August 19, 2012—After an interesting season ended with three different teams capturing the three conference championships, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) corralled its core once more on the pursuit of harvesting young bloods in this year's draft.
Expectations were met as the Petron Blaze Boosters hooked "The Kraken" June Mar Fajardo with the first overall pick. The dominant big man lifted the ceiling up for teams planning to invest on the names under his toes as this year's harvest would be one of the most talent-laden classes in Philippine basketball's history.
Who won and which teams are on the verge of scrambling down? Let's find out.
Winner: June Mar Fajardo and the Petron Blaze Boosters
Petron Blaze were already winners prior to the draft when they stole the opportunity to pick first from the struggling Air21 Express franchise. The result was a 6'10", 23-year-old, dominant big man out of the University of Cebu. The pick was expected and was timely at the same time as Petron's men in the middle, Dorian Pena and Danny Ildefonso, were smashed by father time right between their joints.
Fajardo will be able to provide both inside presence and defense with his size. There would be no question that Fajardo will take a starting job instantly as support role players Noy Baclao and Rob Reyes will eventually stay in their nutshells this coming season. The Petron Blaze roster is deep with their 1, 2, 3 and 4 spots which makes Fajardo the answer to their aching center position.
Loser: Alaska Aces picking Calvin Abueva
"The Beast" is his moniker and he truly deserves that. Playing for an elite college team in the country and dominating stat sheets each game, it would be an easy guess that Calvin Abueva would be selected within the top 5 of this draft. But certainly not by the Alaska Aces. The team acquired PCU standout Gabby Espinas last season and he poured out an "A" game through the remainder of the Governor's Cup conference. Sadly for the Aces, he was taken too late for last season.
As the new season dawns, there is no doubt that Espinas would once again shine. The point is Abueva plays the same position as Espinas, who have a decent supporting cast. What the Aces are missing is a franchise player at the power forward position which may come in handy if they have selected Cliff Hodge or maybe Dave Marcelo. That would make a strong interior with Sonny Thoss, Mac Baracael, Espinas and Hodge playing the 4 and 5 spots, as the guards are equally distributed for the Aces.
Winner: B-Meg Llamados acquired Aldrech Ramos
The Barako Bull Energy franchise surprised the proceedings when they picked Aldrech Ramos, a big man from Far Eastern University, fifth overall. Later that night, the Commissioner's Cup champions B-Meg Llamados dealt their newly acquired guard Sean Anthony and a second-round pick to Barako Bull in exchange for Aldrech Ramos. That was a bold move, but a smart one. Ramos would boost the Llamados frontline who lost Joe Devance to injury. He would be able to provide the support to Marc Pingris and Yancy de Ocampo. Ramos is a good player at the pick and pop and hits jumpers which makes him deadly at the perimeter.
Winner: Rain or Shine gambling on Chris Tiu
His draft application was highly anticipated. The former Smart Gilas skipper made it into the big league at the right time, and at the right place. Whatever Barako Bull and Ginebra might be planning in skipping out Tiu, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters won a heavy card. The franchise who won the third conference championship is definitely the most underrated when it comes to roster depth, and they just proved that after etching their name on a chip trophy. Chris Tiu brings in the leadership of a true captain and the toughness of a solid rock. With his sweet shooting and passing abilities, the lanes will now be opened for Gabe Norwood's launching pad.
Now that the draft was done and training camp begins, all eyes look forward to September 30 for the opening of the Philippines' elite basketball league, the ultimate judiciary of who are this offseason's winners and losers.