We’re now officially done with 3/4ths of the season, as all teams have either played 10 or 11 games, with two or three left to determine placing. I think it’s about time we start taking a look at some of this year’s rookies and see who has the best chance to bag home an award at the end of the month.
At first thought, this seems like a useless exercise. After all, wouldn’t the answer to this year’s “best rookie” be Arvin Tolentino?
The Case for Arvin Tolentino
Tolentino has put up the biggest numbers amongst all rookies by far, with his statline pumped up by 5 double digit scoring games, including a season-high 20 against UP on August 6. He’s also started 9 of 11 games this season; manning the 5 spot for the ceiling-challenge Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles. His current averages are at 8.83 ppg, 5.83 rpg, and 0.75 bpg on 23.25 minutes per game.
The knock on Arvin though is that he’s been slumping lately. After hitting double digits in 5 of his first 6 games, he’s mustered just 16 points in 5 games, including two eggs against UE and NU (where he only played 6 minutes). He has struggled guarding more veteran (and traditional) bigs and has a penchant for breaking away from Ateneo’s system to go one-on-one. He’s also shooting 35.6% from the field 26.9% from 3-point area, which includes 1/12 shooting during the 5-game slump.
It’s his recent struggles that have some pundits wondering whether other rookies, such as Prince Rivero or even Rev Diputado may sneak in and steal the award from the ROY front-runner.
The Case for Prince Rivero
After a slow start, Rivero went on a nice string of games where he put up 8, 12, 6, 12, and 9 points. Over that same 5-game stretch, he also pulled down a combined 29 rebounds, not bad considering he came off the bench in all those games.
The big thing that stands out for me is his minutes. In that 5-game sample where he put solid figures, Prince’s playing time hovered between 14 and 23 minutes. In the 5 games where he’s scored a total of just TEN points, the most he played was 11 minutes, while he registered MPs (minutes played) of 5:20, 9:00, 4:00, and 6:00 for an average of just seven minutes per game.
For those keeping count, that comes out to:
|5 GAME SAMPLE SIZE|
This hints to me that given the minutes, Rivero will produce. Of course, let’s always remember that Juno Sauler – who guided DLSU to the championship last season – knows what he’s doing and the lack of playing for Rivero in certain games probably has to do with matchups more than anything else. Team always comes FIRST. Nevertheless, these are encouraging numbers by any count and allow Rivero to enter the ROY race
Despite the decent numbers that these two highly recruited players are putting up, I can’t help but have a soft spot for National University back-up point guard Rev Diputado.
The Case for Rev Diputado
While everyone was breaking the bank and recruiting NU Bullpup Hubert Cani (who is currently serving residency at Ateneo), Bulldog management scored a coup with their under-the-radar move to lure the former San Beda Red Cub away from Mendiola.
He’s currently averaging 15.1 minutes per game, with modest averages of just 4.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, and 1.1 apg – not numbers that would pop out and scream rookie of the year material. However, coaches know his value as they see him as a bulldog of a defender who follows the system and has a good feel for the game. Some are comparing him to former UST point guard Jeric Fortuna in terms of potential. By the way, Fortuna actually led Barako Bull in scoring last conference amongst locals, so that’s a pretty solid compliment.
Comparing the 3 freshies
What makes it difficult to compare these three players is their respective roles (and minutes) that each has this season, not to mention the three play different positions.
Tolentino is the star of the recruitment class and has the biggest role amongst the 3, being a 2nd / 3rd option on a good Ateneo team. He’s also a capable outside shooter, so he fits perfectly in Coach Bo Perasol’s perimeter-heavy offense.
Rivero is backing up last year’s Finals MVP on a loaded squad who just happen to be the defending champ, so it’s no surprise that Coach Sauler is bringing him in slowly.
Diputado is just biding his time but it’s clear that he’s a favorite of Coach Eric Altamirano and his role will grow in time.
I can’t help but wonder though, if we pegged them all at 30 minutes, how would their production look like
Based on per-30 minute production, it seems that Rivero may actually have the edge over his peers, as he basically averages a double-double (per-30). Diputado actually puts up decent numbers too. What stands out is the 2.0 turnovers per 30 min, a low figure for a point guard.
I just want to clarify though that we can’t expect a direct translation of stats. Normally when a player plays heavier minutes, his workload increases and chances are he won’t produce at the same level. And in the case of Rivero and Diputado, more minutes would also mean playing more against starters of other teams, which may mean tougher defense to play against.
As of now, I think Tolentino has the edge to pick up the ROY trophy given his role on his team. But don’t be surprised if we see the other two catch up to him in terms of hype, fandom, and most importantly, production, in the coming years.
*EFG% from stats.humblebola.com
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