Before anything else, there needs to be a discussion on what this list is. This doesn’t rank players purely on the premise of definitively determining who the best guys are in the league today. Instead, this is just a list based on their performance in the ongoing 2021 PBA Philippine Cup. A player being ranked higher than another does NOT mean this player is better, but rather, he has played better during the 11 elimination round games.
There is also a premium placed on actually suiting up for games. NLEX’s Kiefer Ravena and San Miguel’s Terrence Romeo have been the best players in the PBA when they played, but with only four and six appearances, respectively, they have not done enough to secure their place as the favorites for the Best Player of the Conference award.
The BPC (and pretty much any award) is generally vague and without a set criteria. It’s usually based on an unholy combination of production and narrative. To make this list make sense, the rankings will follow the following criteria:
- Winning Impact: Does he help his team win games? Is his play style conducive to winning basketball? Does he impact winning?
- Performance: When he played, how well did he play? Was he the best player every time he stepped on the floor?
- Availability: Was he ready to play in every game of the elimination round? Was he available to suit up every night? How many games did he play?
The list will be updated at the end of every round in the playoffs.
We also used a lot of numbers. Check out our glossary here to get yourself acquainted with some terms we used below.
1. Calvin Abueva, Magnolia Hotshots
Averages: 16.1 points (10th) on 45.9/34.9/70.2 shooting splits (56.0% true shooting percentage), 9.7 rebounds (4th), 3.1 assists, 1.3 blocks (8th), 1.0 steals, 2.2 turnovers in 32.9 minutes in 11 games
Notable Stats: 4.0% block rate (12th), 5.5 VORP or Value Over Replacement Player (1st), 3.3 DBPM or Defensive Box Plus-Minus (5th), 5.0 Box Creation (12th), 5.1 fouls per 36 minutes, pace adjusted (9th)
Best Game of the Conference (So Far): 23 points on 61.7 TS% , 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks against NLEX
Abueva is the most complete player in the PBA right now. He does everything on the floor at a pretty high level and he’s having the best conference of his career. As the driving force behind the 8-3 Magnolia, he has been a high level player on both ends of the floor while averaging a career high 56 TS% and an elite 4% block rate.
It’s hard to understate how good Abueva has been this season. Being able to share ball handling duties with three great perimeter players (Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, and Jio Jalalon) has allowed him to play the best basketball of career. He’s averaging career-low turnovers (minimum 22 minutes played) while maintaining the production that justified his moniker as “The Beast”. He’s also shooting a career high 34% from deep on 3.9 attempts. To put that in context, the average PBA player shoots 29.7% from three. San Miguel’s Von Pessumal is shooting at a 33.3% clip on 3.6 attempts per game. Abueva has actually been more accurate from deep this season than teammate Paul Lee, NorthPort’s Robert Bolick, and Terrence Romeo (shot difficulty differences notwithstanding).
The only real knock on his game at the moment is his ability to stay in it. He averages 5.1 fouls per 36 minutes (pace adjusted) and he fouled out in 4 of the 11 games he’s played. But when he’s on the floor, it gets difficult to argue that there is a star that shines brighter.
2. Mikey Williams, TNT Tropang Giga
Averages: 18.4 points (2nd) on 41.7/37.2/70.4 shooting splits (52.6 TS%), 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.3 turnovers in 33.4 minutes and 10 games
Notable Stats: 2.9 threes made per game (2nd), 5.3% adjusted turnover percentage (4th), 6.3 Box Creation (7th), 5.7 Passer Rating (15th), 6.6 Spacing Rating (6th), 5.6 OBPM (4th), 5.5 VORP (2nd)
Best Game of the Conference (So Far): 36 points on 79.5% TS, 3 assists, 2 steals, 5 3PM, and 1 turnover vs. NLEX
Williams is the best player on the best team (for now) in the PBA. That alone legally requires you to include his name on any BPC shortlist. Although TNT relies more on its league best defense to beat teams, their offensive attack is only notable because of Williams’ presence. With both Jayson Castro and RR Pogoy having less than ideal offensive outputs so far, the 29-year-old guard has stepped up and set the league on fire.
