Grading the Filipinos From Week 2 of the 2021-22 B.League Season

Every week, Dribble Media will be handing out individual grades for the talented crop of Filipino imports now playing in the 2021-22 B.League season.

Original photos via Japan B.League

Players who missed action

Dwight Ramos, Toyama Grouses – Quarantine protocols

Javi Gomez de Liaño, Ibaraki Robots – Quarantine protocols

Kenmark Cariño, Aomori Wat’s (Division II) – Quarantine protocols

Kiefer Ravena, Shiga Lakestars

Week (56%)2/7 (29%)4/4 (100%)
Season13. (50%)6/15 (40%)15/17 (88%)

We previously wrote about the possibility of Kiefer now playing in the peak years of his career, but his recent performance in last weekend’s games proved that he could also be a leader for the Lakestars in his first go-around with the team. 

Except for his excellent assist-to-turnover ratio, the numbers that Kiefer put up last week aren’t eye-popping at all, especially if you only look at the box score. But if you did watch his two performances against Ibaraki, particularly in fourth quarters, you would see just how much of a game-changer the Filipino guard was for Shiga. 

Here is a timeline of the possessions that Kiefer had a direct impact on right from the sixth-minute mark of the fourth quarter of Shiga’s most recent 85-77 win over Ibaraki:

06:13 – Kiefer defensive rebound leading to his own transition lay-up (Shiga leads, 64-60)

05:47 – Shiga corner three-pointer off a Kiefer assist (Shiga leads, 67-60)

04:15 – Kiefer lefty breakaway finish (Shiga leads, 71-65)

02:19 – Another fastbreak finish from Kiefer (Shiga leads, 76-72)

01:41 – Shiga wing triple off another Kiefer assist (Shiga leads, 79-75)

Kiefer’s ability to read the defense and make the right decisions played a key part in how the Lakestars managed to hold off the Robots for two straight nights. It may be just four games so far, but there’s no doubt that Kiefer’s new teammates are already looking up to him as one of their leaders. 

The numbers will still increase for Kiefer as the season progresses, but his clutch performances in Shiga’s recent unblemished weekend are enough to earn him the top grade among B.League Filipino imports. 

Kiefer’s Week 2 Grade: A-

Thirdy Ravena, San-En NeoPhoenix

Week (38%)3/10 (30%)8/10 (80%)
Season15. (37%)7/20 (35%)16/20 (80%)

Now in his second year with San-En, Thirdy is assuming a bigger role for his team, and he is thriving in it. His much-improved jumpshot earned him the green light to launch threes at will (team-high 5.0 three-point attempts), and it has also allowed him to be more intentional with his decision-making, especially now that San-En is giving him more chances to facilitate the pick-and-roll.

Opposing teams have to respect Thirdy’s outside shot now, and that has allowed him to have more space in driving down the lane and fishing for fouls inside the paint. His ability to get to the charity stripe and hit his free throws has also been a welcome development in his game. Last season, Thirdy only averaged 2.1 free throw attempts and made only 1.1 (54%) of them. That pales in comparison to the work he’s doing this season, as he is hitting a solid 80% of his 5.0 FT attempts per contest.  

Thirdy’s Week 1 Grade: B+

Kobe Paras, Niigata Albirex BB

Week (41%)4/14 (29%)4/6 (67%)
Season16. (42%)8/23 (35%)9/13 (69%)

Gone are the days when defenders can conveniently sag off Kobe Paras or go under a pick set for him. Defenders don’t have that luxury anymore as Paras is now displaying his ability to hit a pull-up three off the dribble. He even hit an isolation step-back trifecta that should be a testament to his growing confidence and the work that he put in during the offseason.

There was a string of offensive possessions in Niigata’s Saturday win against San-En that showed to everyone that opposing teams will have to pick their poison in guarding Paras. In the first possession, the Filipino forward used a pick to get free from his San-En defender, who then went under the pick, which is quite a mortal sin to do against Paras nowadays. Paras then drilled the wide-open triple, forcing San-En to adjust their defensive scheme in the next turn. In the Niigata offensive possession that followed, Paras again facilitated the pick-and-roll (PnR), but this time around, San-En switched right away. With a bigger and slower man in front of him, Paras wisely put his head down, blew past his individual defender, drove to the lane, and hit a tough floater after getting fouled. If Paras continues to shoot from the outside, and maybe improve it to a more consistent rate, it won’t be surprising if opposing teams decide to blitz him in a PnR.

A bit of inconsistency again pulled down Paras’ grade last weekend, but it’s really great to see him becoming more and more of a complete scoring package in his first B.League stint.

Kobe’s Week 2 Grade: B+

Ray Parks Jr., Nagoya Diamond Dolphins

Week 2 Averages: 1.5 points on 25% FG, 2.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.5 turnovers

After missing Nagoya’s first two games due to a muscle injury, Parks finally made his much-awaited B.League debut. But it was nothing more than just a dip of his foot in the water as Parks only logged limited minutes on the floor and only took a total of four shots in the Diamond Dolphins’ 1-1 slate against Hiroshima. 

Still, there’s no need for the slightest hint of concern in how Parks can translate his game to the B.League. During the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup in which he suited up for the TNT Tropang Giga, Parks was easily the best player that year (DM’s Ryan Alba comprehensively wrote about Parks here). Parks led his team in scoring with 22.4 points and in three-point percentage with a whopping 45.8%. Along with his explosive first step that allows him to burst to the rim, Parks has also become an elite spot-up shooter from deep.

The restricted playing time and the limited workload he put in for Nagoya last weekend earned him a low grade, but don’t expect Parks to hover in that range after next weekend’s games.

Ray’s Week 2 Grade: C+ 

Juan Gomez de Liaño, Earthfriends Tokyo Z (Division II)

Week (33%)3/6 (50%)0/0 (0%)
Season5. (38%)5/12 (42%)0/4 (0%)

There’s no doubt that Gomez de Liaño can produce the numbers, but he needs to be on the court to do so. The former University of the Philippines star guard only saw action for over a minute in Tokyo Z’s first game against Yamagata, which was quite mind-boggling especially if you look at all the things that the talented Gomez de Liaño can contribute on the floor. 

The lefty guard was then able to log more minutes the following game, and drilled three triples on his way to 11 total markers. Gomez de Liaño also dished out three assists and didn’t commit even a single turnover in almost 19 minutes of playing time.

Gomez de Liaño’s grade will stay as it is for now, but we sense some hints of optimism that he will be able to carve a more consistent niche in the Tokyo Z’s rotation moving forward.  

Juan’s Week 2 Grade: B-

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