It was a season of transition for the NorthPort Batang Pier.
The squad made big changes before the start of every conference, beginning with the decision to reinstate Pido Jarencio to handle the squad before the Philippine Cup. The team was able to enter the playoffs despite the absence of Terrence Romeo for almost the entire elimination round, but they were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Prior to the Commissioner's Cup, the Batang Pier pulled the trigger on a franchise altering move -- a trade that sent Romeo to the TNT KaTropa in exchange for Moala Tautuaa and future picks. With the move, the Batang Pier officially handed the keys of the franchise to Pringle who showed that he was ready, leading the team to the playoffs once again before getting eliminated by Rain or Shine in the quarters.
Before the start of the final conference, the franchise made one last change as they adopted a new name, going from GlobalPort to NorthPort.
This is not your ordinary eliminated team.
Firstly, NorthPort was a playoff squad in the Philippine and Commissioner's Cups. Though they suffered quick playoff exits, that indicates that the Batang Pier have enough to compete with any squad in the league.
However it didn't work out quite the same way in the Governors' Cup as NorthPort suffered through six straight losses to start the conference. The big reason for the slide was the absence of Stanley Pringle, who was called up for his first tour of duty with the Gilas Pilipinas team who played at the Asian Games, as well as the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. Pringle made the sacrifice to compete for the country, while the Batang Pier kept the fight alive in the PBA.
With no Pringle, plus an injured Sean Anthony, the Batang Pier simply didn't have enough firepower to surround talented import Rashad Woods with. When Pringle returned, it was too late. There wasn't enough time for the Batang Pier to find the chemistry needed to make a last ditch playoff run. Now NorthPort will have to watch from the sidelines and prepare for the upcoming PBA Draft in December.
What they need
The interesting aspect for the Batang Pier heading into the Draft is that the team doesn't need a major rebuild or a franchise player. They already have that in Pringle, who has been laying claim as the best point guard in the PBA today. The big challenge for NorthPort will be the pieces that they surround Pringle with.
With Tautuaa on board, NorthPort has a nice frontcourt piece to partner with the veteran Anthony. However Tautuaa isn't really a defensive presence in the middle. The Draft isn't loaded with a ton of impact big men, but there are a lot of talented guards that could really make a difference for NorthPort, which is expected to hold a top pick.
NorthPort can instead go the route of picking a new backcourt mate for Pringle. The team gave chances to several players like Nico Elorde, Nico Javelona and Jeric Fortuna, but none have been able to find consistency beside Pringle. They found their most success with a two pronged attack in Pringle plus Romeo, but the two often struggled when they couldn't decide who was supposed to lead the charge. A pass-first guard to put beside Pringle, someone who can penetrate and score as well, would be ideal. Pringle took on such a heavy load last season, and someone who can relieve him at times will help keep him more effective in the game.
NorthPort is in a good position entering next season. Pringle is still on board, Tautuaa is an intriguing talent, Anthony is still chugging along as always, and players like Jonathan Grey showed flashes of being a nice sixth man for the Batang Pier. But unquestionably, they need to find more depth beyond those core players. They don't want to waste the prime years of Pringle, who has given several memorable moments for the Batang Pier. They've got to move now.