The Philippines has always been known as a country that produces great guards. Whether it’s in the distant or recent past, it’s clear that guards have really dictated and dominated the landscape of Philippine basketball. In recent times, however, the balance of power has seemingly shifted, what with the entry of guys like June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter, both hulking slotmen who can stamp their class on a game at will.
In this piece, I will take a look at the top ten big men right now in the current PBA season. Instead of making distinctions between centers and power forwards, I just opted to use the term big men since many of the guys below alternate between the two positions anyway.
These are based exclusively on the Player Efficiency Ratings as calculated by PBA-Online.net, and the stats are accurate as of the end of the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup.
10) Raymond Almazan (ROS) – 8.2ppg, 6.3rpg, 56.5 FG%, 26.0 EFF
Almazan’s numbers have increased from his rookie campaign last season. His scoring, rebounding, and shooting numbers have all gone up, but, it seems, at the expense of his perceived specialty — rim protection. Still, 8.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, not to mention 56.5% FG shooting, for a guy who averages under 20 minutes a game? Imagine if he played upwards of 30, right?
9) Bryan Faundo (BLA) – 10.4ppg, 6.5rpg, 49.5 FG%, 80.9 FT%, 27.7 EFF
You might scoff at the fact that Faundo is playing for a team with maybe no better option at the slot, but take into consideration the fact that this is a guy who was, by all intents and purposes, on his way out of the league. He played a career-low 6 games last season for Ginebra and showed no signs of being able to put up the numbers he has this season. 10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game? Not too shabby.
8) Marc Pingris (PUR) – 8.5ppg, 8.3rpg, 2.8apg, 54.5 FG%, 29.6 EFF
Despite the fact that his club has gone 0-2 in terms of defending their conference titles, Pingris still proves, day in and day out, that he can mix it up. The perennially undersized PF is a born fighter and fans see this in every game. That’s what makes him so endearing and so easy to cheer for. Also, when you consider how this guy has played a total of about 184 games the past three seasons (not counting his stints with Gilas), it’s worth wondering why he hasn’t broken down yet.
7) Japeth Aguilar (GIN) – 10.6ppg, 7.2rpg, 1.4bpg, 52.1 FG%, 30.0 EFF
Japeth’s numbers have taken a hit compared to what he was producing last season, but his current efficiency rating is still the second-highest of his career. This in spite of the fact he is playing 7 minutes less this season, too. Impressive, sure, but, as has always been the case with him, it seems like he’s just too gifted for this kind of performance. The raw skill Japeth possesses should make him a constant MVP-type player, but we’re all still waiting.
6) Cliff Hodge (MER) – 10.3ppg, 8.4rpg, 2.3apg, 1.2bpg, 30.6 EFF
How does one go from making 25 threes last season to just 9 makes in nearly the same amount of games this season? I dunno. Ask Cliff Hodge. I had high hopes that this kid would make a big jump this season after showing a lot of versatility in the 2014 Govs’ Cup, but just hasn’t been able to meet that expectation. I love the fact he is grabbing more rebounds and blocking more shots, though. He’s gone from a reliable stretch 4 to a more prototypical inside force for Meralco.
5) Arwind Santos (SMB) – 14.9ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.7apg, 1.4bpg, 1.8 triples per game, 31.9 3pt%, 32.8 EFF
Santos was awesome in the Philippine Cup, winning the Finals MVP for San Miguel Beer, but he was lackluster in the Commish Cup, where his shooting numbers went south in a big way. His yearly numbers are still good enough to place him in the top five, but he has to play really well in the third conference to stay among the top tier.
4) Ranidel de Ocampo (TNT) – 15.5ppg, 5.9rpg, 2.0apg, 2.2 triples per game, 47.4 FG%, 72.8 FT%, 32.9 EFF
Speaking of stretch 4s, nobody in the PBA is better than RDO, who just recently bagged the Finals MVP plum as TNT copped its first title since the 2013 Philippine Cup. In the last four games of that classic 7-game series with ROS, RDO normed 28.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 block, and 4.0 threes per game, all while shooting 43.2% from beyond the arc and a blistering 58.9% from the floor. Wow, right? If he were around 4 inches taller, he may just be in the NBA already.
3) Asi Taulava (NLX) – 12.8ppg, 10.2rpg, 2.2apg, 49.4 FG%, 34.5 EFF
Despite being 2 years removed from 40 years old, The Rock just keeps on trucking. Heck, he seems just as agile and spry as he was in the early 2000s. Asi is like the PBA’s version of Timmy D, only without as many titles. I have a feeling he has so much gas left in the tank that he’ll play till he’s nearly 50. The 16 year veteran is just the epitome of timelessness.
2) Greg Slaughter (GIN) – 15.8ppg, 11.2rpg, 1.5apg, 50.9 FG%, 39.0 EFF
I am loving how Gregzilla is developing. He’s aggressive in getting to his spot, and he’s getting the ball more. He’s still awkward as hell, but when that kind of awkwardness produces a daily double-double, who’s complaining, right? I hate the fact his blocks have sunk from 1.4 per game last season to barely 0.9 this year, but, overall, he is still playing better than in his rookie campaign. The next step for him is to display the leadership that will push Ginebra to another title. Oh, and please let him play for Gilas again.
1) June Mar Fajardo (SMB) – 17.3ppg, 12.9rpg, 1.6apg, 2.0bpg, 55.2 FG%, 70.9 FT%, 43.6 EFF
Literally and figuratively, Fajardo is just head and shoulders above everyone right now in the PBA. The Cebu product has just been able to come into his own and use all his gifts to make an indelible mark on the league. And he’s only in his third season!!! Despite SMB’s poor showing in the Commish Cup, Fajardo continued to get his numbers, and that will pad his chances to repeat as MVP, though I’m sure he’d rather win another crown for the Beermen. Oh, and I would love for him to four a fearsome frontline foursome together with Greg, RDO, and Andray Blatche for Gilas in #FIBAAsia2015.
Enzo Flojo has been an official blogger for the PBA site for some time now. He is the only Asian columnist on FIBA.com and appears regularly as an analyst on ABS-CBN Sports + Action. Read more of his stuff on the country’s top basketball blog, HoopNut.com, and on Rival.ph.
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