Like the NBA Draft, the PBA Draft will change the lives of the 66 applicants hoping to have their name called on draft day. The right team and situation could spell the difference between a long and fruitful career and a stint in the league that ends not with a bang but with a whimper.

In the end 52 prospects heard their name called during the draft proceedings held at Robinson’s Place Manila, with Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser going to the Blackwater Bossing with the top overall pick.

Perhaps the biggest storyline surrounding the 2022 PBA Draft other than who the top selection will be was about who wasn’t even there on draft night itself. Justine Baltazar initially submitted his name for this year’s draft only to withdraw it a few days later, citing an offer overseas. As of this writing, reports are coming out that he will suit up for the Japan B.League’s Hiroshima Dragonflies.

Baltazar certainly checks all the boxes every PBA team needs and would have been a shoo-in for the first pick in this year’s draft. The former DLSU Green Archer expanded his game with each passing season and when his college career ended, the three-time UAAP Mythical Five member became a two-way player that would fit well in any situation he’d be put in.

The likes of Ricci Rivero and Juan Gomez De Liaño also skipped this year’s PBA Draft likely for the same reason, while Sedrick Barefield, Keith Datu, and Jeremy Arthur were unfortunately left out of the draft due to technicalities.

The PBA may not be doing themselves any favors when they make trivial matters get in the way of developments that could contribute to the betterment of Philippine basketball. “Let players play” is the right approach, especially when the question of “Is he a Filipino?” has been answered without a shadow of about. Clearly, the Fil-sham issue of more than two decades ago still continues to loom large over the league, but there seem to be bigger concerns to consider within the league.

As a result of the exclusions for this year’s PBA Draft, it would be fair to say that there were slim pickings in this year’s class. Nevertheless, some teams were still able to make savvy moves given what they had. Aside from drafting Ganuelas-Rosser, Blackwater was able to draft former DLSU Green Archer Kurt Lojera with the ninth overall pick, while the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters made a run at perimeter players like Encho Serrano (Round 2, Pick 7), Tyler Tio (Round 2, Pick 2), and Enzo Joson (Round 2, Pick 11).

Shoring up depth was clearly on the agenda for some teams, with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, grabbing Gian Mamuyac and Shaun Ildefonso with their first two picks in the first round. The Elasto Painters would eventually select three more players in the next two rounds, filling up a veteran-laden roster that will look to make some noise this season. The Fuel Masters could also fall under this category, as Serrano, Tio, and Joson will likely come off the bench, but Tio’s shooting and improved playmaking and the energy and efforts of both Serrano and Joson could make them valuable contributors from Day One.

For the players, the PBA Draft will be one of the highlights of their career. Others may have plied their trade in other professional or even semi-professional leagues, but getting into the PBA means they’ve made it to what is ideally the country’s top league.

From the league’s end, though, work still needs to be done to address the brain drain and the barriers to entry that may be outdated for 2022. All of that has stuck out like a sore thumb thanks to the exodus of top amateur players over the past few years for better opportunities. Nonetheless, the league remains capable of doing so. They’ve tried to make some changes over the last few seasons, but some issues need to be addressed to ensure league parity and keep the door open for Filipinos who want to play in the PBA.

As it stands, the only constant is change, and the PBA must evolve amidst the trying times lest they get left behind and drag Philippine basketball with them.