While we’re all stuck in a wait-and-see mode, one team I’m looking forward to see play is the NorthPort Batang Pier. They made some noise last conference by overcoming a twice-to-beat disadvantage against NLEX, and even took a game off eventual champion Ginebra in the semis.
All that even without Robert Bolick, who got injured midway through the tournament. Now that the season’s been postponed indefinitely, one of the silver linings is that it’s allowed extra time for Bolick to recover.
Once he gets back, there are some (myself included) that see NorthPort as a legit contender in the coming season.
|NORTHPORT DEPTH CHART|
Looking at their lineup, we can see that Coach Pido Jarencio has a lot of options at the guard spot, especially with the returns of injured guards Bolick and Jonathan Grey.
Divvying up the minutes at the off-guard spot might be a challenge, as Lanete, Taha and Grey have all proved to be worthy of playing time. Throw in Jerramy King, who once averaged 20 points a game for Columbian, into that mix and you can see how keeping everyone happy might be tough.
Minutes at the three- and four-spots are locked up between Kevin Ferrer, Sean Anthony, and rookie Sean Manganti. The funny thing is that these guys are all pretty similar – physical, scrappy, long arms, can put the ball on the floor to attack the basket and decent 3PT shooting.
These guys can switch on most one-through-four ball screens and pick up the ball handler. Or, as Coach Pido has done in the past, give teams trouble with their long arms playing in a zone defense.
They might have some problems against a guy like Vic Manuel, who can punish them down low at the four-spot. This is where NorthPort could throw in Kelly Nabong or Jervy Cruz to play in a big lineup.
(Don’t sleep on NorthPort getting Nabong back – he’s a tough player who fits the mold of a Pido Jarencio team. He’s also a talented offensive player who can beat you up inside and shoot from outside)
Of course, we can’t forget Christian Standhardinger, who just won Best Player of the Conference during the 2019 Governor’s Cup. That’s the type of production you can expect from him if given the opportunity.
This is what makes NorthPort so dangerous. Getting a gamechanger is very difficult in the first place but NorthPort has two and at probably the most important positions – point guard and center.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Bolick and Standhardinger play together much. They didn’t even finish one game together – Bolick got injured in the second half of Standhardinger’s debut against San Miguel and didn’t finish the game.
Still, we saw some glimpses of what type of system Coach Jarencio could eventually run once they have all their pieces back together.
Against San Miguel, we saw a lot of drag screens and spread pick and roll situations.
It was a very unique situation, as this particular game wasn’t only Standhardinger’s first with NorthPort, but also the debut of new import Michael Qualls. My guess is that the coaching staff couldn’t really install too much on such short notice, so they had to put in some simple sets and concepts and just let them play.
Still, the makeup of the team actually lends itself to that style of play – a quick, up-and-down pace with lots of space and outside shooting. They can play five-out and run a ton of spread pick and rolls for Bolick and Standhardinger, two of the best players to have in a two-man game.
It’s not dissimilar to what other teams have done with players like Jason Castro and Paul Lee – put the ball in the hands of your best scorer and let him loose. Bolick proved throughout the season that if you give him enough space and put him in a ball screen situation that he can make the right reads and punish the defense.
Having Standhardinger setting picks for Bolick puts the defense in a bind, as both guys are big-time threats. Commit to Bolick on the drive and he can dump it off for an easy layup for his big man. Back off a little bit and give him space, he can let it fly.
Both guys also attract so much attention that it will lead to open shots for their teammates. In the game against SMB, the Bolick-Standhardinger PNR combination led to six field-goal attempts by teammates — many of them wide open catch and shoot jumper for nine points.
Granted, they were playing San Miguel and were trying to expose Fajardo’s defense on the ball screen and force Fajardo’s teammates to compensate. This left open shots for NorthPort’s shooters.
From this game alone you can see what type of offensive game NorthPort could play in the future. Imagine trotting out a lineup of Bolick-Ferrer-Manganti-Anthony-Standhardinger, spreading the floor with shooters, and letting their two superstars run the show.
Need even more shooting, throw in Garvo Lanete to stretch the defense.
Want to add some more toughness? You got Nico Elorde and Kelly Nabong off the bench.
Whenever the season starts, this is one team that will be a headache for the traditional powers of the PBA.