Loyalty Swap: The Three-Headed Scoring Monster
February 2, 2013 by Sydrick Salazar
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I don’t know what to think of the trade that happened last week. There were two trades but I’m going to focus my attention on the Sol Mercado trade. The trade saw the Sol Train going to his old PBL mother club GlobalPort Batang Pier (PBL team name is Harbour Centre) alongside rookies Kelly Nabong and JP Belencion and also with reserve forward Yousif Aljamal. For the Bolts, they will acquire Rey Guevarra, Vic Manuel, Josh Vanlandingham, and the 2015 first round pick.
This is because I thought the Bolts won the trade.
Remember at the start of the season when people thought it was a good idea to trade either Macmac Cardona or Sol Mercado for either Arwind Santos or Jay Washington? This thought happened because we thought Cardona and Mercado play alike which is the same sentiments we share in Santos and Washington.
Now you put Mercado in a three-way dance for the go-to-guy spot with Gary David and Willie Miller?
Last season, the Powerade Tigers understood that Gary David was their go-to-guy. Whether it’s Marcio Lassiter, Doug Kramer, Jayvee Casio, or any random Tiger holding the leather, they will all look for El Granada to bail them out. In the last Philippine Cup, there were times when David was scorching hot but instead of him taking the game changer, it was Willie Miller who unloads the clutch play. Whether you hate Miller or love him, he earned that right to attempt in the dying seconds because after all, he is a two-time MVP. This is why in my previous PBA-related post I had David exchanging clubs with Mercado.
But now you have three of them… in one team.
By the way, GlobalPort has also enlisted the services of Cebuano spitfire Reed Juntilla in the offseason as if their offensive firepower isn’t enough.
Again don’t fret Meralco fans. Ryan Gregorio chose Cardona and Captain Hook is not a bad choice. Cardona when forced can pile of 20+ points in an instant and is also an underrated all-around player (he is third in his team in assists). There were reports that Cardona is bound to go to Air21 but those rumors are baseless considering the Bolts offered Ronjay Buenafe instead of Cardona.
And by the way, the Bolts are still with Buenafe – a high volume scorer despite playing time constraints. It was only last season that the former EAC General averaged in single digits (he played for Rain or Shine who at that time saw the entry of Paul Lee and the rise of Jeff Chan). And if and when the Meralco-Air21 trade pushes through, the team could have the much improved John Wilson and the block-livid Noy Baclao… so all is not lost here.
Also, because Mercado plays the combo guard position, this could also signal the playing time rise of Chris Ross and Paul Artadi. Ross was injured much of last season but has shown that he can be an effective defender and orchestrator. Same goes for Artadi who barely played more than a quarter because Mercado was hogging the minutes. This will also give small forwards like Mark Borboran and Sunday Salvacion somewhat increased playing time but this will all depend on how Cliff Hodge, Reynel Hugnatan, and Jay-R Reyes effectiveness on helping out their import Eric Dawson.
All the accolades are centered on Solomon Mercado – last conference’s league leader in points and assists. However, you also need to check out what the Bolts got. Vic Manuel is a combo forward that can hit the shots whether they are near or far from the basket. Manuel had a string of 20-point games with GlobalPort but one thing about him is that he rarely plays well when sharing the spotlight with either David or Rabeh Al-Hussaini. In some ways I see him as a not-so-bulky version of Nelson Asaytono. Meanwhile, Rey Guevarra is like a Coke Zero version of JC Intal. In last season’s Governor’s Cup, the high riser exploded to the delight of many and while he put up decent numbers in the Philippine Cup, he could evolve under Ryan Gregorio’s tutelage. As for Josh Vanlandingham, hopefully he blossoms under RG. He has been in the league for some time now but except for a game where he got red-hot, he needs to do more. He is cross between John Arigo and Rhoel Gomez with the way he’s playing in the PBA and as a 6’4 off-guard, the last thing he needs to do is become like Brixter Encarnacion (a big guard/forward who struggled throughout his career).
For the Batang Pier, they get Mercado – a high volume combo guard just like Willie Miller – who can hit the long balls and finish strong in the lanes – just like Gary David. But aside from him the Bolts gave up two second round picks and a benchwarmer. Yousif Aljamal should be pleased that he has been let go by the MVP squad because when he played for Barako Bull, he was averaged in double figures. In some ways, he can play as the replacement of Manuel but he needs to get his confidence back (remember that his entry to TNT displaced Vic Pablo which means he could be that good). Same for JP Belencion who is in a bind at the moment because if he can’t display his talents well enough to get noticed by Junel Baculi, they he’ll likely return to the PBA D-League. Sure, people are saying that Kelly Nabong is also in the mix. Nabong is a second round shocker that gave the Bolts the much needed boost at the big man positions. Kelly is good and all but there is a reason why he is a late second rounder. He needs to prove to the league that he is not just a flash in the pan and unearth magnificent plays despite the presence of newly-acquired Japeth Aguilar, Jason Deutchman, Jondan Salvador, Romel Adducul, Alex Crisano, Bogart Raymundo, and import Justin Williams.
GlobalPort’s talent acquisitions should continue as the season wears down because I can’t really see them sticking with this kind of lineup. But for their sake, I hope these moves translate into wins. With a starting core of a defensive-minded Williams and four offense-induced players (with Japeth) should make up for an exciting GlobalPort squad. Mikee Romero has stressed that this is their time to shine and hell, maybe they can get their former stars like LA Tenorio, Chico Lanete, Jerwin Gaco, Rico Maierhofer, and Jayson Castro to join their squad… if he’s the stars really bring luck on him.
And oh yeah, Meralco got Batang Pier’s 2015 first round pick. While I can see Kiefer Ravena joining the draft, two years is a long time to seek clarity on what GlobalPort gave up. All I know is that as of now, Macmac Cardona was given more room to operate and Solomon Mercado’s workspace just got restricted.
Or maybe it’s not his but either The Thriller or El Granada?