A Quick Look at the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Efficiency Landscape

Original photos via PBA Images

With the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup playoffs having just begun, let’s take a quick look at how the teams fared in the eliminations. To do this, we’ll categorize teams into four groups based on the teams’ offensive and defensive ratings:

  1. Quadrant 1: Bad Offense with Good Defense (The ROS Zone)
  1. Quadrant 2: Good Offense with Good Defense (The Sweet Spot)
  1. Quadrant 3: Bad Offense with Bad Defense (Yikes)
  1. Quadrant 4: Good Offense with Bad Defense (Mike D’Antoni’s Corner)

Simply put, team offensive and defensive ratings are just the points scored or allowed per 100 possessions, while net rating is the difference between the two. Offensive rating is the best measure of how efficient a team’s offense is, while defensive rating is the best metric to see how good a team’s defense is at preventing the opposition from scoring.

You may check out the numbers here.

Quadrant 1: Bad Offense with Good Defense (The ROS Zone)

Rain or Shine Elasto Painters

Let’s put it this way: the only way for Rain or Shine to win is to make their opponent shoot as badly as they do. But if there’s any team in the league that can pull that off, it’s them. Coach Chris Gavina employs the cumulative length of Gabe Norwood, Javee Mocon, and Jewel Ponferada in a fantastic way, which led to them being the second best defensive team in the PBA after the elimination round.

More often than not, the Elasto Painters are able to stifle their opponents’ offense. The swing factor that will decide their fate is whether they can put the ball in the hoop. In their six wins, their offensive rating was 97.8 (1.2 points below league average). That mark would put them at a decent eighth in the league, a far cry from the putrid 82.7 offensive rating (16.3 points below league average) they posted in their five losses. 

Quadrant 2: Good Offense with Good Defense (The Sweet Spot)

TNT Tropang Giga

TNT boasts the league’s premier defense and leads the PBA in net rating, meaning they beat teams more than any other team in the league. With Jayson Castro and RR Pogoy performing well below what we have come to expect, the rookie, Mikey Williams, pretty much willed the Tropang Giga to a slightly above average offense. TNT’s success is brought about, not by coach Chot Reyes’ Dribble-Drive Offense, but their terrific team defense led by Kib Montalbo and Ryan Reyes on the perimeter and a resurgent Kelly Williams inside. 

NorthPort Batang Pier

NorthPort comes away looking pretty in this chart, but the actual results have been underwhelming. Helmed by Robert Bolick, their offense, with a 104.3 offensive rating, ranks second only behind the Beermen. Behind the sheer size of Greg Slaughter and the athleticism of Sean Anthony and Jamie Malonzo, their defense also ranks fourth in the PBA. With a net rating only lagging behind TNT, the question that remains is why have they only won six games? 

The Batang Pier have been, on paper, the most disappointing team in the PBA. Using Daryl Morey’s Pythagorean Expectation, their record should be 8-3 and not 6-5. This is because the Batang Pier have found themselves drawing the short end of the stick in three elimination round games wherein they lost via game-winners (against San Miguel, Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia). They are a great team and a dark horse favorite to win it all, but to do that, they have to find a way to reverse their awful late-game trend.

Magnolia Hotshots

The Hotshots have the best performing player in the PBA, the best free throw baiter in the PBA, and the third-best record in the PBA. Everything seems to be going well for Chito Victolero’s wards. They are a well-balanced team with capable shot creators on offense (Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee) and savvy players on defense (Mark Barroca and Rafi Reavis). The best teams usually are the teams who are capable of playing both offense and defense at a high level, and Magnolia seems to fit that bill.

Meralco Bolts

If the math says that the Batang Pier are the biggest underperformers, the same math says the Meralco Bolts are the biggest overperformers. Sporting a 9-2 record after the eliminations, the team led by Chris Newsome and Mac Belo seem poised to make a deep run in this conference. The best part of this team is how many pieces are involved in making them work. When perfectly healthy, this team is eleven-man deep filled with capable players who can contribute on both ends of the floor. 

