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Stats Don’t Lie: The Rocket Refueled

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Imagine a 6’4” forward who graduated from one of the biggest basketball programs in college basketball. Add above-average athleticism, decent basketball I.Q. and an explosive offensive game. Throw in a beautiful actress/model/host for a wife. You’d think you’d have your classic PBA superstar right?

Yes… but not quite.

JC Intal is a good basketball player. But ask any PBA fanatic, and I’m pretty darn sure you wouldn’t classify him as a “superstar”, like you would a Marcio Lassiter and Jeff Chan – guys who are asked to do what superstars normally do – which is score. That’s pretty much summed JC’s career so far – a supreme athlete, gifted with superb talent, but one who hasn’t figured it out quite yet.

He owns career averages of 6.78 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 1.2 apg in just 18 minutes per game. The numbers are ho-hum, and don’t necessarily scream BUST, but, for many people, it is somewhat disappointing given his “potential”.

Don’t look now though, but it seems that he’s finally found a home at Barako, and is putting his talents to good use. As of March 23, JC has averaged 13.7 ppg 4.5 rpg and 2.25 apg this conference.

These numbers are also comparable to other scoring wings when you compare per-36 figures:

PLAYERPPGRPGAPGUSG%eFG%Net Rating
Intal15.65.72.423.0%45.9%3.1
Lassiter12.44.32.219.1%41.8%5.2
Chan14.24.12.821.0%42.7%1.6

(shout out to our buddies from HumbleBola.com for these stats)
*USG% is the percent of possessions that a player uses, while he’s on the floor
* Net rating = how many points per 100 possessions a player contributes to his team while on the floor

You might be saying, how can you compare Intal to Lassiter/Chan – those guys are flat-out SHOOTERS. I can’t argue with you there – those guys have their reputations for a reason. The reason I made this comparison is because they’re all asked to do the same thing, which is score.

Furthermore, one of the reasons why JC’s game has picked up is his outside shooting. In this conference so far, Intal’s hit 35% of his shots from behind the arc, which is far above his career average of 26.4%. Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Stats Don't Lie: The Rocket Refueled    (For the record, Lassiter and Chan are shooting 30.8% and 32.3% from 3 this conference)

What’s even more impressive than the improvement in his 3-point shooting, is that he’s hit 44% of his pull-up jumpers – often regarded as one of the weaknesses of his game.

Moreover, it isn’t as if this is just a one conference blip. Last All-Filipino, JC put up per-36 numbers of 16.0 ppg, 6.4rpg, and 2.0 apg with a usage rate of 23.2%, a figure just slightly above that for the Commissioner’s Cup.

With all this in mind, does this mean that Intal is finally ready to accept the mantle of being a “superstar”? Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Stats Don't Lie: The Rocket Refueled    The stats suggest that yes, The Rocket is ready to take on a bigger role. His only problem is that he’s playing on Barako, widely regarded as a “farm team” of San Miguel. The only other “star” on the team is Sol Mercado, who’s actually only played two games for the Energy, and has bounce around the league more times than a star probably should.

On one hand, you can argue that JC’s situation is simply a case of a good-stats-on-a-bad-team body of work. After all, somebody has to take the shots. Why not Intal? Even a dude like Reil Cervantes was SECOND in the league in scoring last conference, while playing for the PrideSorento … Carnival. Shouldn’t it be easy to put up numbers on a team full of “cast-offs” and “projects”?

On the other hand, you can say that this actually makes Intal’s job that much harder. Imagine being Marcio Lassiter, who is sometimes the FIFTH option on offense if he’s on the floor with Fajardo, Santos, Cabagnot, and Lutz. Or what about Chan?

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Stats Don't Lie: The Rocket Refueled    He’s got fellow Gilas members Lee, Norwood, and Belga to help ease the scoring duties.

All that being said, I think what we’re seeing is a transformation in JC’s game, but perhaps on the wrong team. Yes, JC’s being allowed to develop and grow his game, but with his demeanor and style of play, he’s best-suited not being the focal point of an offense. Think of somebody like a Scottie Pippen or Kawhi Leonard. Somebody who’s good enough to be the main man, but doesn’t have to be.

Imagine JC strutting his wares at GlobalPort as the third option behind guards Romeo and Pringle ,or wreaking havoc in the open court with Calvin Abueva and Cyrus Baguio on the wings. He can be a game-changer on the right team, in the right situation. Unfortunately, a superstar he is not, but that’s okay. He’s taking the right steps towards making his mark on the PBA.

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