What pops out with Mikey is his shot-making. He’s currently shooting 37.2% from the outside on 7.8 attempts a game, and his shots aren’t your plain old spot-ups. He’s crossing people over and draining long ones with a hand in his face. He’s also doing that really efficiently; Williams’ numbers are great, especially considering the amount of shots he creates for himself. His relative TS% stands at +3.45, which means he’s more efficient than the majority of the league while generating offense on the fly. Williams, of course, is also a capable playmaker who creates a fair amount of openings for his teammates and passes the ball pretty accurately.
But what should be more appreciated about his game is the lack of errors. He plays with a ton of poise and rarely turns the ball over. His 5.3 adjusted TO% is stupid low. You would expect that type of number from spot-up shooters or roll-and-cut bigs whose only job is to shoot as soon as they get the ball, and not from a primary option with a ton of ball handling duties. In his 11 games so far, he’s only had more than two turnovers once. Absolutely insane.
3. Scottie Thompson, Barangay Ginebra
Averages: 12.2 points on 45.3/37.5/72.4 shooting splits (56.5 TS%), 8.7 rebounds (8th), 4.2 assists (11th), 1.5 assists (6th), 1.3 blocks (6th), 34.4 minutes in 10 games
Notable Stats: 10.2% offensive rebound percentage (12th), 3.8% block rate (11th), 6.1 BPM (4th) 5.3 VORP (3rd)
Best Game of the Conference: 12 points, 12 rebounds (8 offensive), 9 assists, 3 blocks against NLEX (again)
In a conference to forget for Barangay Ginebra, Scottie Thompson was one of the few bright spots for a team that has never really found its identity. His improvements are noticeable, as was highlighted by YouTuber and Dribble Media contributor Ize Flores here, and his strengths remained as strong as ever.
His rebounding and block numbers were disgustingly high that you’d expect to see that type of production from a player half a foot taller. His handle and shooting improvement allowed him to do more on offense than ever before. His offensive production is insane when you think about it in the lens of Ginebra’s equal opportunity offense and roster construction. On a team with two active bigs (Japeth Aguilar and Christian Standhardinger) and a pair of quality playmakers (LA Tenorio and Stanley Pringle), he’s able to connect plays on offense, grab rebounds at an elite rate, and play quality team defense. Thompson is a guy who can produce at an elite rate no matter where he is and who’s around him.
4. Robert Bolick, NorthPort
Averages: 18.1 points (3rd) on 39.4/27.1/74.2 shooting splits (51.8 TS%), 7.3 assists (1st), 6.9 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 3.1 turnovers, 38.9 minutes in 11 games
Notable Stats: 35.4% assist percentage (2nd), 7.4 Box Creation (3rd), 6.6 Passer Rating (6th), 3.7 VORP (6th)
Best Game of the Conference (So Far): 22 points on 66.6 TS%, 13 rebounds, 13 assists vs. Alaska
After the elimination round, NorthPort is the PBA’s second best offense with an offensive rating of 104.3, and Bolick, of course, is the catalyst of their offense.
With Kiefer Ravena gone, the former San Beda star has officially taken the mantle of best playmaker in the PBA. In terms of scoring and playmaking, Bolick dictates what happens on the floor; when he’s playing, 41% of the NorthPort possessions end in either a Bolick shot, turnover, or assist.
His passing is pinpoint accurate, as evidenced by his Passer Rating, and he is able to read defenses well enough to make the right decision more often than not. His shot hasn’t been falling as much as you’d want (46.4% effective field goal percentage), but he gets to the line and makes enough threes to still be relatively efficient (+2.6 relative TS%). With him spearheading the attack, NorthPort, which banners the second-best net rating after 11 elimination round games, is an underdog that could end up surprising teams in the playoffs.
