As we head to the finish line of the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup eliminations, we're beginning to get a better of idea of how this rookie crop is faring, both as individuals and as a whole. There are game changers as expected, like Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng. Players like Raymar Jose and Jason Perkins have been effective for their squads as versatile frontcourt players. However a lot of their batchmates are still trying to find their roles on squads that are heavily reliant on veterans.
With that said, let's take a look at how each player is doing thus far this season. Note that since the number one pick Christian Standhardinger has yet to play a game this season, he won't be added to this list for now.
The "waiting for their opportunity" group
Sydney Onwubere: 1.6 points, 2.2 rebounds
Lervin Flores: 1.1 points, 2.0 rebounds
Mark Tallo: 1.0 point, 2.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists
Jett Manuel: (1 game) 8 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists
The one common denominator for the slow start of this quartet is that they're simply not getting enough minutes to showcase themselves. Is it their fault? Not entirely. Tallo and Onwubere from TNT and Manuel from Ginebra are playing on veteran teams that are firmly in win-now modes. Teams that want to win championships immediately don't necessarily have a lot of time to develop rookies on the floor.
Especially TNT, which has bigs like Troy Rosario and Moala Tautuaa who also need to develop, and Kelly Williams, who's one of the most reliable frontcourt players in the PBA today. Tallo, on the other hand, shares the same position as Jayson Castro and his minutes dried up even further when RR Garcia returned to the lineup. Lervin Flores is also in the same boat, as GlobalPort coach Pido Jarencio is still trying to find the best role for him on the team. It's definitely too early to tell with these guys, but they're going to have to be patient as their ball clubs roll with their vets.
The "you've seen how good I can be" group
Robbie Herndon: 5.0 points, 55%, 2.3 rebounds
Rey Nambatac: 5.8 points, 1.1 3PM, 56% 3PT, 3.8 rebounds
Jonjon Gabriel: 5.0 points, 3.3 assists
These guys may have been in and out of the rotation, but they've proven they belong in the league. It's hard for any player, rookie or veteran to carve out a steady role on a Rain or Shine roster, but Rey Nambatac has performed well with his team. Coaches love his attitude and how patient he is with his opportunity. Jonjon Gabriel has been caught up in the disastrous conference of Kia, but he battles hard every time he's on the floor, despite being an undersized center in the PBA.
Herndon is an exciting prospect for Magnolia because of his motor and energy. He's a sneaky off-ball scorer that can operate without the ball in his hands. The Hotshots value defense to a large degree, which is why Rome Dela Rosa has leapfrogged him in the depth chart. But eventually, Herndon is going to be too good to keep off the floor. Same thing for Nambatac, who has been lights out shooting the ball (56% from beyond the arc). These guys are good. It's only a matter of time.
The "ready since Day One" group
Raymar Jose: (20.0 minutes) 8.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists
Jeron Teng: 13.0 points, 43% FG, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists
Jason Perkins: 10.8 points, 45% FG, 7.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists
Now we're getting to the good stuff. In full honesty, Jeron Teng should probably have his own tier, right above Perkins and Jose, but below Kiefer Ravena. He is just a stellar basketball player. His strength has translated well to the PBA game, and his jumpshot, while still not 100% there yet, has been solid.
The only reason he's not putting up numbers like Ravena? He's playing on Alaska. You will get consistent minutes, but not quite enough to really bust out and put up gaudy numbers (unless you're Calvin Abueva). But the fact that he's doing all of this in only 25 minutes is very impressive. Remember that this is a guy who put up 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against TNT. Teng is a monster, and definitely the steal of the PBA Draft.
Perkins and Jose are in the same boat. Despite being rookies, they're reliable forwards that play with a ton of effort and intensity. Jose has proven that his relentless attitude and ability to rebound the basketball will impact teams in the PBA. The former PBA D-League MVP doesn't need a play run for him the entire game - he will find a way to be productive no matter what. That's a great guy to have on your team.
Perkins was one of the most PBA ready prospects to join the Draft last year, and he's been as good as advertised. Coach Louie Alas hasn't unleashed Perkins completely just yet. The big man has been fortifying the Phoenix bench which needed a scoring punch and frontcourt strength. And that's fine with Perkins. No matter what his team needs him to do, he's doing it well.
That goes for these trio of rookies. Any team would love to have any of these guys. It's easy to predict a long and fruitful career for these guys.
The "I told you so" group
Kiefer Ravena: (30 minutes) 16.2 points, 44% FG, 3.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists
We knew he was going to be good. We knew that he was going to put up incredible stats and make NLEX a dangerous team. We also knew that there would be a learning curve for his teammates in playing with a talented, high usage player like Kiefer Ravena.
Were there shaky moments during the Road Warriors' four-game losing streak? For sure. But one thing's certain. Ravena is as good as advertised, and one of the most exciting prospects in the PBA today. We can't wait for what else is coming in his bright future.