|Jeff Chan in his first game with Ginebra (photo courtesy of ABS-CBN News)|
Under normal circumstances, the deal looks fair for both teams. First round picks are pricey in today's standards, and not all teams are willing to part with this as more up and coming talented and athletic players from the amateur ranks will be joining the league in the coming years. Phoenix, in its effort to build a young core around sophomore Matthew Wright, would have two first round picks next year while Ginebra acquires someone who can free up the interior for Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar to frolic.
Eight months ago, the league was rocked with controversy causing a major dent in its popularity. Then Commissioner Chito Narvasa approved a deal that gave powerhouse San Miguel Beer the first pick of the 2017 draft, using this to snag Fil-German Christian Standhardinger, in lieu of a couple of reserve players - Ronald Tubid, Jay-R Reyes and Rashawn McCarthy plus SMB's 2019 first round pick. http://sportingpage.blogspot.com/2017/10/narvasas-formula-for-pba-relevance.html
|Christian Standhardinger drafted 1st overall by SMB (photo courtesy of Inquirer.net)|
The move brought divisiveness within the Board of Governors and threatened the opening of the 2017-18 PBA season. Eventually, Narvasa resigned and incoming Willy Marcial, in an effort to regain the trust of the basketball public, immediately set up a 5-man selection committee (made up of legal counsel Melvin Mendoza, technical team members Junior Benga and Roscelle Fabie Teotico, technical director Eric Castro, and Marcial himself) tasked to ensure that all trades to be made will be fair and just. Said move was greeted positively by the fans, obviously sick and tired of the continuous lopsided trades that seemed to favor the bigger market teams.
Two of their first decisions happened to involve Talk 'n Text. The Ka-Tropa worked out a deal to acquire Jericho Cruz from Rain or Shine in lieu of their first round pick. They later added rookie Sidney Onwubere and reserve Kris Rosales to get the committee's approval. At that time, Cruz, a promising shooting guard from Adamson, and whose best games were when Yeng Guiao was still ROS head coach, had his numbers plummet to all-time lows brought about by his disagreement with coach Caloy Garcia. His playing time dwindled, and his marketability went down, despite the promise he displayed in his early years with the team under Guiao.
|Jericho Cruz in action for TNT vs NLEX (photo courtesy of ABS-CBN News)|
Yet, the committee felt Cruz's value was worth more than just a first round pick, hence, the fillers. A month and a half later, TNT snagged Global Port's point guard Terrence Romeo and reserve center Yousef Taha for Mo Tautuaa (the 2015 first overall pick), TNT's 2020 first round pick, and 2021's second round pick. Assuming Taha is worth the value of the second round pick, that would equate to Romeo's value equivalent to Tautuaa and a first rounder. Again, the committee made sure that adjustments in the deal were made to make it appear fair.
|Terrence Romeo, donning his #7 jersey for TNT (photo courtesy of ABS-CBN News)|
Fans were generally happy with the decisions made by the committee. While Cruz and Romeo may have come out overvalued, it's not everyday when the bigger market teams would come out in the "losing" end of trade deals. "You want a marquee player, then you have to earn it," as what the PBA was telling everyone.
Fast forward two months after and we see Chan getting traded for a first rounder. The Negros Sniper was averaging 11, 5 and 4 for Phoenix this conference, better numbers than Cruz prior to leaving ROS. The previous season, Chan averaged 11.5 ppg, 3.0 boards and 2.3 dimes while Cruz was doing 10.2, 4.3 and 2.5. In the recent PHL Cup, Chan averaged 13.73, 3.91 and 4.36 while Cruz, in his 3 games with ROS in the conference, came out with a paltry 2.0, 1.3 boards, and 1.6 feeds. Cruz's numbers eventually improved when he moved to TNT.
One would wonder what is the basis of the selection committee when deciding the real value of a player. If Cruz, whose numbers are lower than Chan's, would command a first rounder and 2 fillers, then how come Chan is worth much less? Is age a factor? Chan is 34 years old while Cruz is 27. Perhaps. But then, won't experience effectively balance things out? Chan proved his championship pedigree when he was named Finals MVP in the 2012 Governors' Cup and played an equally crucial role with Cruz in the franchise's annexation of its second title in the 2016 Commissioner's Cup.
