The past few weeks have seen a flurry of trade activity among the 12 PBA teams as each tries to solidify their roster for the homestretch of the league’s season-ending Oppo PBA Governors’ Cup. Cyrus Baguio, Jeff Chan, Mike Tolomia, Chris Ellis, Allein Maliksi, and Ranidel De Ocampo are among the players who have switched uniforms since the conference began. But which team came out looking like geniuses? Which player benefited the most? JC Ansis (subbing for Chuck Araneta), Charlie Cuna, Carlo Pamintuan, Jutt Sulit and Noel Zarate tackle these issues in our latest 5 on 5.
1. Which recent PBA trade was the most surprising for you?
JC: The one involving Ranidel de Ocampo surprised me the most. I think everyone was caught off guard by that, even RDO himself. After all the success he’s had with TNT, I never thought they’d trade him.
Charlie: RDO to anywhere. He has been the pillar of strength up front for TNT for many years, a constant in practically every game they played and one of the reasons why the team always had a chance to win and, more so contend for a championship. He was a model of consistency for the Ka-Tropa and someone who hardly missed any games. They just traded away the best power forward of the past 10 yrs.
Carlo: Star trading away Allein Maliksi came out of nowhere for me. Ranidel De Ocampo’s trade was also a shocker but TNT has been trying to get younger in the past few seasons. They traded away Larry Fonacier last conference so it’s understandable why they’d also trade another veteran to get young talent and a pick.
Maliksi’s trade is tougher to understand because of two things. 1. They may not have much use for him now as their import plays the same position but they will be missing his scoring prowess in the Philippine Cup. They have no local small forward who could score 20 points on any given night. Second, I feel like Star rushed the trade. They could have gotten a better package for Maliksi but settled for Gamalinda.
Jutt: I’d say it was the RDO trade. I couldn’t have been the only one who thought he’d play out his career with TNT. The Tropa has always been active in making trade to get better picks. I think that’s what all of this boils down to eventually. But I just thought that – or maybe I hoped – that it wouldn’t be RDO whom they’d send out.
Noel: The Hodor trade. I never thought Ranidel de Ocampo would ever leave TNT. He’s been an integral part of the team’s success over the years and still brings the silent veteran leadership, especially in the clutch. He should still bring that to the Bolts, but will now have to split time with Cliff Hodge, Reynel Hugnatan and even Allen Durham (for now). It still will feel weird when RDO steps onto the floor wearing orange. Strange sight.
2. Which team was the biggest winner?
JC: Looking at the short term, I think Meralco came out the biggest winner. With the playoffs fast approaching, the Bolts get a veteran player who’s versatile and can spread the floor for them. RDO will be a great addition in the locker room and can provide leadership and direction to the younger guys of Meralco. Long term, I’d have to say TNT. It seems they’re focused on securing a top pick in the upcoming draft, which could end up being either Kiefer Ravena or Christian Standhardinger and that could very well benefit them in the years to come.
Charlie: Meralco. The Bolts were runners-up a year ago, have an almost intact lineup since then, including the reigning Best Import, and now have a battle-tested frontliner and an undeniable winner and leader in de Ocampo. He might be the last piece in the championship puzzle for the team.
Carlo: I think Blackwater and Meralco are the clear winners in the past few trades as they as they both get pieces who can help out right away. Blackwater has been tough to beat when their three point shots are falling and Maliksi provides them with another outstanding option. De Ocampo on the other end will give Meralco with a stretch four who can help space out the floor for Allen Durham.
Jutt: Meralco. Once upon a time, RDO was the second best player in the league (next to then teammate Jayson Castro). He’s not at that level anymore but I’d still consider his as one of the best players in the league. Maybe top 20. That said, I think Meralco gains a big piece in Ranidel. And they’ve been needing more muscle down low too. RDO can help a lot in that manner.
Noel: Blackwater. In a span of a month they acquire solid veterans in Allein Maliksi, Chris Ellis and Dave Marcelo while losing close to nothing. With the advent of Michael DiGregorio and Roi Sumang (also being inked to a nice extension), it won’t be long before the Elite live up to their moniker and the days of the doldrums completely forgotten.
3. Which team could have done better?
JC: Star could have gotten better pieces than Bambam Gamalinda and Kyle Pascual. But that’s just me. Maybe the Hotshots just wanted to give up Allein Maliksi that bad.
