Truth be told, Coach Cone has a tall task ahead of him – the Gin Kings haven’t won a championship in 7 years and expectations are that he’ll turn them into contenders immediately. Cone has already gone on record saying that the lineup is unbalanced and has way too many guards – small guards for that matter – on the roster. To address this, Cone is said to be looking to make some moves to help create more balance at all positions.
That being said, all bets are off on who can be traded except for two players – Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar. Keeping Greg is a no-brainer – the guy just made the Mythical 5 team last season. Cone loves his big men and Slaughter will most surely be the fulcrum of his patented triangle offense.
The big question though is how can Japeth Aguilar thrive in that system?
Haters point to his motor and basketball IQ as reasons why he isn’t dominating the league despite his superb criticism. Believers however, see that a quiet kid listening to orders of his coach and a player who puts the team first. He’s simply overwhelmed by all the strong personalities on his team, that whenever he makes a mistake, his confidence gets shaken and his game suffers. Aguilar’s mental fortitude will be tested under Cone, whose intricate system may take time to grow on the Gin Kings.
Luckily for Japeth, he’s already been exposed to triangle offense, as that’s what the Gin Kings “ran” during Jeffrey Cariaso’s two conferences with the teams. The numbers also bear out that some of Aguilar’s best work came when Ginebra was running the triangle.
Here’s a look at his per-36 minute numbers over the past two seasons:
The numbers show that Aguilar posted his 2nd highest PER (Player Efficiency Rating – a stat that takes into account all basic box score numbers) of the last two years, and the highest FG% and rebounds per-36 min.
Detractors may say that he didn’t even post his highest points per game per-36 min under the triangle. But keep note that unlike Coach Frankie Lim’s system – which featured heavy post play, which resulted in more touches for the bigs– the triangle is really an equal opportunity offense. All players can (for the most part) play all spots on the floor, and players are taught to make reads based on what the defense is doing. Straight up isolation plays is NOT what the system is after.
With all that said, is Japeth really a good fit for the triangle or not?
Here are some ways that Coach Tim may end up using Japeth:
NOT as the featured post player on the 1-pass.
Posting a Triangle Offense for Dummies guide here would take far too long, so I’ll just use simple diagrams and screen caps to explain the positions on the court.
The 1-Pass is the “first” option of the triangle. It’s an entry pass into the post, and based on how the defense is playing you, you make your reads.
We can probably expect Slaughter to be in this slot most of the time. The guy is a monster in the post and demands a double team. Why not give it to the biggest guy in the league in the post if you can, right?
Now, if Aguilar were to be the “featured” post player and receive the ball in the 1-pass, it wouldn’t be to his strengths. He’s not a play-maker who sets up his teammates and under the triangle, bigs are taught to be passers first before looking for their own shot. It makes more sense to have Greg be the primary post big, which leaves Japeth to work off the ball, where he is a lot more mobile and a lot more dangerous.
With Greg in the low block, Japeth will spend a lot of time on the weak side of the triangle, as a threat in the pinch post – that area around the elbows.
While he does have a solid jumper, Japther is at his best when he uses his quickness and agility to attack the basket. He converted on 45% of his drives to the basket, and drew free throws on a staggering 30% of them. If Japeth is matched up against a slower forward on the pinch post, he can put the ball on the floor and attack with minimal help coming, as the other opposing big man will be busy doing his best WWE impersonation on Slaughter.
2-Pass ball screen
The 2-pass is simply the second read of the triangle offense. If you can’t get the ball in the post, you reverse it to the top of the key.
Depending on where players are on the floor, there are several reads, but one pet action that Tim Cone used tons with Purefoods was having that action result in a ball screen for a scoring guard. Back in Purefoods, that was normally James Yap – in Ginebra, we may see Tenorio, Mercado, or Caguiao in that spot.
This is where Japeth can really shine. Not only does he have a good medium range jumper, but he’s a great finisher rolling to the basket after setting ball screens. Add in the fact that he’s draws tons of fouls when doing so (40% of all B/S he draws free throws), this could be a high point per possession proposition for him.
TRIPLE POST OFFENSE
Ever since Cone used this simple, non-triangle triple post action to great success at Purefoods, we’ve seen other teams pick it up as well. Here’s a clip of Purefoods running it last conference:
Now imagine this play involving Slaughter, Aguilar, and an import? Opposing defenders will naturally be focused on Greg and the import, which could leave Japeth with clean looks of flashes in the mid-post or drop passes under the basket.
Career Year for Japeth?
This will all come down to how Aguilar handles all the pressure. At 28 years old, he’s entering his prime and it’s about time that he lives up to all the expectations. History has told us not to hope too much, as Japeth hasn’t delivered. However, I can’t help but feel that under the guidance of Tim Cone, Aguilar may finally take the next step towards superstardom.
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