By: Isaiah Flores
It took them the entire stretch of a seven-game series, but Ginebra nonetheless did what many deemed a tough and unenviable hurdle by taking down the Bay Area Dragons to be crowned as the 2022-23 PBA Commissioner’s Cup champions.
Days after the final buzzer and all the confetti and victory parties, Bakits looks back at the driving forces of the Gin Kings’ title chase.
They have more sides to them than just a triangle
While it remains a common misconception that Ginebra still runs the triangle offense even though they have diverted from the system for years now, the team did run shades of the offense – albeit with a few minor tweaks – this conference, perhaps partly due to the unfamiliarity brought about by new players.
But since coach Tim Cone took over the historic franchise, ball movement and player movement have become two of Ginebra’s trademarks. They displayed stupendous ball movement throughout the conference, leading the league in assists (25.9) and having assisted on about 69 percent of their total made field goals.
What makes this Ginebra team versatile is their ability to change their offense dramatically in a short amount of time. From 2016 until the end of last year, Ginebra has been trying different sets here and there. When needed, the team can trot out different looks depending on the situation, ranging from the Princeton Point series, the “Delay” series, and even some post-split actions reminiscent of the Golden State Warriors.
This all came to fruition in their finals matchup against the Bay Area Dragons. In Game 7, Ginebra noticeably went back to their “Delay” series featuring Christian Standhardinger playing as the hub at top.
This adjustment allowed Standhardinger to showcase his underrated playmaking ability , racking up 6 assists in Game 7. Also, the offensive action allowed Justin Brownlee to play off-ball and take advantage of his gravity by being a screener.
The team is exceptionally versatile
In 2023, versatility is the name of the game. We’re now in an era where we often see tall wing players assigned with more regular on-ball duties.
Well, Ginebra has at least three of them.
The name “Barangay Wild Wings” is what we previously called the wing trio of Justin Brownlee, Jamie Malonzo, and Jeremiah Gray in this space – three 6-foot-4 and over wing players who can make plays with the ball in their hands.
But if we look at the other positions, we can see multi-skilled, multi-position players all over their roster like Standhardinger, Scottie Thompson, and Aljon Mariano.
This versatility allows Ginebra not only to be dynamic offensively, but also to be disruptive defensively. In the conference, Ginebra was second in the stocks department (steals & blocks), averaging 13.6 per game – only behind Phoenix’s 13.7.
No room for redundancy
Generally, teams have a set “feel” to them. But for Ginebra, in every corner of their roster, every player has something different to offer. Ginebra’s depth has always been a topic in most PBA discourse. But we need to start talking about how diverse the skills of their players are.
Most of their players are akin to specialists – from LA Tenorio’s playmaking, Stanley Pringle’s shot-making, Nards Pinto’s point-of-attack defense, to Scottie Thompson’s all-around game. With such a wide array of skills available at a moment’s notice, Ginebra is able to adjust its game plan easier.
It’s more of the same in the frontcourt, where the duo of Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar epitomizes this argument.
Standhardinger is a 6-foot-8 bulldozer that possesses severely underrated playmaking chops. Offensively, the Fil-German big man can act as Ginebra’s offensive hub up top and facilitate their entire offense. Defensively, he’s not what you call a rim protector, but his nimble feet allow him to be a great hedge man against opposing guards in the pick-and-roll.
On the other hand, Aguilar is a 6-foot-9 athletic big, mostly known for his highlight dunks and rim protection. Offensively, his ability to be a pick-and-roll threat has always been his main strength. Defensively though, he’s more of a help-side rim protector rather than a pick-and-roll defender. In the conference, Aguilar averaged 1.2 blocks per contest, which is lower than his usual production due to decreased minutes.
Now, when you compare both players, you can see that one’s weakness is one’s strength. That enables Ginebra to perform different defensive coverages depending on the matchup, allowing them to be the fourth-best defensive team in the PBA with 102.6 defensive rating, per RealGM.
When we talk about team construction, talent is always the first thing that comes to mind. But having talented players is just one piece of the puzzle. Knowing what to do with said pieces is another problem altogether. Barangay Ginebra’s championship is a prime example of having a well-constructed team and knowing exactly what to do with the pieces that they have in hand.
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The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.