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So what gives, Magnolia?!
The Hotshots made a seemingly baffling trade, roster-wise, but an excellent one, asset-wise, to hoard a surplus of all-star caliber guards in their line-up.
Well, it is well known that their latest acquisition, Chris Banchero, is a talent coveted by many teams; and the Pambansang Manok practically gave up nothing for him because the players wished in return by the Alaska Aces for their starting guard are not part of their rotation anyway.
It’s safe to say they took advantage of an opportunity, although it might took a while for them to cash in as the 2019 PBA Governor’s trade deadline has come and gone last November 6 without them making additional moves.
The arrival of the 6’1” Banchero adds to the pile of the already crowded guard spots of the Hotshots as they already have the undersized but explosive trio of Gilas troopers 6’0” Paul Lee, 5’10” Mark Barroca, and 5’11” Jio Jalalon. Add to the mix relievers 5’11” Justin Melton and 6’0” Peter June Simon.
The Hotshots’ starters in the other positions are 6’3” Rome dela Rosa manning the small forward spot; their import 6’4” Romeo Travis playing power forward, and 6’7” Ian Sangalang at center. They still do have bigmen Marc Pingris and Rafi Reavis, but these two are no longer the spring chickens they were when they dominated the league.
The Hotshots have a “problem” whenever the opted to play a three-guard lineup, especially in this conference. Sitting down any of their forward or center starters in favor of a guard would increase their already disadvantage in size against some of the bigger teams like San Miguel and Ginebra.
Banchero and his ability to play defense adds more options in Magnolia’s small ball play as he can play both guard positions and is the best option size-wise to be utilized at the “3” position in place of dela Rosa being the tallest guard now, although, they will still be undersized if they do so.
The presence of Travis covers this deficiency in this conference. The Philippine Cup, however, would be a different story.
More trade options
The arrival of Banchero also gives Magnolia more trade options.
It used to be elite bigmen who were the most coveted asset by a team. In today’s game, elite guards who can shoot from a distance and can defend are now the most “wished for” players.
By adding Banchero, the Hotshots can now prepare a different mix of players to trade for the bigger player they want to fit into their system.
They can afford to lose two of their guards for a forward or a center and still have a competitive guard line-up.
Let’s examine some of the possible trade partners that might target an elite guard:
(1) Phoenix Fuel Masters. The Fuel Masters are struggling to be consistent on the floor and elite backcourt personnel might be the answer. Calvin Abueva, who might be finally on his way back to the hardcourt as he is slowly gaining the good graces of the PBA Commissioner’s Office and the fans, might have to be given up, but hey, one has to give up value in order to get value.
(2) Columbia Dyip. This is another team who could really use an elite guard. They have a generational talent in CJ Perez and have an excess of forwards who play the same position. They might want to exchange some of their forwards, perhaps combine it with a first round pick in the upcoming draft, for a couple of the Magnolia elite guards.
(3) Rain or Shine. Their elite guards, Gabe Norwood and James Yap, are advancing in age. This team might want a quick reload at the guard position. They could package a first round draft pick in exchange for a couple of the Hotshots’ guards.
A lot, including this author, thought the Hotshots were not done dealing before the trade deadline. We were mistaken.
We all have to wait and seewhat these Pambansang Manok are cooking in their sleeve.
For now, Magnolia will now have to ride their small line-up, 2013 second overall pick Sangalang, and 2015 Governor’s Cup Best Import Travis to defend their title.
A trade, however, has to be inevitably made as there are too many mouths to feed at the guard position.
There are only 96 minutes available in a game from the guard spots plus another 12 minutes or so from one of the forward spots.
According to basketball.realgm.com, Jalalon is averaging 24 minutes a game and started 5 of the 8 Hotshot games he played. Barroca’s averaging 32 and started 4 games. Lee is averaging 28 and started 4 games. Banchero, before his transfer, is averaging 30 and has started 6 of the 8 games he played for the Aces.
At this rate, someone from the Magnolia guard crew will go home at the end of each game unsatisfied with the minutes he played and the effects it might have on his brand.
What should the Hotshots do?
Are they really serious in this Small Ball business? Well, the Boston Celtics are doing the unimaginable this year by starting a really small but who can shoot up frontline with Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward, both around 6’7”, at the forward spots along with Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, or Kemba Walker at guard. They combine that with an undersized center in Daniel Theis, listed at 6’8”. They are currently 5-1 and co-leading the Eastern Conference as of writing of this piece.
Maybe they want to flip one of their guards for the number one overall pick in the upcoming draft, who is prospectively Ateneo Blue Eagle Isaac Go.
Your guess is as good as mine.
By Armando M. Bolislis
Banner art by Don Ray Ramos