Greatness is a relative standard, that at times the MVP conversation overlaps with the discussion of the best player in the league. To some, this misconstrues the concept of an MVP, which typically encompasses a regular season. The best player in the league is more often than not determined over time and solidified with multiple MVP trophies.
This overlap, though, is at times warranted. In the case of the PBA, where June Mar Fajardo had been the PBA MVP for the past six seasons, it was awarded thanks to his consistency in conferences with and without imports. An unfortunate right tibia fracture put an end to his streak of dominance and opened the door for a new MVP to emerge while he continues to return to pre-injury form.
For the first time in almost a decade, the PBA will not have a traditional big man as the league MVP since the four nominees for PBA Season 46 are all perimeter-oriented. Mikey Williams, Scottie Thompson, Robert Bolick, and Calvin Abueva are in the running for their first MVP trophy, with each player having his respective case for being judged as PBA Season 46’s best player,
Mikey Williams could become the first rookie MVP since Benjie Paras back in 1989, but him winning the award will give him the sole distinction of being the only rookie MVP to lead his team to a conference title.
Williams was pretty much a man amongst boys during the 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup and his stellar performances over the course of that conference will certainly give him a strong case for league MVP. The fourth pick in the 2021 PBA Draft also carried over his strong play in the 2021 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup, where he was second to Robert Bolick in terms of points per game for locals. That kind of consistency puts him head and shoulders above his peers and certainly could do the same for him on a whole-league basis at least for PBA Season 46.
Like Williams, Scottie Thompson was a champion and a PBA Finals MVP, but this time it was during the 2021 PBA Governors’ Cup. Thompson has been known for his relentless energy off the boards, which carries over to the rest of his game. That he plays for the league’s most popular franchise, and well at that, should mean something too.
During Barangay Ginebra’s recent title run, the Best Player of the Conference during the 2021 Governors’ Cup impacted the game in various ways. From his rebounding to his big shots, Thompson took over when it mattered despite being overmatched physically and led Ginebra to continued success in a conference that should pretty much have their name on it.
A right knee ACL tear put a pause on Robert Bolick’s promising career, but he came back with a vengeance in 2021. While the NorthPort Batang Pier made the postseason for only one of the PBA’s two conferences as a team, Bolick was the constant driving force, win or lose.
As the league leader in assists per game (8.2) and top five in both points (19.1) and steals (1.4), the former DLSU Green Archer and San Beda Red Lion was not only the primary option, but the engine for the Batang Pier on both ends of the floor. Counting on him was a given and the opportunity to make an impact during this crucial moments contributed to his growth. The wins should come in the succeeding seasons (hopefully) but at this point, Bolick’s value is undeniable.
Meanwhile, Calvin Abueva was instrumental in the overall solid showing of the Magnolia Hotshots in PBA Season 46. Paul Lee was the primary option on offense, while Ian Sangalang manned the middle, so Abueva was a combination of both, depending on what his team needed.
The Best Player of the Conference in the 2021 Philippine Cup pretty much set the tone for his squad even if he came off the bench in certain contests. That Abueva fit seamlessly regardless of how he was deployed is not just a testament to his on-court abilities, but also to how it translates to his team’s success. He missed some time in the 2021 PBA Governors’ Cup and while the Hotshots were the top team in the league for that conference, the former San Sebastian Stag’s absence had its influence on their early postseason exit.
The MVP conversation for PBA Season 46 has been a constant one despite other developments in Philippine basketball at times stealing the spotlight. Regardless of who wins though, the future of the league is in good hands and these PBA MVP nominees are a testament to that.