After losing a grueling seven-game series against the San Miguel Beermen in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup Finals despite holding a 3-2 lead, the TNT Tropang Giga have reloaded with yet another trade that feeds off the NLEX Road Warriors.
The Tropang Giga have acquired the promising sophomore forward Calvin Oftana and big man Raul Soyud from NLEX for veterans Troy Rosario and Gab Banal. Rosario and Banal will head to the Blackwater Bossing who will in turn ship rookie Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser and Paul Desiderio to the Road Warriors.
Blackwater was essentially used as a conduit in this three-team trade given that TNT and NLEX are prohibited from direct transactions as sister teams under the MVP group.
Oftana, the NCAA Most Valuable Player in 2019, is undoubtedly the centerpiece of this deal and is already the best player among everyone involved. He averaged 17 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists for the Road Warriors during the recently concluded Philippine Cup, highlighted by a 32-point showing in their last quarter final loss to the Magnolia Hotshots.
The 26-year-old was also called up to Gilas Pilipinas for the most recent window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.
The third overall pick of last year’s PBA Draft will fit in seamlessly with the Tropang Giga and is an upgrade over the struggling Rosario. Oftana can competently play either forward spot and his shot creation ability is something that their frontcourt has sorely lacked in recent years. The core of Oftana, Mikey Williams, and RR Pogoy should help them transition into the future as their elder statesmen Jayson Castro and Kelly Williams move closer to retirement.
Meanwhile, NLEX will be compensated with Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser who was the first overall pick of the 2022 PBA Draft. He only played in eight games for the Bossing due to a fractured finger that he suffered even before his rookie campaign began and averaged 11.1 points and 3.5 rebounds.
The 6’8 center is promising, but is only three years younger than Oftana and nowhere near the star that he already is. This should set back the strides that the Road Warriors made last conference and it would not be a surprise if Ganuelas-Rosser winds up on TNT sooner or later. Their head coach Yeng Guiao recently stepped down and rejoined his former team, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, in a move that was rumored to have been fueled by his frustration over trades of this nature.
As usual, Blackwater has ended up with the short end of the stick in this deal. Rosario’s journey has now gone full circle as he too was once acquired by the Tropang Giga in a “feeder” trade after he was picked second overall by the Mahindra Enforcers (Now the Terrafirma Dyip). The 30-year-old Rosario has not been the same player since the onset of the pandemic with his numbers and athleticism taking a steep decline from his career year in 2019.
Given how favorable this transaction appears to be for TNT, the PBA has received backlash for the nth time due to its sister teams that have turned into feeders for their main franchise. The Tropang Giga already received Williams and Poy Erram over the past two years from NLEX prior to the suspicious acquisition of Oftana.
The 2021 PBA Finals Most Valuable Player Williams was selected fourth overall by TNT during last year’s draft using a pick that was received via a trade with NLEX that, coincidentally, originally belonged to Blackwater. It was a typical one-sided move that netted the other two teams involved a plethora of role players while TNT received an NBA G-League veteran who is now arguably the best player in the PBA today save for June Mar Fajardo.
Erram, the 2018 PBA Defensive Player of the Year, was also acquired by the Tropang Giga from the Road Warriors more than a year earlier in February 2020 in a lopsided swap for reserve forward Anthony Semerad and two future draft picks.
TNT has now reloaded and are ready to take on the San Miguel Beermen and their import Thomas Robinson in the upcoming Commissioner’s Cup. Parity is now clearly a thing of the past for the league that proudly brandishes that it is the “oldest play-for-pay league in Asia”, but at least the games are more interesting when there are imports involved and especially when the souped up Tropang Giga and Beermen square off in a playoff series.