The 2023 PBA Rookie Draft is destined to become a historic event.
With a record-breaking 124 draftees, including some who are already established professionals, teams have the opportunity to discover valuable role players even as late as the fourth round.
Moreover, the talent pool at the top of the draft is believed to extend at least eight players deep.
Here is Tiebreaker Times’ 2023 PBA Mock Draft:
1st pick: Stephen Holt (Terrafirma)
Stephen Holt is one of at least three ‘rookie veterans’ in the draft.
Despite being the oldest in the class at 31 years old, the 6-foot-4 guard who played for St. Mary’s is undoubtedly the most ‘ready-to-play’ player and will unquestionably make an instant impact on the Dyip.
Holt previously played for the G League team Canton, had two stints with Atlanta in the NBA Summer League, and also had experiences in Melbourne, Andorra, Zaragoza, Nymburk, Brisbane, Ostrów Wielkopolski, Astana, Koper, and Oradea.
Holt is not returning to his homeland simply because he no longer has offers abroad; he is doing so to fulfill his grandfather’s wish of seeing him play in the PBA.
Without a doubt, Holt is a no-brainer choice for the Dyip.
2nd pick: Christian David (Blackwater)
Worth the gamble.
Standing at 6-foot-6, Christian David is not your typical big man by PBA standards; he also possesses several guard skills.
Like Holt, he boasts a strong pedigree, having played and studied at the NCAA Division I school Butler.
However, there is one potential concern with David, and it’s related to his knee. Interestingly, it’s not the knee he injured during his junior year at Butler but the other knee, which he injured during his high school days at Vermont Academy.
Nevertheless, David has assured that he has diligently worked on strengthening both knees during his brief stint with Seoul Samsung.
If David lives up to his potential, the Bossing will secure a pivotal piece for their future.
Worth the wait.
Luis Villegas, who is still in the process of recovering from an ACL tear he suffered last March during a practice session for TNT 3×3, is still considered a can’t-miss pick for Rain or Shine at number three.
Everyone is aware of Villegas’s outstanding performance during his one-and-done stint at the University of the East. However, what everyone seems to be overlooking is his four solid years at NCAA Division II school Stanislaus State.
Apart from being a three-level scorer, the 6-foot-8 Villegas also possesses the ability to create opportunities in the post—a perfect match for Yeng Guiao’s system.
Will Rain or Shine select two recovering players for its top picks? If the Elasto Painters’ management exercises patience, they should consider doing so.
Had Zavier Lucero not torn his ACL during Game 2 of the UAAP Season 85 Men’s Basketball Finals, he would have been the clear-cut No. 2 choice after Holt.
During his time at CSU Maritime Academy, the 6-foot-6 forward demonstrated his scoring ability. However, during his two years at the University of the Philippines, he also showed that he could handle the dirty work.
Nevertheless, it remains unknown how Lucero is faring in his recovery since he has yet to arrive in the country.
In case Rain or Shine requires immediate talent, they should consider selecting Keith Datu at the fourth spot.
There are a couple of needs for Northport: bigs and guards.
However, the more pressing requirement is to find a guard who can either replicate Robert Bolick’s production or, at the very least, provide support for Paul Zamar.
Deschon Winston certainly fits the bill.
Winston, a 6-foot-4 guard, excelled at De La Salle University during his senior year, displaying his full range of skills in the first round before an injury prematurely ended his collegiate career.
Before joining the Green Archers, Winston also played for NCAA Division I school Central Michigan. So, the pedigree is certainly there.
Winston possesses a solid midrange game but needs to work on consistently knocking down three-pointers.
Nevertheless, he is expected to make an immediate impact for the Batang Pier.
6th pick: Kenneth Tuffin (Phoenix Super LPG)
Kenneth Tuffin is the second ‘rookie veteran’ in the draft.
Throughout the pandemic, the 6-foot-5 Filipino-Kiwi guard never ceased playing, dedicating the last five years to the NZ-National Basketball League.
In addition to fully embracing his role as a winger, Tuffin has also acquired a crucial attribute — a winning mentality. He played a pivotal role in Wellington’s championship victory during the 2021 season of the league.
Certainly, Tuffin is more than capable of filling the shoes left by Matthew Wright.
7th pick: Keith Datu (NLEX)
You can never have enough bigs in the PBA.
