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GOOD ENOUGH FOR GILAS: PAUL LEE

11:23 PM February 21, 2014

2014 is going to be a BIG year for Philippine basketball. This year will mark the first time two of our Philippine National Teams (Men’s and U17) will march onto the world stage and compete at the highest level of international hoops. Our very own Gilas Pilipinas squad will go to Spain and play in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, while the Philippine U17 Team, coached by Jamike Jarin, will troop over to Dubai for the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships.

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It’s been reported that the Gilas Pilipinas brain trust is keen on tapping more players to join the pool, with the magic number pegged at 24. That means that there are still around eleven slots open. Take note that this does not YET include the two naturalized prospects of the team — Javale McGee of the Denver Nuggets and Andray Blatche of the Brooklyn Nets. We’re still not sure if their respective naturalization processes will finish in time for Gilas to include their names in the final 24-man pool.

As of this writing, the 2014 FIBA World Cup Draw is done, and the Philippines has been grouped along with Senegal, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Greece, and Croatia. That, in my opinion, is the second-toughest group of the lot, and making it into the second round will certainly be the tallest task coach Chot Reyes has ever faced. Needless to say, he’ll need all thew support he can get.

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This is the last piece in a series of posts detailing the players who can be part of that pool. For each named individual, we will look at the good things he can bring to the pool, his probable role should he get named to the final Gilas lineup, and the possible match-ups he will have at the Asian and world levels.

Today, we’ll talk about someone who has never been part of Gilas. To my knowledge he has, in fact, never been part of any national team. Still, given how well he has performed in the PBA, he is surely one player worth considering for the national pool. To close out this series of posts, we’ll talk about none other than Rain or Shine’s Paul Lee.

What he brings to the table:

There are many things to like about the former UE Red Warrior, but the things I love the most are his ability to create and his absolute fearlessness.

When people talk of international basketball, two things inevitably dominate the conversation — size and shooting. Teams with a good combination of both those factors tend to find success. This is why a slew of naturalized big men have dominated the FIBA Asia landscape in the past decade or so (e.g. Joe Vogel and Jackson Vroman of Lebanon, JR Sakuragi of Japan, Quincy Davis of Taiwan, CJ Giles of Bahrain, etc.). This is also why a country’s best shooters tend to be mainstays of its national team (e.g. Hamed Afagh of Iran, Enver Soobzokov of Jordan, Cho Sung-Min of Korea, Wang Shipeng of China, etc.).

There is one aspect, however, that often gets overlooked, but is actually vital in helping a team succeed. I’m talking about having a “creator” in one’s team. This is the kind of player who usually has great handles, great court vision, and great ability to finish from anywhere on the floor. I remember coach Rajko Toroman using the term “freelance” to refer to this unique skill-set. Successful teams usually have great size and shooting, yes, but many of them also have “freelancers” who are not confined to working within the bounds of the coach’s system.

Samad Nikkhah Bahrami is that guy for Iran. Fad El-Khatib is that guy for Lebanon. Daoud Musa is that guy for Qatar. Takuya Kawamura is that guy for Japan. Lin Chih-Chieh is that guy for Taiwan.

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During the Gilas 1.0 days, that role was reserved for Mark Barroca (I remember him dominating in the 2009 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Jakarta, where Gilas finished fifth with a 5-2 record). JV Casio was the conventional playmaker-shooter hybrid, while Barroca was the one who played the role of the “unpredictable guy” (kind of like what Tyreke Evans does for New Orleans, only Barroca was a lot effective).

Given the current Gilas pool, I believe Lee could fit that role to a T. He could be to Gilas what Bobby Joe Hill was to the 1966 Texas Western Miners. Are the opponent’s perimeter defenders shadowing our snipers? Put Lee in to break the defense down and open up the perimeter. Is the other team clogging the lane with big men? Put Lee in as an added outside threat who can also put the ball on the floor. Is the other team pressuring our PGs in the backcourt? Put Lee in as an added ball-carrier.

Basically put, Lee is the proverbial wrench or curve ball to the enemy’s otherwise airtight gameplan.

Why he is a good fit for Gilas: 

Despite what the last play of Game 3 of the 2014 Philippine Cup Finals might suggest, Lee is great at using screens from up top to 1) beat his man and penetrate, or 2) free himself up for a jumper. Lee isn’t really known to be a pick-and-roll specialist in the same way LA Tenorio is, but the former Bacchus Energy Raider can still utilize those high posts with extreme effectiveness.

Another thing that makes Lee a good fit is his streakiness. Remember Jimmy Alapag hitting nearly a handful of threes against Korea in the 2013 FIBA Asia tourney? Well, I can easily imagine Lee doing that, too! Remember that six-game stretch this conference when Lee hit 22 threes? TWENTY TWO THREES in just 6 games, people. That’s nearly four a game. Imagine him draining those treys with impunity with “Pilipinas” emblazoned on his chest. #Awesomeness

(The caveat, though, is he had 7 games this conference when he missed ALL his threes. Hey, there’s a flipside to everything, right?)

Potential match-ups:

FIBA-Asia: Ali Mahmoud (LIB), Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (IND), Guo Ailiun (CHN)

FIBA World Cup: Louis Adams (SEN), Dontaye Draper (CRO), Nick Calathes (GRE)

Lee’s biggest adjustment against these guys is, well, he has no international experience, and he has never really played against such high-caliber competition in a compressed amount of time. Having said that, however, I also believe Lee would be more than a match for Mahmoud, Bhriguvanshi, and Guo, while potentially being a pesky foil to guys like Adams, Draper, and Calathes.

Aside from the guys in this series, who else could be good enough for Gilas Pilipinas? Off the top of my head, I’m thinking maybe Joe Devance if he had the proper papers? Hit us up in the comments below.

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