5. CJ Perez, San Miguel
Averages: 17.2 points on 44.3/32/67.2 shooting splits (53.7 TS%), 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals (10th), 1.7 turnovers, 29.4 minutes in 11 games
Notable Stats: 20.5 points per 36 minutes, pace adjusted (4th), 8.2 offensive rebounding percentage (22nd), 3.5 VORP (8th)
Best Game of the Conference (So Far): 24 points on 63.7 TS% , 5 rebounds, 4 assists vs. Phoenix
Playing with San Miguel, Perez is no longer asked to be the whole team. This has resulted in less minutes, less touches, less time handling the ball, and less opportunities to create for himself and others. However, this doesn’t mean that Perez now is less than the Perez who torched the league to the tune of 24.4 points per game with Terrafirma in 2020.
He isn’t asked to create plays, which has predictably led to a big dip in assists, but he is still the same as ever as a scorer. Perez has benefited from playing with more talented players around him and remains among the top scorers in the league at 17.2 points per game in under 30 minutes per game, all while receiving an uptick in efficiency with the Beermen.
With the injury bug hitting San Miguel, Perez has stepped up as of late, averaging 21.3 points per game on 54.6 TS%. Expect that trend to continue while Alex Cabagnot and Terrence Romeo remain on the sidelines.
6. Javee Mocon, Rain or Shine
Averages: 12.9 points on 36.9/33.3/69.6 shooting splits (47.3 TS%), 8.6 rebounds (9th), 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals (tied for 7th), 0.6 blocks, 2.7 turnovers, 33.8 minutes in 11 games
Notable Stats: 25.1% assist percentage (16th), 9.4% offensive rebound percentage (14th), 5.6 Passing Productivity (12th), 5.0 Box Creation (10th), 2.0 DBPM (11th among 20 MPG+), 0.86 Defensive Win Shares (3rd), 4.9 VORP (4th)
Best Game of the Conference (So Far): 18 points on 66.0% TS, 12 rebounds, 4 assists vs. San Miguel
Mocon is a Defensive Player of the Year in the making and his offense is slowly but surely catching up. Under coach Chris Gavina, the former San Beda Red Lion has turned himself into a full-fledged point forward capable of handling a ton of responsibility handling the ball and creating for his teammates. Despite his scoring struggles (being relatively inefficient), he is able to leverage his size and skill into being one of the most productive passers in the PBA.
On a team that is starved for offense, Mocon is the primary gear that turns the rusty machine that is Rain or Shine. In terms of defense, his versatility and IQ on that end is one of the biggest contributors on the second best defensive team in the league. His knowledge and understanding of the team’s defensive schemes provides a ton of value and helps the Elasto Painters remain competent despite their inability to put the ball in the hoop as a team.
Mocon is an elite defensive player and is developing to be a better offensive player. He might not be a traditional primary option (yet), but his combination of size, coordination, and passing ability as a wing player will always be a handful for opposing teams.
7. Jamie Malonzo, NorthPort
Averages: 13.2 points on 43.2/32.7/56.8 shooting splits (51.3 TS%), 9.0 rebounds (5th), 1.9 assists, 1.8 blocks (tied for 3rd), 1.1 steals 1.6 turnovers, 33.1 minutes in 11 games
Notable Stats: 4.9% block rate (7th), 10.4 offensive rebound percentage % (10th), 4.6 VORP (5th)
Best Game of the Conference (So Far): 14 points on 67 TS%, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks vs. Magnolia
Malonzo can dunk the basketball really well, but he excels in other things too.
Although he’s been overshadowed a bit by Mikey Williams, Malonzo is playing like a bonafide super rookie. Beyond his rim forays on offense, he has been an absolute monster at the rim on defense as well. Playing alongside Greg Slaughter, the former De La Salle product is an elite secondary rim protector which has helped NorthPort become the 4th best defensive team in the PBA.
