The UAAP season is done and now that some seniors have played out their last years of eligibility, they’ll be looking to enter their names in the PBA draft. Of course, getting drafted is a totally different story. Not only does one have to contend with other stars from the UAAP, but they have to deal with solid prospects from the NCAA and CESAFI. And let’s not forget the ABL (two top 5 picks – Stanley Pringle and Chris Banchero – plied their trade in ABL before entering the PBA) and Fil-foreigners from all over the globe.
That said, it would be prudent for a PBA draftee to honestly look at his strengths and weaknesses to see where he can improve in order to improve his draft stock. Here’s a look at some players who stand a decent chance of hearing their names called out by Commissioner Salud next year.
Strengths: If there’s one word to describe Almond it would be that he’s a GUNNER. We’re talking about a guy who launched 8 or more 3s six times last season. At 29.4% he wasn’t particularly accurate, but that wasn’t entirely his fault. With Thomas Torres out a majority of the season, Coach Sauler had no choice but to insert Vostoros at the point (more on this later). A lot of times, Almond was forced to throw up poor shots at the end of the shot clock, bringing down his percentages.
Counting just catch-and-shoot (spot-up) 3-pointers, Vosotros shot a very respectable 36.1%. This number goes up to an even 40.0% if left completely wide open. He also shot 38.5% on kick out passes from the post, so he’s a proven floor spacer. If Vosotros can sustain this type of shooting, he could carve out a role as sniper off the bench in the pros.
Room for improvement: As good as he was at making spot-up shots, Vosotros was a poor off-the-dribble pull-up jump shooter. One way to help improve his %s in the eyes of scouts would be to take less pull-up jumpers per game. Barely standing 5’10, Vosotros will have a hard time launching a quality shot against bigger and taller defenders in the pros. Last season, Almond shot just 15/72 on dribble pull-up jumpers for a paltry 20.8%.
As mentioned above, Vosotros was also miscast as a point guard last season. For a guy who had the ball in his hands a lot, he only averaged 2.1 assists per game last season. This is a poor figure considering that he had four other pro prospects on his team – Norbert Torres, AVO, Jeron Teng, and Perkins.
Over the course of the season, Almond only assisted his teammates 6 times (they ended up 6/15) when using a ball screen. With the pro league relying heavily on ball screens, the lack of creativity in the ball screen could put a limit on Vosotros’ stock amongst pro coaches.
If Almond wants to make a serious run at getting drafted, he will have to make a full-time conversion to the point guard position and show that he can setup his teammates.
Strengths: Talk about making a quantum leap last season. After averaging just 3.7 PPG and 2.6 RPG last season, Rosario ran away with the Most Improved Player award as he upped his averages to nearly a double-double. Granted he didn’t quite have the opportunity to showcase his talents last season with Ray Parks Jr. and Jean Mbe in town, but nevertheless, the improvement in his numbers are impressive.
Troy’s biggest strengths are that he is a superb athlete who beat other big men down the floor (10/11 in fastbreak situations) or up in the sky for putbacks (54.2% in second chance opportunity plays). He also uses his quick first step to beat other big men off the dribble, registering a Points Per Play (PPP) of 0.78 on drives to the basket on 46.7% shooting.
With National University’s offense also relying heavily on post play, there were several chances for Troy to go 1v1 in the post. Troy delivered, also posting a 0.78 PPP on isolation post plays, finishing 47.1% of such plays.
Some stats that stand out for Rosario was how he was used in ball screens. Over the course of the season, our MIP had 22 ball screen possessions as a roll-man, popper or 3rd party, scoring on 9 of 22 shots for a respectable 42.9%. Standing 6’7” with an above-average athleticism, his versatility would be a major asset for a PBA coach, as he could be deployed at the 3, 4 or 5 positions.
On the defensive end, Rosario would make an easy transition to the pro game, not only because of his athleticism but also due to his basketball IQ. Let’s not forget, while guys like Paolo Javellona and Alfred Aroga were being heralded as the “Kiefer stopper” and the “Block Mamba”, Rosario quietly made the right rotations and was one of NU’s best help defenders. Four years under the meticulous Eric Altamirano will do that for you and surely the PBA will take notice.
Room for improvement: There are two areas that Rosario can work on to improve his draft position.
First is his ball-handling. As good a finisher as he was on drives to the basket, Troy was also rather turnover prone when attacking, turning the ball over at a rate of 20.0%. Being 6’7” made it easy for help defenders to poke the ball away. Being stronger with the ball and making solid moves towards the basket instead of taking useless dribbles could bring this number down.
Second, Rosario needs to make solid improvements on his outside shot. He finished just 5/30 on 3s last season and shot just 57% from the free throw line. The good news is that he actually shot 44.2% from mid-range – a solid figure for a big man. He has good mechanics on his shot, as he gets good lift from his legs when he takes a jumper, so there’s no doubt that some off-season work could help bump up his 3-point and free throw percentages.
Strengths: One half of the dynamic duo for the Eagles, Newsome was a steady presence for Coach Bo Perasol last season. The do-it-all wing only had 3 single digit scoring games last season, while shooting a solid 46.5% from the field and drawing 5.6 free throws per game. That latter figure was boosted by an impressive 33.0% foul drawn rate on drives to the basket.
What stood out for Newsome last season was how he showed he actually had a very respectable outside jumper. In season 76, the knock on Chris was that he was just a very good athlete and nothing more. Last year, he proved all the critics wrong, as he shot 37.9% on pull-up jumpers a league-high 52.0% on catch-and-shoot spot-up jumpers.
Chris also showed that he was pretty effective in using the ball screen to score, as he posted a PPP of 0.91 on 46.2% shooting on those plays. With numbers like this, I can imagine hearing Newsome being a top-5 pick next year.
Room for improvement: Yes, Chris shot 50.0% from 3 last year, but that was on a 28 attempts overall, coming out to just under two per game. Of course, this is a double edged sword. On one hand, this could mean that he’s taking all the right shots and never forcing poor outside shots. On the other hand, it is highly unlikely he can sustain this level once the number of attempts go up.
While Chris did have a huge 33.0% foul drawn rate on direct drives to the basket, he only finished 33.0% of drives when fouls weren’t called. Fouls won’t be as easy to come by in the PBA, which is known as one of the most physical leagues around the world. Newsome will have to develop a floater or be able to finish through contact to make an impact in the pros.
As athletic as Newsome is, he isn’t a great off-ball defender. There were more than a few times that he’s been caught ball watching and his man slipped in for a backdoor cut or an offensive rebound. This may sound like nit-picking, but when its comes to the PBA, every little detail counts. Coaches’ patience will run short for guys who lack fundamentals, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Chris can brush this up.