Potential? Many claim that Cruz is a future Gilas player because of his intensity and passion to the game while Chan's play is on the decline. Again, that may have a point but then, can't basketball IQ be factored in as well? Chan has been a facilitator for both Guiao and Alas, normally acting as a point forward while setting up his teammates. As Tim Cone mentioned in Chan's first game with Ginebra last night, his presence and basketball IQ were factors in his wanting to have Chan aboard the team.
Bottomline, when reviewing trade transactions, it's imperative to look first into the tangibles as these are undisputed and factual. The other intangibles are secondary, albeit, may carry consideration. To be objective, one has to look at numbers and figures to measure the value of a player. Weighing more on potential, age, impact, etc. will lead to subjectivity, the very reason why the committee was formed to mitigate these.
It would have been easier had the committee vetoed the deal and Ginebra add a couple of fillers - maybe a Jammer Jamito and a Paolo Taha (who was recently traded to GBP for Julian Sargent) or a Jett Manuel, to sweeten the pot and replicate the Jericho Cruz benchmark. As such, it becomes confusing not just for the team officials but for the fans as well what would constitute the trading of a first round pick. Without any established guidelines, the PBA will continue hearing endless debates on future decisions they'll be making and would be hard-pressed, as what Narvasa experienced, to rationalize their decisions.
In the NBA, a way of determining the worth of a player is through his compensation package. Which is really logical because the player's value is determined by how much a team is willing to pay him. Chan is receiving the max salary of P420k, while Cruz is presumed to be receiving slightly less than the max. Assuming that this was part of the criteria, along with their statlines, then we can safely say that Chan's worth is much more than Cruz. So the question now is: how come Ginebra got him for less?
Similarly, when the committee made a decision that a mid-tier star like Jericho Cruz is worth more than just a first round pick, then that should have been used as a minimum benchmark for future trade deals involving a first rounder. Forget about the past decisions made by Narvasa, Chito Salud, Sonny Barrios, Noli Eala and Jun Bernardino before him, the creation of the selection committee made it possible for a new standard to be created when determining trade deals. Sadly, despite having only handled less than 10 transactions so far, the committee overlooked their previous decision on the Jericho Cruz deal when they decided in the Chan transaction.
Some would claim that so long as the two teams find nothing wrong with the transaction, then it shouldn't be a problem. Why would one team allow itself to be put in a disadvantageous position when their objective is the same? But wasn't that the same scenario in the SMB-KIA deal? That both teams have agreed into this trade, even if practically every knowledgeable basketball follower knows that this was a lopsided deal favoring the Beermen? That's the reason why there's a PBA Commissioner - to ensure that these deals are fair and just, not just to protect both teams but, more importantly, the league in general.
With gate attendance down, and its popularity getting eroded, the league has been trying to lure its fans back. They've come out with barangay programs that allow the players of the past and present to mingle with their fans in their communities. They have come up with more out-of-town games to gain better reach. They've allowed the return of physicality to generate further excitement and made sure that the game is much shorter with less fouls and better continuity.
Yet, they also have to be wary of the increasing popularity of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), which, despite lower quality games and experiencing organizational growth pains, are generating support from the grassroots. They may not be a threat to the PBA now, but in a couple of years, they may end up eroding the PBA's fan base.
|The MPBL in action (courtesy of the MPBL FB page)|
Even more if the PBA is still regarded as a league that favors the bigger market and more popular teams. Credibility is non-negotiable, and we saw that when Messrs. Leo Prieto and Rudy Salud were running the league. But as long as the perception that the PBA is partial to a particular company or companies, then no amount of barangay visits or provincial games can make the fans follow the PBA as enthusiastically as they did from the 70's to the 90's.
Narvasa was sacked because of the SMB-KIA deal. That's a major writing on the wall - fans do not want preferential treatment for certain teams. They also want parity - when all 12 teams are given opportunities to win PBA championships. Imagine what a Standhardinger could have done for Columbian Dyip's (KIA's new name) cause this conference? But if trade approvals remain subjective and lacking in basis and criteria, then the PBA unfortunately may not be able to get their heads above water soon.