On offense, he’s more than just a lob threat and transition finisher. He has shown legitimate passing flashes and has shown diversity in his shooting profile. His 4.5 three point attempts per game do not consist solely of wide open catch-and-shoot attempts, as he’s been known to take and make stepback threes as well. Malonzo has shown flashes of playmaking ability at 4.3 assists per game in his last four appearances. Moreover, he uses his ridiculous vertical leaping ability in crashing the offensive glass to generate extra possessions for his team as well.
NorthPort plays at the second fastest pace in the league, which fully utilizes the skills of their athletic 6’6 forward. Malonzo is not just athletic, but he’s also very skilled and uses his athleticism in productive ways. If this conference is any indication, Malonzo has the potential to be a perennial BPC contender, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he gets a few votes once the Mythical Team discussions come around.
8. Arwind Santos, San Miguel
Averages: 13.3 points on 47.9/32.1/77.8 shooting splits (57.5 TS%), 8.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.8 blocks (tied for 3rd), 0.5 steals, 1.8 turnovers, 34.8 minutes in 11 games
Notable Stats: 20.3% defensive rebound percentage (10th), 57.5 TS% (10th, 6th for non-centers), 61.9 2P% (4th), 3.6 VORP (8th)
Best Game of the Conference (So Far): 19 points on 59.8 TS%, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 4 blocks vs. Terrafirma
Santos won the MVP in 2013 at 32 years old. Now at 40, he’s posting better numbers than then. It doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t make sense. But that is the world we live in.
He has improved his shooting as he reached the twilight years of his career. From 2006 to 2014, the best he shot from deep was a whopping 27.4%. From 2015 onwards, only two seasons were under 30%, with a high of 36.8% in 2020. He’s currently shooting at a 32.8% clip, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it;s actually above average in the PBA.
What’s really impressive about Santos is that he’s still as bouncy as ever. He’s finishing at the best rate of his career and his blocks are a testament to how well his athleticism has stood the test of time. A 40 year-old is still in the top realm of athleticism in the league. It makes no sense, but in the best possible way.
9. Paul Lee, Magnolia
Averages: 17.0 points on 32.2/30.1/89.9 shooting splits (51.7 TS%), 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 2.5 turnovers, 28.1 minutes in 11 games
Notable Stats: 21.8 points per 36 minutes, pace adjusted (3rd), 9.2 FTA per 36 minutes, pace adjusted (1st), 89.9 FT% (6th), 54.1% free throw attempt rate (6th; 1st among guards, 3rd among non-bigs), 5.8 Box Creation (8th)
Best Game of the Conference (So Far): 32 points on 78.9 TS%, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal vs. San Miguel
Lee has not shot well at all. At the end of the elimination round, he’s shooting at a 32.2% rate from the field. Weirdly, though, the 32-year-old is still relatively efficient at +2.5 rTS%. He’s more efficient than guys like Jamie Malonzo, Kevin Alas, Jericho Cruz, Ian Sangalang, and RR Pogoy, and he scores at a much higher volume.
How is this possible? Simple: Lee is the best at drawing fouls in the PBA, and it’s not particularly close. Free throws are the most efficient shot in basketball, and Lee is one of the best at making them in the country. His free throw-based offense has been keeping Magnolia’s offense afloat. In time, Lee will shoot better, but he’s not going to suddenly stop making his free throws. It feels as if there is nowhere else for him to go on this list but up.
10. Terrence Romeo, San Miguel
Averages: 19.0 points (1st) on 46.8/29.4/85 shooting splits (55.5 TS%), 4.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals (tied for 7th), 2.5 turnovers, 29.3 minutes in six games
Notable Stats: 22.8 points per 36 minutes, pace adjusted (1st), 55.5 TS% (8th for guards), 8.8 Box Creation (1st), 5.9 Passer Rating (12th), 6.7 Passing Productivity (4th), 6.2 OBPM (1st)
Best Game of the Conference (So Far): 29 points on 70.7 TS%, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals vs. Barangay Ginebra
If Romeo played at least nine games, he would be the frontrunner for the BPC award. However since he only played six games and finished only four of them healthy, number 10 is the best we can place him. When Romeo was available, he was electric. Alex Cabagnot’s absence allowed him to play with a freedom he hasn’t had since leaving NorthPort.
