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The 6th Sense: Who is the PH Cup’s best 6th man?

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Even with the PBA’s expansion to 12 teams, it still seems as if most teams – most especially the contenders – are as deep as ever. Alaska, San Miguel Beer, and Talk ‘N Text all have starter-caliber players who have stepped up time and again to boost their squads into the semifinals. Let’s not forget Rain or Shine, whose coach, Yeng Guiao, changes his starting lineup game to game and spreads the minutes.

What still comes as a surprise to me though is how the PBA doesn’t have any official 6th man of the conference / year award. After all, we do copy the NBA on most awards – why not honor our outstanding “bench” players?

I decided to take a look at this conference’s crop of solid 6th men and see who stands out. To make the process a little easier to go through, I drafted some guidelines:

a)     Must be a member of a team that’s made the semifinals.  In the same way that players of winning teams get extra statistical points for each win, I’ve decided to focus on players on teams that made the semis. Tough luck for guys like Mark Barocca and Mark Caguiao, both of whom made solid contributions off the bench.

b)     Must have come off the bench on at least 50% of games played. I don’t think it would be fair to give an (unofficial) award to a guy who only occasionally comes off the bench. This eliminates Marcio Lassiter, whose started 5 of the 8 games he’s suited up in.

c)      Lastly, I’ll be using per-30 min numbers. I find that most teams aren’t leaving in their starters for more than 30-min per game, save for SMB, who play the youthful, reigning MVP 35 minutes a game. Making a comparison on a per-30 minute basis also lets see a realistic statline if that player played “starter minutes”.

Now that that’s clear, let’s take a look at the candidates (starting in alphabetical order. Just one caveat: I took out any comparison to a Rain or Shine player, since it’s just too difficult to pinpoint a single “sixth man” – they’re all pretty deserving.)

Ranidel De Ocampo

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2015 PH Cup per-30 min stats:

MINPPGRPGAPGBPGFG%3FG%
22.515.76.43.10.845.6%35.2%

 

RDO is simply a monster at the 4-position. He’s a mismatch nightmare waiting to happen, as Coach Jong Uichico can simply plug him for just about any of his starters save for the point guard and the team wouldn’t miss a beat. He can come in for the shooting guard, while sliding Ganuelas-Rosser down to the 2. Want to stretch the floor? Sub him in for Rob Reyes and force his defender to come out of the paint and contest his 35% shooting from long-distance. He’s also a solid passer, averaging 3.1 apg every 30 minutes. This is what you call a GAME-CHANGER.

In my opinion, he’s one of the top-3 best power forwards in the league and he’s efficient to boot. The majority of his shots come from catch-and-shoot types where he acts as a release option for slashers like Castro, Ryan Reyes, and Alas.

My only knock on RDO is that it feels too easy for a voter to slot him in as a 6th man winner. After all, the guy has been a rock for the Smart Gilas team and could start for any team in the league. TNT has one of the most loaded lineups in the league, which allows them to bring Ranidel off the bench to go to work against opponent’s bench players. Yep, not fair at all.

Vic Manuel
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2015 PH Cup per-30 min stats:

MINPPGRPGAPGBPGFG%
20.716.28.01.70.8748.6%

 

The Muscle Man was recently name the PBA Player of the Week, as he helped Alaska overcome NLEX and Meralco to jump into the semis. Ironically, he did while starting the past couple of games, but let’s not forget he was putting up some pretty solid numbers coming off the bench behind Calvin Abueva.

On a per-30 min basis, he’s actually putting up better numbers than Ranidel De Ocampo, as he is clearly one of the best post scorers in the entire league. Alaska’s hybrid offense allows him several opportunities to go 1v1 in the post, which also has the added benefit of putting Alaska in the penalty early, as he’s simply a foul-drawing machine. Manuel’s also got nice synergy with the bench unit, as snipers RJ Jazul (3FG% 37.5%) and Dondon Hontiveros (3FG% 40.6%) help spread the floor.

With both Calvin Abueva and Vic Manuel providing high energy, Coach Alex Compton’s got a nice tandem brewing at the forward positions.

Ronald Tubid

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2015 PH Cup per-30 min stats:

MINPPGRPGAPGSPGFG%3FG%
17.715.16.91.70.8541.3%38.6%

 

The high-flying, entertaining guard is having a solid season off the bench for the no. 1 seed SMB Beermen. He’s filled in ably for the injured Marcio Lassiter when he missed three games midway through the conference, and while his per game averages (8.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg) don’t exactly pop out, he’s produced in the limited minutes he’s been given.

As pointed above, he’s only played 17.7 minutes per game so far and if we look at his per-30 min figures, they are comparable to that of the other sixth men on this list. With SMB looking to make a deep playoff run, don’t be surprised to see his minutes go up, especially in this upcoming series against TNT. The Texters are full of solid swing men (Reyes, Castro, Alas, Ganuelas-Rosser, Fonacier) and with this series tabbed to go the distance, Coach Jong may have to save his starters’ legs by playing Tubid more minutes. Rest assured, those minutes are in good hands.

To be honest, I think with the league starting to embrace a Spurs-like minutes distribution system, I think we’ll see more and more guys coming off the bench to have a bigger impact on their teams’ fortunes. In these playoffs alone, I can’t wait to see guys like Chris Banchero, Jeric Fortuna, and Kevin Alas strut their stuff and earn the respect of everyone across the league.

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