For all their talent and resources, the TNT Tropang Giga have been unable to replicate the recent success of the San Miguel Beermen. Since winning the 2015 PLDT Home TelPad-PBA Commissioner’s Cup, TNT are yet to win a title while the Beermen have won seven PBA championships in that span of time. The Tropang Giga have made three finals appearances since, but lost each time to either San Miguel or Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
The light at the end of the title drought may soon be within reach, thanks in part to Mikey Williams.
No, this Mikey Williams isn’t the high school star that lights up social media and rubs elbows with the likes of LeBron James and Drake. Although they have sported similar hairstyles, this Mikey Williams brings a solid offensive game that may very well bring another title to TNT sooner rather than later.
As the fourth overall pick in the 2020 edition of the PBA Draft, Williams entered PBA Season 46 with huge expectations after stints in the NBA G-League, the ASEAN Basketball League, and the MPBL, among others.
His debut was slightly delayed after he arrived from the US last July 13 and had to go through the government-mandated quarantine protocols. When he was cleared, Williams needed just a couple of games to get acclimatized to the rigors of the PBA.
After sitting out of the Tropang Giga’s first game, Williams struggled in his first two games, making six of his 29 field goal attempts for a total of 16 points. Once the butterflies disappeared, things started to click for Williams.
Since his 9-point performance against Phoenix Super LPG, Williams would go on to finish in double-figures in six of the next seven games, with his feel for the PBA becoming more evident with each contest.
The 29-year old also put on a masterful performance against the NLEX Road Warriors, who had the chance to draft him but opted to select San Beda’s Calvin Oftana. The former Cal State-Fullerton Titan dropped a career-high 36 points in the 100-85 win, where NLEX clearly couldn’t stop his attacks. Thanks to his athleticism, the dribble drive offense so far has been a fit for his strengths and it’s no surprise to see how the game can be easy for him even at this stage in his career.
WIlliams’ current averages of 19.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 steals through nine games at times make it hard to believe he’s still a rookie in terms of PBA years, as he is clearly a man amongst boys. He easily leads all rookies (and perhaps even TNT) in nearly every statistical category, with Northport Batang Pier’s Jamie Malonzo leading the rookies in rebounds and blocks.
Despite his contributions, Williams still has room to improve. While he operates mainly as a scorer, he will have to learn how to balance that with running the offense more, especially with all the leeway that TNT has given him. In the game against Northport Batang Pier, Williams was actively passing off drives and throwing cross-court passes to open shooters. That some of his Tropang Giga teammates missed some of these open shots unfortunately undermined his playmaking.
Against Northport, Williams missed his first three shots before making a contested layup with 1:53 left in the first quarter. His performance certainly reflected that of TNT as they struggled right out of the gate as well. From there, he proceeded to make nine of his 15 shot attempts to finish with a game-high 29 points, with his 3-pointer to close the half handing the lead back to TNT. It wasn’t surprising that once he found his shot in the second half, the Tropang Giga pulled away en route to a 102-92 victory (and clinched the top seed in the quarterfinals in the process).
He can certainly heat up especially when he gets his inside game going, but his streakiness can pose risks to the ball movement that comes with the dribble drive. Moving forward, his shot selection will have to be better especially as teams get a better handle of his abilities and more game tape to scout him. Once the Filipino-American develops more chemistry with his teammates, things will open for him and the rest of TNT.
Perhaps the scoring role was given to him by Tropang Giga head coach Chot Reyes, but there will come a point in time where diversifying his game will make a much tougher cover. It’s one thing to dish off passes to teammates after driving, but juggling that with executing the plays to a T? That’s another matter altogether but with Williams being a willing passer with decent ball security (2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season), it shouldn’t be that difficult.
Nevertheless, the arrival of Williams has also been a boon for Jayson Castro, who has now slid into a bench role that allows TNT’s second unit to be nearly as dangerous as the first. At 35, Castro isn’t getting any younger, but having Williams take on more of his minutes will allow one of Asia’s best point guards in the last decade to prolong his career and hopefully collect a few more championships along the way.
Mikey Williams’ emergence at this point in PBA Season 46 without a doubt changes TNT Tropang Giga’s fortunes. As to how and if it will result in championship hardware remains to be seen but the early returns have been promising.