With the entry of giants Junemar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter, it seems that most fans overlook the insane amount of great point guards that still populate the PBA. Here are just a few names to remember: LA Tenorio, Jayson Castro, Paul Lee, JVee Casio, Jonas Villanueva…
That’s right. While everyone has been gushing over the former mainstays of the Smart Gilas program, Villanueva has quietly put up a pretty solid 2015 Philippine Cup campaign. Don’t believe me? Let’s play a little guessing game.
Check out these digits with some of the premier guards in the league (added minutes per game to give you a little help). Guess who player A, B, and C are:
Player A is Jayson Castro. Player B, as you probably guessed by the low minutes average, is Paul Lee. And player C is Jonas Villanueva.
As you can see, aside from scoring, Jonas is putting up some pretty solid numbers, especially in rebounding and assisting, while adding 1.5 steals per game to boot. Now, he does play more minutes than his two superstar counterparts (giving him more minutes to post up stats), but that’s partly because NLEX simply has no choice but to play him that many minutes. Prior to bringing another point guard in Rudy Lingganay into the fold, the Road Warriors were relying on Pamboy Raymundo and Wynne Arboleda, while TNT and ROS are loaded at the guard positions, allowing them to rest their starters.
Let’s not forget as well that NLEX, with the hulking Asi Taulava on its side, plays a slower, more deliberate pace than the Tropang Texters and Elasto Painters, who run n’ gun every chance they get. A faster pace means more possessions per game, giving them more opportunities for everyone to “produce”.
Nevertheless, the half-court style of Coach Boyet Fernandez favors Jonas Villanueva, and I’m guessing that’s why we’re seeing a career resurgence from the oft-injured playmaker out of FEU.
Jonas’ game is built around two things: supreme outside shooting and solid decision making off the pick and roll.
Villanueva is currently shooting 37.9% from 3-point range, which is a big reason why his effective FG% tips the scales at 56.1%. He’s good for 2.0 treys per game, and these aren’t the Paul Lee-type 3s that are four feet away from the 3-point line. Jonas is selective with his shots, only taking good wide open looks or ones that come when he has good balance for his looping pull-up jumper.
The second reason why Jonas has been so effective is because of how he’s used the pick & roll. Over the elimination round, he shot 57% on shots coming directly off a ball screen, the highest mark of any point guard in the league. Coach Boyet has threats all over the floor in Asi, stretch 3/4s in Aldrech Ramos and Mark Borboran, and slasher Mac Cardona, and this helps spread the floor for Jonas to work his magic.
If his defender goes under the screen, Jonas will simply take a pull-up jumper:
If he goes over on the other hand, he can get in the paint and create either for himself
Or for a teammate.
This isn’t to say that he’s the best point guard in the league – he’s not. He sometimes makes jump passes when he doesn’t need to and doesn’t have a post game to make smaller guards pay. Nevertheless, it seems that he’s finally found a home with NLEX, and could be their incumbent starting guard for the next few years.