Despite already having a tall frontline, Keith Datu would be a welcomed addition to NLEX if he’s drafted.
Standing at 6-foot-7, Datu, a product of NCAA Division II school Chico State, managed to expand his game in the 3×3 setting, adding a deuce (three in 5-on-5) to his repertoire.
The 27-year-old, wide-bodied hooper would be a perfect complement to the Road Warriors’ frontline, which already includes Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser, Ben Adamos, Mike Miranda, and Jake Pascual.
8th pick: Brandon Bates (Meralco)
Will Kiwi consultant Nenad Vucinic be willing to take the plunge and draft an Aussie in Brandon Bates? Just kidding.
Brandon Bates and Keith Datu are essentially the 7A and 7B selections in this draft class.
If you’re in search of a banger, the 6-foot-7 Bates unquestionably fits the bill.
He is a hardworking big man who secures rebounds effortlessly, thanks to not only his athleticism but also his impeccable timing.
To round out the draft for bigs, Henry Galinato could potentially be selected as high as ninth if chosen by Converge.
Despite receiving limited playing time during his one-and-done tenure with the University of the Philippines due to a persistent knee injury, the 6-foot-6 barrel-chested bruiser, who had previously played at Benedictine Mesa, demonstrated glimpses of his potential when given the opportunity to play.
Furthermore, at just 26 years old, he still has many good years ahead of him.
10th pick: Richie Rodger (Converge)
Richie Rodger is the third and final ‘ready-to-play’ hooper in this draft.
Rodger flew under the radar for this class, as he only secured his final documents just before the deadline.
The 6-foot-2 Filipino-Kiwi is only 26 years old but already has a wealth of experience under his belt.
Rodger spent the last five years in the NZ-NBL, playing for Taranaki and Otago.
Additionally, he was a part of the Tall Blacks, participating in six games during the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
11th pick: James Kwekuteye (Northport)
Once again, Northport will have to decide between selecting a big or a guard.
However, James Kwekuteye is simply too promising of a prospect to overlook.
Kwekuteye has demonstrated his elite scoring ability during his four-year tenure at San Beda University.
Standing at 6 feet 2 inches, this Filipino-Canadian guard has, at times, also showcased his prowess as a lockdown defender.
If the Batang Pier though decides to go big, Red Lions Cliff Jopia or Kemark Carino are the safe picks to make here.
It would be ironic to witness a Red Lion being coached by Bonnie Tan—the man who guided Letran to three consecutive NCAA championships.
12th pick: Fran Yu (Terrafirma)
Terrafirma will have back-to-back picks, concluding the first round while commencing the second round.
This presents the perfect opportunity to recognize the contributions of a couple of Knights for their service to Letran.
Fran Yu, who was named the Finals MVP of NCAA Season 95, and King Caralipio, who earned the same accolade three seasons later, will be joining a Dyip team that also boasts Letran alumni JP Calvo, Allen Mina, and Bonbon Batiller.
It’s worth noting that Terrafirma previously drafted Christian Balagasay, also a Letran graduate, as the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 2019 draft.
However, Yu and Caralipio won’t be mere token selections.
Yu has proven his ability to compete with the best when he played for Northport during the PBA on Tour, while Caralipio, a 6-foot-2 winger, is a proven blue-collar worker.
Other notable picks:
15th pick: Ricci Rivero (Rain or Shine)
If there’s one coach who can resurrect Ricci Rivero’s basketball career, it’s none other than Yeng Guiao.
Just five years ago, Guiao consistently ensured that Rivero was part of the Gilas pool during the 2016-19 cycle of global basketball.
23rd pick: Ralph Cu (Ginebra)
36th pick: Kyt Jimenez (Ginebra)
Ginebra’s first pick in the draft will be at No. 23.
Certainly, the Gin Kings have a tradition of rewarding loyalty, which is why they are most likely to select their 3×3 player, Ralph Cu, at No. 23.
In the meantime, Kyt Jimenez is a close friend of Scottie Thompson. If he is still available to close out the third round, Ginebra will certainly pick him up.
35th pick: Archie Concepcion (TNT)
Meanwhile, TNT will only make its first pick in the draft when Round 3 begins.
If PBA Draft Combine MVP Archie Concepcion is still available at that time, the Tropang Giga will draft him, making him a part of the now-infamous ‘Kurimaw Boys.’