2021 PBA Governors’ Cup Preview: The Nowhere But Up Teams

Original photos via PBA Images

With the 2021 PBA Governors’ Cup starting in a couple of days, we did a quick preview of each team and answered one burning question for their respective campaigns. We’re going to start things off with the four teams that finished in the bottom of the standings last conference and failed to make the playoffs as a result.

(Advanced stats are from Stats by Ryan on DribbleMedia.com, an advanced stats and metric platform for Philippine basketball)

Terrafirma Dyip

Import: Antonio Hester

Notable Additions: Alex Cabagnot, Justin Melton, Kyle Pascual

Notable Losses: Rashawn McCarthy, James Laput

Terrafirma’s Team Stats (2021 Philippine Cup)

Offensive RatingDefensive RatingNet RatingStanding
100.1 (7th)105.6 (11th)-5.46 (9th)4-7 (Failed to make the playoffs)

Burning Question: Can Matt Ganuelas-Rosser sustain his gains?

Juami Tiongson was the face of Terrafirma’s surprisingly good run last conference, and why shouldn’t he be? Tiongson led his team in points and assists, and he was the driving force of their back-to-back wins against San Miguel and Ginebra. Roosevelt Adams and Philip Cahilig also provided solid depth in the frontcourt, while veteran big man Aldrech Ramos was the team’s second-highest scorer with his 13.8 points, hitting a stellar 44.1% clip from the three-point line (3.1 attempts per game).

But the Terrafirma player that’s most notable to observe in the upcoming conference would be Matt Ganuelas-Rosser. For the first time in his five-year PBA career, Ganuelas-Rosser averaged beyond 20 minutes per game — 28.4 in fact — and he made the most out of that opportunity. Prior to last conference, he only averaged 1.4 assists and 0.5 steals. But as he saw a drastic increase in his playing time in just his first conference with Terrafirma, Ganuelas-Rosser then led his team in steals (1.2) and placed second in assists (3.8). 

Ganuelas-Rosser was also the only Terrafirma player who finished with a positive rating in defensive box plus/minus (DBPM). He accumulated a 2.1 rating in DBPM, ranking him 7th in the league in that category last conference. Ganuelas-Rosser has the mobility and athleticism to go with his 6-foot-4 frame, making it possible for him to guard all positions with the exception of “big” big men like June Mar Fajardo or Greg Slaughter. His defensive versatility will surely come in handy for Terrafirma as he will be tasked to defend the brilliant imports from other teams.  

Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters

Import: Paul Harris

Notable Additions: Sean Anthony, Sean Manganti, 

Notable Losses: Vic Manuel, Michael Calisaan

Phoenix’s Team Stats (2021 Philippine Cup)

Offensive RatingDefensive RatingNet RatingStanding
95.5 (9th)102.9 (10th)-7.43 (11th)4-7 (Failed to make the playoffs)

Burning Question: Is it playoff or bust for Phoenix?

The answer is a resounding yes. When you have this much talent on your roster, making it to the playoffs shouldn’t even be a goal — it’s a requirement. Matthew Wright, who finished 12th in scoring (15.1 points) and 2nd in assists (5.3) last conference, is at the peak of his abilities. Jason Perkins, who was arguably the Fuel Masters’ most consistent player in the All-Filipino Cup, was the league’s 7th-highest scorer (16.3 points). Chris Banchero has averaged double-digits in scoring for three consecutive seasons prior to last conference. In addition to these three talented players, a highly-credentialed import in the form of Paul Harris will be reinforcing them in the upcoming Governor’s Cup.

Trading away Calvin Abueva was a mistake. Wright was the star, but Abueva was the catalyst of that 2020 Phoenix squad that finished second in the regular season and was just one win away from booking a ticket to the Finals. Phoenix eventually found out that Abueva’s activity and production on both offense and defense are difficult to replace. Vic Manuel, the player they received in exchange for Abueva, fell short of just about every expectation.   

