As fate would have it, we’ve been blessed with an old rivalry for the Philippine Cup finals, as we’ve got a throwback Finals in place, as Alaska and San Miguel will be slugging it out over the next two weeks. I can’t help but take a look at all the sub-plots that will be taking place during the series. For this week’s edition of SDL, I’ll be going through some of my favorites.
The Return of the Cabaggie
Only San Miguel can pull-off a controversial trade in the middle of a championship run. In a not-so-surprising move, the Beermen dealt Sol Mercado back to the Batang Pier for former star Alex Cabagnot, who just happened to be playing the best ball of his career.
** the PBA’s gotta be the only league in the world where you can make a trade RIGHT BEFORE the playoffs. I love this league!
So far, the move looks like a streak of genius, as SMB swept the TNT Tropang Texters in their semis matchup, with Alex Cabagnot taking reigns over the point guard position.
How good has Cabaggie been? How’s this for a stat-line during the 4-game series:
Cabagnot has added a new dimension to the SMB attack, as his work on the ball screen has been exceptional. Throughout the conference, the guy’s show 52% when taking a shot off the ball screen, one of the top marks in the league.
His transition back to the Beermen has been so seamless, which is why he’s been making plays like this:
What makes him even more dangerous is that he’s got gunners like namely Lassiter, Tubid, and Lutz waiting on the wings to attack. If everyone stays home on them, he can slip in for an easy layup
The only question is how many minutes will Cabagnot play in the Finals. He already got the bulk of minutes at point guard during the semis, averaging a shade under 29 min a game. However, Ross is a better defender and could give JV Casio some fits on that side of the ball. It’ll be interesting to see what lineups Coach Leo Austria throws out there and if this will adversely affect chemistry during the series.
Speaking of minutes, we’re about to see a major contrast in terms of how the coaches utilize their player’s minutes. I’ve covered this before but it’s worth bringing up again. Coach Leo relies heavily on his starters, particularly Junemar Fajardo and Arwind Santos, who both play roughly 36 minutes a game. Quite frankly, I don’t blame him – these guys just won the last two MVPs.
He also gives heavy minutes to Lassiter (30.4 mpg) and Lutz (32.7 mpg), both of whom are, as Coach Alex Compton would put it, “national team players”.
On the other side of the table, Compton has taken a completely opposite approach, as none of Alaska’s players averaged more than 30 min per game. Casio led the way at 28.7mpg, with Calvin Abueva clocking in 26.9 mpg. This is also necessary due to Compton’s system, which relies heavily on full-court pressure all game long.
Will Austria give more minutes to his bench in anticipation of a long series? Will Compton stretch JV and Calvin’s minutes in an attempt to amp up production?
Minutes have also played an important factor in the Best Player of the Conference race, as Fajardo and Abueva are one and two, respectively.
This is somewhat misleading however. Yes, Junemar is the single most dominant offensive weapon in terms of points per offensive possession (as pointed out in last week’s post) and yes, he’s putting up the best traditional stats in the league. But as mentioned above, he is playing nearly 9 minutes more game than Calvin.
To illustrate my point let’s take a look at these per-36 min numbers:
As you can probably guess, Player A is Junemar and Player B is Calvin. Of course, this argument assumes that Calvin can maintain his per minute production even if minutes go up. But doesn’t this make his BPC case a little more convincing? On a per minute basis, he averages more points, rebounds, and assists. Steals and blocks are a wash simply because they play different roles on defense. Throw in the sheer madness that happens whenever Calvin is on the floor and he’s definitely an intriguing BPC candidate.
As much as the media will hype up the two BPC candidates, we won’t get to see them go head-to-head. Nevertheless, Abueva-Santos and Fajardo-Thoss are pretty solid matchups as well.
Junemar will probably bag the award and is definitely deserving, but this just goes to show how effective and important both Fajardo and Abueva are to their teams.
These are just a few of the intriguing story lines that will take place over the next two weeks. I can’t wait for the series to get started – we should be in for an instant classic.