ESPN5.com previews the 12 PBA teams ahead of their first games in the 2019 Philippine Cup, the kickoff conference of the new PBA season.
Philippine Cup: 8-3 (1st) -- Champion
Commissioner's Cup: 6-5 (6th) -- Lost 4-2 in the finals against Ginebra
Governors' Cup: 6-5 (6th) -- Lost 0-1 in the quarterfinals against Alaska
Terrence Romeo, Ronald Tubid and Paul Zamar
Brian Heruela, David Semerad and Keith Agovida
Rest of Roster
Billy Mamaril, Von Pessumal, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, June Mar Fajardo, Louie Vigil, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Arwind Santos, Kelly Nabong, Christian Standhardinger, Yancy de Ocampo
Biggest thing to look out for
It's no secret that the most prominent storyline of the new season lies with the San Miguel Beermen.
Once again, the team is entering a new year with the biggest acquisition of the off-season. Last year, it was first overall pick Christian Standhardinger (although he did not suit up until the Commissioner's Cup). This season, it's Terrence Romeo.
Few people could have predicted that the Romeo would end up with a team as loaded as SMB. They have five-time MVP June Mar Fajardo. They have Arwind Santos, who won the award before June Mar's streak. They also have Mythical Team awardees Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross. They won the last four Philippine Cup titles. Now, they add a three-time scoring champion.
As we all know by now though, putting together the most talented team does not necessarily churn out automatic championships. In last year's Commissioner's Cup, the Fajardo-Standhardinger tandem was deemed unstoppable. When Renaldo Balkman was brought in, many were ready to give the crown to SMB. However, in a plot twist, they lost in the finals to Justin Brownlee and Barangay Ginebra.
It's really the balancing of minutes and the distribution of roles that will be put under the microscope for SMB this season, especially in the Philippine Cup. It will be the first all-Filipino conference wherein Fajardo and Standhardinger are both active on the roster. In the said tournament last year, June Mar averaged 38.7 minutes per game. How much of that will Christian eat up? Will he take some of Arwind's time? Santos' 39.6 was the highest minutes-per-game for the Beermen in last year's Philippine Cup.
The same is the question in their backcourt. How do you squeeze in Terrence? Marcio, Alex and Chris played at least 31 minutes per game last year and are obviously leaders of the team. Who would even start for SMB? Would certain guys have to give way? Is this new formula with Terrence going to work?
These, and many more questions, comprise the reasons for why you would want to follow the San Miguel Beermen this season.
Even before the addition of Romeo, SMB already had the strongest lineup on paper. All that trade did was solidify their status as the league's powerhouse.
They enter this new season carrying hefty expectations. Parallel to the questions of skeptics is the presumption of believers that success cannot escape a team that star-studded. As it has been for the past few years, the target will be on the backs of SMB, particularly in the Philippine Cup.
Offense is the brawn of this squad. Last season, they led the league in scoring in the Philippine Cup (98.9) and the Governors' Cup (109.2) while ranking third in the Commissioner's Cup (105.8). One particular concern though was an apparent lack of production from the second unit. With Romeo coming in, that should change regardless of who Coach Leo Austria decides to pull from the bench.
That also solves the dilemma of relying too much on the starters. That has been thrown at Austria repeatedly because of the high usage of his first five. Adding another premier talent gives him the option of resting his main guys more. That should preserve them not only for end games but also for deep runs in the playoffs.
It's hard to imagine San Miguel not making it to at least the semifinals in each conference. Yet, we have to remember that they've faltered before with a similar loaded lineup.
It's going to be a matter of chemistry and teamwork. Whether it's a scoring champion like Romeo or a simple role player, a change of personnel always entails some adjustment for a team. The sooner they can all settle into their fine-tuned roles, they sooner the Beermen can get back to their winning ways.
Maybe SMB can rewrite history with five straight Philippine Cup titles. Maybe they win more one championship this year. Maybe Terrence Romeo finally becomes a PBA champion.
With what the San Miguel Beermen are bringing into the new season, there's a possibility that all of those come true.