That was the reason why trading Manuel in the offseason and getting Sean Anthony’s services in return was an easy decision to make for the Fuel Masters. Anthony is a workhorse especially on the boards and on defense. Many people forget that it was just two years ago when he bagged the Defensive Player of the Year award, while also being named to the Mythical First Team. On offense, Anthony has improved as a playmaker — he averaged 4.4 assists in the past three seasons, including a career-high 5.5 assists in 2020. 

Anthony may not be able to reach the elite production of Abueva, but both of them are very similar in how they approach the game. It’s intriguing to find out if Phoenix will whip out a small-ball lineup of Banchero, Wright, Anthony, Harris, and Perkins to close out games, but it’s a certainty that they are expected to make it to the playoffs this conference. 

Alaska Aces

Import: Olu Ashaolu

Notable Additions: Mike Tolomia

Notable Losses: Gab Banal, Jvee Casio, Barkley Eboña

Alaska’s Team Stats (2021 Philippine Cup)

Offensive RatingDefensive RatingNet RatingStanding
99.4 (8th)102.1 (9th)-2.68 (7th)3-8 (Failed to make the playoffs)

Burning Question: Could Alaska’s wing players match the progress of their big men?

It was a forgettable All-Filipino campaign for Alaska last conference, having finished with only three wins and failing to book a playoff appearance. But there were a few bright spots for the Aces, and one of them is the fine play of their big men. Their two top scorers were their two centers — Yousef Taha (13.6 points) and Abu Tratter (12.6 points). Rodney Brondial, who has been with five different teams in his seven-year career, produced career-highs of 8.3 points and 8.5 rebounds. 

As their big men continue to impress, Alaska’s perimeter players have a lot to prove in the upcoming conference. It doesn’t help that Gab Banal, their best three-point shooter from last conference, has now inked a deal with the TNT Tropang Giga. Jvee Casio, their long-time reliable ball-handler, is now headed to Blackwater. But the decision that the Aces made to get Mike Tolomia in the offseason could prove to be a low-risk, high-reward move. Tolomia is coming off a career-best conference that saw him put up 11.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists for Blackwater. To get Tolomia’s services, Alaska gave up an aging Casio, along with Barkley Eboña — who, despite his potential, found himself behind Taha, Tratter, Brondial, and rookie Ben Adamos for playing time in the team’s frontcourt. The Aces didn’t lose much in the deal and they would gain a whole lot more if Tolomia continues his upward trend.

Along with Tolomia, Alaska’s wing depth also includes Maverick Ahanmisi, Robbie Herndon, Jeron Teng, and Mike DiGregorio. These players will need to space the floor effectively for Alaska this conference, considering that their import Olu Ashaolu is more comfortable in operating inside the paint. Ashaolu previously played 12 games across three separate stints for the NLEX Road Warriors and averaged 24.9 points. But he gets his points almost exclusively from the inside — Ashaolu only hit 28% of his 28 total three-point attempts in those three stints with NLEX. That’s why the Aces’ perimeter players have to step up and hit their triples to give Ashaolu more leeway to do his thing inside the paint. 

Blackwater Bossing

Import: Jaylen Bond

Notable Additions: Rashawn McCarthy, Mike Ayonayon, Jvee Casio, Barkley Eboña

Notable Losses: Mike Tolomia, Simon Enciso, Marion Magat

Blackwater’s Team Stats (2021 Philippine Cup)

Offensive RatingDefensive RatingNet RatingStanding
89.6 (12th)108.9 (12th)-19.3 (12th)0-11 (Failed to make the playoffs)

Burning Question: Can they get a win?

“When you hit rock bottom, you have nowhere to go but up.” 

Any progress, however little, will be a gain for a Blackwater team that hit rock bottom last conference. They failed to win a single game and placed dead last in offensive rating, defensive rating, and net rating. As if things couldn’t get any worse entering the upcoming conference, Blackwater then traded away their top scorer and top playmaker (Simon Enciso), their second-best playmaker (Mike Tolomia), and their best defensive big man (Marion Magat). 

This conference, Blackwater could only pin their hopes on their import Jaylen Bond, who formerly played for the Westchester Knicks in the NBA G League. They could also hope that Baser Amer would bounce back from a dreadful performance last conference. But other than that, Blackwater will face little to no expectations in the upcoming Governors’ Cup.

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