It took a 630-day wait before NorthPort Batang Pier star Robert Bolick was finally able to suit up in a PBA game again.
Bolick suffered a partial ACL tear almost two years ago, on October 23, 2019, during a game against the San Miguel Beermen, forcing him to miss the rest of NorthPort’s campaign that conference and the 2020 PBA season restart inside the bubble in Clark, Pampanga. The injury was certainly disappointing, especially since he was coming off a brilliant showing in his first Gilas Pilipinas Men’s stint at the 2019 FIBA World Cup just a couple of months prior. People often forget that when he played for Gilas that year, he was still a PBA rookie. Bolick, however, looked absolutely fearless against bigger, more experienced international players, and everyone was excited about how he could dominate back home.
Again, 630 days. That’s almost two years without competitive basketball. Most players returning from a very long layoff would “manage their load” and only play in short bursts until they get reaccustomed to the frantic pace of the game, but it seems Bolick is having none of that. Not that he has much of a choice, anyway, since NorthPort doesn’t really have another excellent shot creator on its roster.
In the current 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, Bolick is averaging 39.7 minutes per game, which is the second-highest in the league. It’s not just the heavy minutes that stands out for the point guard; it’s the way he is also doing everything on offense — from scoring to playmaking. Bolick leads NorthPort in offensive load (OffLoad) — an advanced basketball metric that “measures how much a player is directly involved on offense,” per Stats by Ryan — at 38.3%. (OffLoad combines the impact of scoring, passing and creation to offer a clearer picture of a player’s role in his team’s offense. Learn more in this glossary)
Ever since he entered the league in 2019, Bolick has been an all-around dynamo. Look at his numbers in each conference that he played in:
Bolick’s Points, Rebounds, and Assists Averages (By Conference)
|2019 Philippine Cup||10.1||5.3||4.2|
|2019 Commissioner’s Cup||16.9||4.9||4.9|
|2019 Governor’s Cup||12.9||5.0||6.0|
|2021 Philippine Cup||18.3||7.0||6.0|
After trading away Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle in 2018 and 2019, respectively, NorthPort has turned to Bolick as the team’s primary scorer and facilitator, especially in an All-Filipino conference. During the 2020 Philippine Cup, in which the then-injured Bolick didn’t play, NorthPort only accrued a lowly 39% clip from the field and finished the regular season with a 1-10 win-loss slate.
This conference, NorthPort still doesn’t have a player who has a good combination of scoring and playmaking outside of Bolick. It doesn’t help that Sean Anthony, the closest player who can fulfill those two roles, is only making 18.2% of his 11 field goal attempts per game. While it’s true that newly-added center Greg Slaughter is leading the team in scoring with 19.5 points on an efficient 56.7% shooting, he still needs somebody to feed him the ball. Slaughter can’t create shots by himself, especially when he is pushed out of his position on the post.
The other two players averaging double digits in scoring for the team are Sidney Onwubere (12.0 PPG) and rookie Jamie Malonzo (10.8 PPG). But the much-improved Onwubere still has an unreliable three-point shot, as he is attempting 3.8 triples per game and making only 20% of those. Malonzo, on the other hand, is still more of an open-court scorer. The rest of the NorthPort roster doesn’t offer much shot-creating or playmaking either; Paolo Taha is there for his defense, Troy Rike is more of a spot-up stretch big, and Garvo Lanete and Jonathan Grey aren’t even seeing significant minutes. Jerrick Balanza is showing some glimpses of his potential, but that’s the problem — they’re just glimpses.
This is why the lion’s share of the offense falls on the able shoulders of the 25-year-old Bolick. Even during his successful collegiate career in San Beda, he has always been able to create shots for himself and also make his teammates look better. The courage to take the biggest shots and the unselfishness to involve his teammates are two assets that he has carried over to the pros.
Along with his scoring, Bolick is also ranked among the best playmakers in this conference. His Box Creation (BoxCr) – a metric that brings together the value of scoring, shooting, and passing to measure how well a player creates shot opportunities for his teammates – of 6.5 ranks 8th in the league. Bolick is turning the ball over 3.5 times each game, but that is because he unselfishly passes on a high volume. His Passing Production (PasPro) – an advanced stat that measures passing volume – of 6.2 is ranked 8th among active players.
Still, there’s more room for Bolick to get better. After all, he is just 25 years of age. He hasn’t even entered his prime and he’s already putting up all-around numbers. Yes, his shooting splits in this PBA conference (38.3/32.1/78.3 for a TS% of 52.1) still leaves more to be desired, but the fact that he can switch gears from being a scorer to a playmaker (and vice versa) is a unique ability that only the best players in the league can do. There’s no doubt that NorthPort has a future superstar on their hands.
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 via the Dribble Media website.
Also, check out this glossary for a list of the basketball advanced stats terminologies.
You can also contact Ryan Alba via his Twitter handle (@_alba__).