It’s still early in the current conference, but NorthPort Batang Pier rookie Jamie Malonzo is already showing us why he can thrive as a positionless Swiss Army Knife in the PBA.
In Malonzo’s debut against the Meralco Bolts last July 21st, the first player he was tasked to defend was Chris Newsome. When Newsome was subbed out, NorthPort head coach Pido Jarencio then put Malonzo on Allein Maliksi, who was the hot hand for Meralco at that time.
But even while guarding the top two scorers of the opposing team, I like that Malonzo didn’t get rattled. There’s no doubt that he has the tools to be a top wing defender in the league.
First, his athleticism is off the charts. Malonzo has the vertical athleticism to go with his 6-foot-6 length, and that allows him to close out on shooters even when he needs to chase his man through multiple picks. In the video clip below, you could see Malonzo chasing Maliksi on a stagger play by Meralco. It was not an exceptional defense by Malonzo, but you could see that his athleticism and length still allowed him to put up a decent contest on Maliksi’s jumper.
But it’s not just mere athleticism that will eventually catapult Malonzo to the list of the best defenders in the PBA. We have seen players like Chris Ellis flame out even if they possess superb athleticism. Along with his physical prowess, Malonzo’s switchability is already something that NorthPort is taking advantage of.
He can switch through positions one to four, especially in the PBA where we don’t have a lot of lengthy big men. Malonzo can also effectively switch to smaller guards as you can see in the video clip below. Here, Malonzo denies the passing lane by deflecting the pass by Meralco guard Nard Pinto. He then switches onto Pinto, moves his feet well, and forces the tough fade-away jumper. It’s defensive plays like this that display Malonzo’s versatility and discipline as a defender.
Moreover, Malonzo can also be the head of the snake when NorthPort decides to employ a zone defense. We have seen NBA teams like the Miami Heat go to a zone defense where their bigger wing players are the outside defenders. In the next video clip, you can observe that NorthPort went into a 1-2-2 zone defense to catch Meralco off guard. As you can see, Malonzo was placed at the top as NorthPort wanted to take advantage of his mobility and length. Although Meralco failed to quickly close out on their last cover, this defensive play again shows Malonzo’s switchability.
How can Malonzo contribute on offense?
Malonzo’s trump card on offense is still his ability to finish on the open court. In a half-court set, that’s where his weaknesses on offense lie. The ball-handling is still not there for the rookie, as you can see in the clip below. Here, he gets lazy with his dribble and you just cannot do that in front of a good defender like Newsome.
Shot-making is also a question mark for Malonzo, at least for now. When he develops a go-to-move, along with a much-improved jumper, who knows what could happen? The clip below shows an airball from Malonzo, but you could also see a sneak peek of the stepback jumper that he is still trying to polish.
On a more positive note, I think that Malonzo knows that he is more of a hustle-type player at this early stage of his career. He may not do much scoring on offense, but his hustle and leaping ability can create second chances for NorthPort. In the clip below, Malonzo displays his second and third jump, an asset that players of his size can take advantage of to grab offensive rebounds.
All in all, Malonzo’s versatility on defense will be his main calling card. He’s a Gabe Norwood archetype on defense – lanky, mobile, athletic, and disciplined. The numbers are also showing for Malonzo as he is norming a stat line of 10.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.2 blocks per contest. You don’t usually get an all-around production like that from a rookie, although it also helps that Coach Pido is already giving him a lot of playing time.
There’s a lot of room for improvement for Malonzo, but one can already his future as an All-Star Swiss Army Knife in the PBA.