points and 2.2 rebounds per outing. He could use a spike in his shooting percentage though as he's only hitting 36.7 percent from the field.
With limited minutes, Ferrer should make the most out of his opportunities.
8. VON PESSUMAL, Globalport Batang Pier
Playing behind the dynaic duo of Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle, Von Pessumal has found his niche as a solid backup shooter for the Batang Pier.
In just a little over 13 minutes per game, Pessumal is averaging 5.2 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting from deep.
While his role is primarily to shoot the basketball, Kiefer Ravena's former Ateneo runningmate could use a couple of assists as Von hasn't dropped a dime in six games so far.
We all know Pessumal is a better playmaker than that right?
7. MIKE TOLOMIA, Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
As the lone rookie in Rain or Shine's rotation, Mike Tolomia is doing enough for the Elasto Painters.
While he's had games were he was more of a liability than an asset, Tolomia is doing a good job of averaging 6.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 13.4 minutes.
Replacing Paul Lee might not be a realistic goal right now, Tolomia's main job really is to help run the Rain or Shine offense that's built around chemistry and unselfish play.
Halfway through the Philippine Cup, he's doing just that.
6. RR Pogoy, TNT KA-TROPA
Just like Tolomia, RR Pogoy is the lone rookie in TNT's main rotation in the Philippine Cup.
His role has diminished quite a bit since Jayson Castro returned from an extended break but Pogoy remains as a key cog in tne TNT machine, starting all six games so far and playing over 24 minutes per game.
The only thing bad about Pogoy's rookie campaign is his woeful 29.5 percent shooting percentage but he does go for 7.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Also, his clutch performance early in the season helped the KaTropa manage the Blur's absence, allowing the flagship MVP franchise to stay afloat with a 4-2 mark, tied for second place.
5. CARL BRYAN CRUZ, Alaska Aces
After an impressive debut, CBC's production has slowed down in the last five games. It's not entirely his fault though as Calvin Abueva and Vic Manuel are back to business with the Aces.
Still, his double-double debut gave the impression that Cruz is legit, and he is.
With the Aces' frontline still going thin in the Philippine Cup, expect Carl Bryan's 21.6 minutes per game so stay consistent or even go up.
His 7.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.0 steals per game should also continue to rise as he gets adjusted in the PBA, proving his place in the Gilas cadets.
4. JIO JALALON, Star Hotshots
After struggling to start the season, the Star Hotshots have figured things out a bit, going 3-1 to end 2016.
A big part of that is Jio Jalalon's rising play. Despite having duds every now and then, the top point guard from the draft has been steadier than reckless, complementing Star's more established backcourt stars.
Just like in college, Jalaon is an all-around beast in the PBA, averaging 11.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.7 steals per game.
One thing that could take Jalalon to the next level though is if he could lessen his 3.3 turnovers per outing.
3. ED DAQUIOAG, Meralco Bolts
A pleasant surpise from the Gilas draft has been the incredible play of Ed Daquioag.
Picking up where he left off from UST and the D-League, Easy Ed is a legitimate weapon for the Meralco Bolts, going for 11.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in just over 20 minutes per game.
Rookies tend to go 100 miles per hour due to nerves and excitement but that hasn't showed in Easy Ed's game as the heady combo guard is shooting 50.9 percent from the field, the best among the cadets.
Both of Meralco's victories so far in the Philippine Cup saw Daquioag play at a high level as the former Growling Tiger scored 23 points in back-to-back victories early this season, an early career high.
The Bolts have limped to end 2016 but with Daquioag adding a new dynamic to the Meralco offense, head coach Norman Black should have a lot of combinations at his disposal once his team gets completely healthy.
2. MATTHEW WRIGHT, Phoenix Fuel Masters
The mystery guy of the Gilas cadets is a mystery no more.
Former ABL champion Matthew Wright has emerged as the second best player from the Gilas 12 so far, earning a big role right off the bat for the Phoenix Fuel Masters.
While his debut got the delayed due to a bout with food poisoning, the Fil-Canadian swingman has more than made up for lost time, going for 17.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.0 steals per game in over 32 minutes of play.
Wright is the leading scorer among the Gilas cadets and is easily the most consistent performer for the Fuel Masters, helping Phoenix survive a flat mid-season slump to finish the year at 4-3, tied for third place.
Mystery guy no more.
1. MAC BELO, Blackwater Elite
Mac Belo has lived up to his top billing so far in the Philippine Cup, helping Blackwater to a 4-3 start to the season and right in the thick of the playoff race.
Aside from injecting the Elite with a winning attitude, Belo's numbers are right there with the best of them as the UAAP Season 78 Finals MVP has put up 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.7 steals in just a shade under 35 minutes per game.
What's even more incredible in Belo's play is that the star forward might end up with a 50-40-90 line despite playing a heavy role for the Elite.
Big Mac is currently shooting 48.1 percent from the field including 40.0 percent from beyond the arc. He's also basically automatic from the stripe, making 89.7 percent of his foul shots.
Blacwater and Gilas Pilipinas has put their future on the shoulders of Mac Belo, it's a wise choice.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8