Charlie: Phoenix. It lost big man Norbert Torres, who, at the least has size and some potential, and a 2017 first round pick. It acquired another 2017 first round pick to replace the one it lost, and had Justin Chua for roughly twenty-four seconds, but dealt him for a 2019 second round pick from TNT. So, in the end, Phoenix now holds a 2017 first rounder, and a 2019 second rounder. For a team that’s struggling, that’s probably not what the doctor ordered for immediate relief.
Carlo: I think Star could have done better. Maliksi’s numbers might be down this conference but that’s because his minutes have also dipped. Bam Gamalinda and Kyle Pascual are good pieces but they lost a star in Maliksi.
Jutt: Star. Allein Maliksi is a talented player. He doesn’t always make the best decisions on the court. But there’s so much to work with there. Whatever anyone says, Maliksi still played in for Gilas. I think the Hotshots could have gotten more in that trade.
Noel: Rain or Shine. Jeff Chan will always be an integral part of the Elastopainters’ winning tradition and his departure (as well as that of future team leader Mike Tolomia) could have the team struggling to find it’s identity in the next few conferences. They didn’t get any younger by adding Mark Borboran and have very few off-season options. They really might have done better just standing pat.
4. Which player stands to benefit the most from the change in scenery?
JC: Allein Maliksi will finally get all the shots he wants with Blackwater. His offensive prowess will have an immediate impact on the Elite. His uncanny ability to score the basketball and create offense will be a huge boost to the Elite, who mostly and heavily rely on their import, Mike DiGregorio or Roi Sumang for buckets.
Charlie: Allein Maliksi. He will have the go-signal to shoot, which is his favorite basketball thing to do. He will not have to defer to anyone or share a position with other players similarly skilled. Blackwater will gain a scorer and outside shooter to pair with Mike DiGregorio and help put points on the board, something that the Elite struggle to do at times. A veteran with Gilas Pilipinas experience, he will have a chance to be a leader on a young team looking for someone to be at the forefront of battles ahead. It may be Allein, if he is willing.
Carlo: Individually, Maliksi will get more opportunities with Blackwater because they could use another scorer. Averaging 16 minutes and less than 9 points per game, Maliksi usage and production will surely rise.
Jutt: There are a lot of factors to be considered here. We can take a look at it from an individual point of view. Where will a player get more touches and more minutes? Or we can ask – where can he get more wins? Then of course, there’s that factor of playing for Star or Ginebra – the two most celebrated franchises in the PBA today. Overall though, I think Maliksi will benefit from his trade. Now, he won’t have to play behind the shadows of other guys. He’ll get more minutes and will be a bigger option on offense. Blackwater has a franchise player in Mac Belo but I think even Mac needs consistent support in terms of scoring. That could be Allein.
Noel: Cyrus Baguio is already benefitting. Rejoining the coach that drafted him and making an immediate impact for NLEX shows that he is a key piece to turning one of this year’s worst performing franchises around. Baguio indirectly has the Road Warriors poised for a deep run in this conference’s playoffs and he could be a fixture on the squad for a quite a long time.
5. Which player stands to benefit the least?
JC: Poor Dylan Ababou. He’ll have a tough time finding minutes on a team that has Matt Wright, Jeff Chan and JC Intal.
Charlie: This is a difficult question because a trade signifies a new beginning and a chance to shine in a new uniform. Looking over the names of those traded, and hoping they all get the chance to showcase their talents, I feel Chris Javier may still find it hard to garner minutes with Blackwater, much like during his stint at Star. This is an instance, though, that I hope to be wrong. He showed his talent at UE. Maybe he will with his new team.
Carlo: I don’t think there’s a player in all the trades who will be negatively impacted by the movement.
Jutt: After emerging as an inside option for Meralco earlier this season, Justin Chua will now play for a top-heavy team in TNT. At this point, I don’t see him earning minutes ahead of Kelly Williams, Moala Tautaa and Troy Rosario. They even have Harvey Carey and Frank Golla there. Justin had his chances in Meralco because they were thin in the frontcourt. And he used that to prove himself and earn some minutes. Now, he might to start from scratch as he joins a loaded TNT KaTropa.
Noel: Jeff Chan. The future of Phoenix is now in the hands of Matthew Wright. Unless the two can figure out a harmonious on court relationship, they will clash demanding the ball at the same spots. Chan may not be in a Fuel Masters uniform to begin next season and it will be interesting how the squad meshes for the rest of this year. Runner up mentions go to Von Pessumal and Jonathan Grey.