The NLEX Road Warriors had a lot of momentum entering the season. It began all the way in last year's draft, where the Yeng Guiao led squad tabbed phenomenal rookie Kiefer Ravena with the second overall pick. Ravena was paired together with improving guard Kevin Alas to form a dynamic backcourt. And with trusty veterans like Larry Fonacier, JR Quiñahan and Asi Taulava completing the squad, NLEX began to look like a classic Guiao team- stacked from top to bottom, and players that could be effective despite a spread number of minutes.
NLEX experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows this season.
The peak of their season was undoubtedly in the Philippine Cup, where the team overcame a twice to beat disadvantage against Alaska to barge into the semis for the first time in franchise history. Though the team was unable to defeat the Magnolia Hotshots in a competitive series, many people tabbed the Road Warriors as a potential contender for many years to come.
Key for the resurgence of NLEX was the brilliant play of the rookie Ravena. Kiefer answered all questions about whether he'd be able to translate his impact from college to the pros. He made the shift to point guard in the PBA, and thus NLEX had the do-it-all guard Coach Guiao always coveted alongside Alas.
But not for long. Alas would be shelved for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL suffered in the semis, and Ravena was slapped with a one year ban from Gilas and PBA action as a result of testing positive for taking a banned substance. That happened in the midst of the Commissioner's Cup, and with Ravena and Alas out of the lineup, NLEX was unable to recover and crashed to an 11th place finish.
NLEX looked much better in the Governors' Cup, despite also having to change imports from Olu Ashaoulu to the reliable Aaron Fuller. The team also made a sacrifice at the top, as Guiao was tapped to lead Gilas Pilipinas in the Asian Games and the FIBA Asia World Qualifiers Despite the up-and-down elims, the team still finished as the eighth seed, only to be eliminated by Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals.
What they need
The return of Alas to the lineup next season should be a big boost, although he will still have to work himself into game shape. Ravena will also be back in the lineup by August next year, which means he's out of the Philippine Cup.
NLEX will need a floor general that can help Alas ease back into his usual workload, while Ravena is unavailable. Luckily for the Road Warriors, there are a lot of solid guards that could potentially be part of the upcoming Draft. The Road Warriors will most likely select in the fifth to eighth pick range. Potentially available at that range is Fil-Am scoring guard Trevis Jackson, Paul Desiderio, Matt Salem and Jayjay Alejandro. Any of those guards would be able to shoulder the scoring load for the Road Warriors.
NLEX could also choose to shore up their frontline. In that case, the Road Warriors will be on the hunt for floor spacing bigs. Abu Tratter would fit the bill, same for Kris Porter although that might be too high a spot for him to be selected.
The Road Warriors are in an enviable situation, as they have a stud in Ravena coming back while also having another good prospect that can be chosen. Now the challenge is staying patient, waiting for their pieces to come back. Next season could potentially be a transition year into what will be a bright future for NLEX.