If you’re a usual reader at Ballers PH, then you know that I wrote a piece recently breaking down the most disappointing teams in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Bubble so far.
And if you’re not, well you can read that piece right here:
As I’ve said in the past, the 2020 Philippine Cup is one of the most competitive conferences/seasons in recent memory.
For the first time in a while, the PBA looked balanced after the news that two-top tier bigs in six-time league Most Valuable Players (MVP) June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter will be on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
Which basically means the “super teams” San Miguel and Barangay Ginebra had a partial tone down since the two teams won’t be having their superstars.
However, despite the big chance to have a deep run there are teams that have been disappointing but of course there are teams as well that capitalized on the opportunity and here are some of them.
Blackwater Elite – I just want to mention this team as this young squad has been killing it. Despite the fact that they are 2-6 and are outside the playoff picture, they have certainly been better and became more competitive compared to what they looked like last season.
No. 1 – Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
Rain or Shine has been spectacular this season with its two new young stars leading the way in Rey Nambatac and Javee Mocon.
The Elasto Painters are currently 4-3 and are sitting as the sixth seed in the playoff picture. In their first five games in the bubble, they looked like a force to be reckoned with.
Rain or Shine defeated heavy favorite Barangay Ginebra and took care of the defending champions San Miguel in its encounter.
Elasto Painters also showed incredible defense and comeback capability evident to their game against NorthPort where they held them to only two points in the third quarter.
Evident in their games Rain or Shine has been nothing but spectacular not just because of its stars but as a unit as well.
Mocon has been averaging 11.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and shooting 36% from the three-point land. Nambatac is not far off with 10.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game and has solidified themselves as the closer of the team.
The two young guns have been receiving great help as well, veteran Beau Belga is averaging 11.2 points and 6.4 rebounds, Sidney Onwubere, James Yap, Mark Borboran and Nerbert Torres are all putting up six points a game.
Although, Rain or Shine has lost its last two games against Meralco and NLEX, it is still a squad that you wouldn’t want to take lightly especially with the playoffs coming up.
Magnolia, Blackwater, TNT and Phoenix are the last four games for the Elasto Painters.
No. 2 – Alaska Aces
Young guns are ready to take over!
Despite having one of the youngest squads in the league, Alaska is showing that these young guns are ready and more than capable to hang with the top teams the league has to offer.
Alaska has secured their spot in the Quarterfinals with a record of 6-4, sitting fifth in the standings.
The Aces had a rough start in the PBA Bubble losing their first two games but in a relatively close affair.
Against the Tropang Giga, inexperienced killed them in the latter part of the game but Alaska had control in the early part of the game and it ended up one of the best games of the season as the heavy favored TNT needed a 45-point outing by RR Pogoy to barely escape with the win.
Alaska eventually got it going and got big wins over Magnolia, Rain or Shine and Phoenix.
The most recent win of the Aces came after beating NorthPort last Friday night which clinched their spot in the playoffs.
On paper, Alaska looked like one of the teams that would just be on the losing end of the game because it didn’t have established stars aside from Vic Manuel, but head coach Jeff Cariaso’s system and game plan are surely proving doubters wrong.
Manuel is leading the way with 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 45% shooting at the field, Robbie Herndon has been very surprising averaging 12.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and shooting 38% from the three-point land.
Mike DiGregorio and Jeron Teng are both putting up 11 points per game while Abu Tratter is putting up 10.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
The Aces have one game left on Monday against NLEX.
No. 3 – Phoenix Fuel Masters
Phoenix was scary without Calvin Abueva in the beginning of the PBA Bubble.
But with the return of the Beast, the Fuel Masters just became deadly.
Heading into the PBA Bubble, Phoenix didn’t know what to expect since the squad will be under the new leadership of Topex Robinson as he was named as the interim head coach but eventually promoted to the official head coach of the team.
Before the return of Abueva, the Fuel Masters were 3-2, only losing to the Kings and to TNT.
But despite the losses, Matthew Wright, Jason Perkins and Justin Chua has been playing at a high level.
After the return of the Abueva, Phoenix has won three of its last four games.
We all saw the return of Calvin in the PBA after a 16-month suspension.
But the two games against the Beermen and Terrafirma showed how complete this squad really is.
Sitting pretty as the third seed, Phoenix is definitely a title contender this season.
Wright, who is second in the league scoring, is averaging 24.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, shooting 47% at the field and 39% from the three-point area. Perkins has been putting up almost a double-double with 18.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per outing.
Abueva has been beasting in his return as he is the league leader in assists with 6.8 a game and second in rebounding with 10.3 to go along with his 14.5 points.
Chua has been productive as well with 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds along with 1.5 blocks average while RJ Jazul, who had an insane game against San Miguel, is averaging 10.6 points with 2.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
I’m calling it now; the Fuel Masters will reach the Finals.
Phoenix’s last two games are against the Elite and Rain or Shine.