Unlike the previous seasons or Philippine Cup in general, this year’s Philippine Cup looks to be more open than recent history.
This season is the first season in a long time where I feel like there are about four to five teams that have a legitimate case to win it all.
This is mainly because of the fact that six-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo and top tier big man Greg Slaughter are both on the sidelines and are absent in the PBA Bubble.
However, there have also been some big disappointments so far. Let’s take a look at who has been underwhelming and have failed to reach the expectations fans, critics and media had for them.
No. 1 – NLEX Road Warriors
In the 2019 Governors’ Cup, NLEX looked like a team that could win it all.
This was mainly because of its two great imports in the conference, Olu Ashaolu and Manny Harris. But a big part of it as were the stellar performance of Kiefer Ravena, who averaged 15.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.1 steals as well as the performance of veteran leader JR Quinahan, who averaged 12.0 points and 4.0 rebounds a game.
With those kinds of performances fueling the two leaders of the Road Warriors, despite having a heartbreaking loss last conference and despite the departure of Poy Erram. With the return of another star Kevin Alas from injury and the addition of highly praised rookie in Mike Ayonayon, a lot of people expected them to do enough to be within the middle of the pack.
Unfortunately, eight games into the season, NLEX is outside of the playoff picture with a 3-5 win-loss record.
Individually, the Road Warriors players are putting up decent numbers.
Ravena is averaging 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Alas is putting up 16.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists, and Quinahan is contributing 13.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists.
Role players have been contributing well, too. Jericho Cruz is putting up 13 points and three assists while Raul Soyud is having one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 9.8 points and 6.7 rebounds.
The biggest dilemma of NLEX is the incapability to pull off a comeback and close out games in the fourth quarter.
In their five losses, three of those were lost by as much as 10 points. Against Barangay Ginebra, 92-102, against Blackwater, 88-98 and against Meralco, 92-101.
Against the Kings, NLEX were only down by eight entering the fourth quarter but were unable to play consistently on both ends. Against the Elite, the Road Warriors were able to turn it on offensively in the fourth but were unable to make stops on the other end.
Lastly, against the Bolts, 7:28 left in the game, with NLEX down by only two points, 84-82, it allowed a staggering 17 points in the last five minutes of the game.
The other two losses of the Road Warrior came after once again failing to step up in the fourth quarter, losing to Magnolia, 100-103, and to Phoenix, 110-114.
Despite the disappointing start, NLEX fans shouldn’t hit the panic button yet as their team still have a small shot at the playoffs, and it seems that they are already starting to get its rhythm going.
The Road Warriors just won their last two games after beating heavy favorite, TNT Tropang Giga, 109-98, and most recently, the surprising Rain or Shine, 94-74.
No. 2 – Terrafirma Dyip
After a big rookie season by CJ Perez, fans were expecting that Terrafirma would have a huge season with the absence of the two best centers in the league.
The 26-year-old combo-forward averaged 20.8 points, 7.4 rebounds. 3.4 assists, and 1.9 blocks in his first year in the PBA and took home the Rookie of the Year and the Scoring title, a feat that hasn’t been done since Eric Menk did it back in 1999.
Because of his beast like numbers, and the addition of the top overall pick of the regular portion of the 2020 PBA Draft, fans are expecting the Dyip to be that team that surprises everyone with their young core and their flashy plays.
Instead, they’re dealing with a harsh reality check as Terrafirma are yet to have a win in the PBA Bubble.
They’re at the bottom of the standings with 0-7 record. The closest they ever got to winning a game was against Alaska, where they lost 96-99.
Perez is certainly not the reason as he is currently averaging 25.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.5 steals. He is the current league leader in steals per game and sitting at second place in points per game behind Matthew Wright’s 26.6 points per outing.
The team’s biggest problem is that no one else has shown up to help Perez.
Their second-best player so far is Juami Tiongson, who is averaging 12.1 points and 2.4 assists, top pick Roosevelt Adams hasn’t made his presence felt as he’s only averaging 9.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game with 32% shooting from the three-point line.
Rashawn McCarthy and JP Calvo, who were both expected to be Perez’s main help, have been missing as well. McCarthy is only averaging 8.1 points and 3.5 assists per game. Calvo isn’t helping the case as well as he’s playing worse than his rookie year, averaging four points and 1.8 assists per game.
Terrafirma still have four games left against Blackwater, Meralco, Barangay Ginebra and NLEX. However, it’s not looking good.
No. 3 – NorthPort Batang Pier
Last conference, NorthPort pulled off a huge upset over the top seeded NLEX in the quarterfinals, beating the Road Warriors twice with Christian Standhardiner leading the way and eventually winning the Best Player of the Conference award.
With the absence of Fajardo and Slaughter, the six-foot-eight Fil-German was expected to put up MVP like numbers this season. The Batang Pier were even being considered as well the “Dark Horse” this season.
Right now, it seems that the NorthPort that we expected to see this season, is very far from the NorthPort that we’re actually witnessing. They have the second-worst record in the Philippine Cup at 1-6.
The Batang Pier lost their four first games and then won against Terrafirma, but then quickly got back on the losing track.
NorthPort has been a very confusing team this season.
Some days, the Batang Pier looked like a team that could hang with some of the best squads in the league. I mean, just watch their games against Rain or Shine and Phoenix, those were very close games.
However, there were also games where NorthPort looked like a team that simply couldn’t hang with the rest of the league.
They got dominated by the TNT Tropang Giga, and also lost to fellow low ranked team Blackwater.
Standhardinger’s individual numbers have been impressive with 18.8 points and 11.4 rebounds with 4.1 assists. He is the league leader in rebounds currently. He also has great help from Sean Anthony who is averaging 14.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists.
Garvo Lanete has been a low-key bucket as well with 14.0 points a game and Kevin Ferrer has been putting up 11.3 points per game as well.
It’s really hard to point out one reason as to why NorthPort has been horrible. I’ve seen fans put the blame on head coach Pido Jarencio, even demanding his resignation from the team.
I really can’t say that it’s his fault. but a proven fact is that their defense has been nothing short of horrible.
In their six losses, they gave up over 100 points four times. Against TNT, they gave up a 30-point quarter twice in one game. In their other two losses, NorthPort gave up 17 points in the fourth quarter. Eight happened with under three minutes left to play.
In their closest game of the season, against the Elasto Painters, the Batang Pier only scored two points in the third quarter and gave up 24 points in the final quarter.
NorthPort will be in action tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. against Alaska as part of the third day of quadruple headers. And they will take on Magnolia, San Miguel and Meralco in the rest of its schedule.
What do you guys think? Do you think these teams could still turn it around? Do you think Coach Pido should be fired? Sound off below in the comment section!