Romeo has been allowed to be the primary option of a team for a long stretch of time, and that freedom has resulted into MVP-level production. In the four games where he didn’t end up injured, he averaged 23.3 points and 5.5 assists on a red-hot 58.2 TS%. Other than a return to form in his scoring production, he has shown maturity as a passer. Romeo was able to create well for others and make the right pass when needed. He showed the ability to get his and get others involved, a quality that most people assumed he lacked.
If he’s available in the playoffs and San Miguel ends up winning it all, it would be no surprise to anyone if Terrence Romeo ends up at number one on this list.
THE NEXT 10
11. Mark Barroca, Magnolia: Barroca is currently scoring at a career-high rate of 56.1 TS% and he’s been a great playmakerm averaging 5.1 assists per game. He’s a key part of Magnolia’s offense as its most frequently used point guard, and he’s an important part of their defensive scheme that focuses on preventing penetration and forcing long range shots.
12. Chris Newsome, Meralco: Newsome has been the best player on an exciting Meralco team that looks poised to make some noise in the postseason. He’s been scoring on great efficiency (57.0 TS%) and he’s continuing to blossom as a playmaker. At the moment, he’s 2nd in the PBA in Box Creation at 7.4.
13. LA Tenorio, Barangay Ginebra – Tenorio is an ageless wonder at the point and is one of the few bright spots in a rather disappointing Ginebra team. He continues to provide quality production on a team where he has lots of mouths to feed and lots of hands to share the ball with.
14. Greg Slaughter, NorthPort – Slaughter would be in the top 10 — maybe top five — if he played more than six games. He is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now, and he’s imposing his will on both sides of the game. If the Batang Pier make a deep run, we might just be penciling him as the center of the Mythical Team.
15. Jason Perkins, Phoenix: With Matthew Wright, Chris Banchero, and Justin Chua putting in rather disappointing performances, Perkins has been the pillar that has prevented the Fuel Masters from being the clear-cut second-worst team in the PBA. He’s averaging 16.5 points per game on great efficiency at 55.6 TS% and he’s far from being the problem on the team.
16. Kevin Alas, NLEX: At one point in the season, Alas was one of the five best performers in the PBA, though his shooting efficiency plummeted after Ravena left. But despite his shooting woes, he’s still making the right reads on offense and providing good playmaking for NLEX.
17. June Mar Fajardo, San Miguel: Seeing Fajardo this low on a list feels almost criminal given that the Philippine Cup is where he usually just demolishes everyone else, but he hasn’t been the June Mar of old just yet. He’s not destroying the competition in terms of volume and efficiency, but he’s still better than most of the league, and his rebounding is still the most impactful in the PBA.
18. Stanley Pringle, Barangay Ginebra: The Gin Kings are a stacked team and there are a lot of players who demand the ball and shot attempts. They’re also not very synergistic. Pringle’s per minute production has taken a dip, and both Thompson’s improvement and Tenorio’s steady hand has cut into his playmaking. Pringle might be more talented than a lot of the players ahead of him, but his production and impact does not justify ranking him high.
19. Juami Tiongson, Terrafirma: He has cooled down, but we will never forget the era where Magic Tiongson took the Dyip to 2021 and put the league on notice. Even if he’s come back to Earth and the Terrafirma hype has died down, we will never forget that stretch from October 1 to October 5 when Tiongson was basically untouchable.
20. Kiefer Ravena, NLEX: In the unlikely chance he comes back for the playoffs, Ravena can continue where he left off and reclaim his throne as the best playmaker in the PBA. In the four games he was with the Road Warriors this conference, he was the best player in the PBA. If for some reason he comes back, it isn’t far-fetched to think he could be the best, still.
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__).