They have rim protectors in Nonoy Baclao and Raymond Almazan. They have microwave scorers who can go off at any moment in Allein Maliksi and Alvin Pasaol. They have Swiss Army knives in Newsome, Bong Quinto, and Aaron Black. They have energy guys who make major plays on offense and defense in Belo and Cliff Hodge. They even have steady playmakers in Nard Pinto and Anjo Caram. To paraphrase Monta Ellis: the Meralco Bolts have it all.

NLEX Road Warriors

Though the Road Warriors have had an above average offense and an above average defense through the first eleven games, this is not exactly representative of who they are right now. Why? Kiefer Ravena isn’t playing for them anymore.

With Kiefer Ravena, their offense hummed to the tune of a 105.2 offensive rating, which would have only been behind SMB, while their defense was at a slightly below average 101.0 defensive rating. Without him, their offense plummeted to a 100.7 Offensive Rating, which is barely ahead of Terrafirma, while their defense has been slightly above average at 97.9, which would be slightly behind NorthPort.

Quadrant 3: Bad Offense with Bad Defense (Yikes)

Phoenix Fuel Masters

The Chris Banchero-Calvin Abueva trade has not looked good for the Fuel Masters. Abueva is enjoying a career year with the Hotshots, while Banchero has regressed playing under coach Topex Robinson. The Phoenix offense, which led them to see some success in the 2020 Philippine Cup, has collapsed with only Jason Perkins, RR Garcia, and the occasional flashes from Aljun Melecio being the few bright spots. Their offense hasn’t been the only let down; behind the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Justin Chua, the Fuel Masters sit as the 10th best (read: third-worst) defense in the league. 

Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings

Speaking of trades that haven’t worked well, the Christian Standhardinger trade has yet to look good for the Gin Kings. Ginebra has yet to find their identity on either end of the floor and hasn’t looked like the champion it was in 2020 all season long. Their offensive rating is down almost nine points from 2020 (104.0 to 95.1) and their league best defense in 2020 is worse by 1.4 points (100.0 to 101.4; lower is better).

Blackwater Bossing

Maybe they’ll figure it out at some point. Maybe.

Quadrant 4: Good Offense with Bad Defense (Mike D’Antoni’s Corner)

San Miguel Beermen

June Mar Fajardo has yet to regain his MVP form. Alex Cabagnot and Terrence Romeo have been in and out of the lineup due to injuries. Should be a rough season for the Beermen right? Well, that would be the case if they weren’t stacked to the brim with talent. With seven Mythical Five-level talents, San Miguel ranks third in net rating due to being the clear best offensive team in the league. Their defense has been slightly below average, but does it really matter when they can outscore everyone else?

Alaska Aces

This season for Alaska has been weird. It started off with high hopes, especially after Gab Banal and Yousef Taha proving to be the fun surprises of the early season, but it ended silently and disappointingly. Their offense is fairly balanced, but lacks the punch to take it a notch higher. Their defense was ninth in the league despite holding Rain or Shine to 47 points on one occasion. Alaska seems like they’re better than what they showed. Maybe in a parallel universe, they followed through on their delightful start, but in this one, the Aces weren’t particularly noteworthy.

Terrafirma Dyip

To start the season, Terrafirma had the worst defense in the league and they looked a bit lost after losing CJ Perez. Midway through it, they became the darlings of the conference. Juami Tiongson and Aldrech Ramos tore up defenses while Matt Ganuelas-Rosser shored up the team’s defense to a competitive level. It didn’t last long; after all, the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Their offense came back to Earth (above league average, but not overwhelming) and their defense ended up as the second-worst in the league.


Advanced Stats are now available for Philippine basketball! Through Ryan Alba’s ‘Stats by Ryan’, you can now look at team and player advanced stats for the current 2021 PBA Philippine Cup (and the previous three seasons) via the Dribble Media website.

Check out this glossary for a list of the basketball advanced stats terminologies.

You can also contact Ryan via his Twitter handle (@_alba__).


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2 thoughts on “A Quick Look at the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Efficiency Landscape”

  1. Pingback: 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Quarterfinals: Ginebra Faces Huge Task Against League-Best TNT — Dribble Media

  2. Pingback: Ginebra’s PBA Philippine Cup Report Card: Debunking the Triangle Offense Problem — Dribble Media

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