Every week, ESPN5.com contributor and ESPN5 PBA anchor Charlie Cuna rates the five best rookies of the 2019 PBA season. Here is his list for the period covering January 28 - February 3, 2019.
In week three of the Philippine Cup, some rookies are proving to be regular contributors for their teams and not just flashes in the pan. Some early top-performing youngsters didn't see action, while others who were overlooked early were given the minutes and produced noteworthy numbers. Here are the past week's top five.
1. Javee Mocon, Rain or Shine (week's averages: 12.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 3.0 apg in 26.4 mpg in 3 games)
Coach Caloy Garcia's trust in his top rookie is apparent, and Mocon's confidence is growing from game to game. With a packed schedule for the Elasto Painters (they played on three of the four game days), Mocon's minutes increased overall, and he made the most of it. He had 13 points and eight rebounds on Wednesday against Blackwater, followed it up with a huge double-double of 18 points and 17 rebounds (hitting big shots and grabbing important rebounds, earning co-Best Player of the Game honors with James Yap), plus four assists, on Friday against the four-time defending champion San Miguel Beer, and capped it off with a 5-point (he only took three shots), 11-rebound, 3-assist, 1-block outing against Alaska on Sunday. His team went 2-1 and he was a big reason why. Apart from the numbers, his ability to read plays, react accordingly, and be in the right place at the right time is evident. This early, some are saying he might be the steal of the Draft.
2. CJ Perez, Columbian (week's averages: 25 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals in 34 minutes in 1 game)
Regardless of the opponent, Perez is showing everyone that he can compete and even excel. Against tough and tall Ginebra on Saturday, he shot 11-of-21 from the field (52%) and repeatedly got into the paint to finish or to grab rebounds. Four of his seven boards came on the offensive end. The thing with Perez is, it seems he is just scratching the surface of his abilities, still feeling his way around how the PBA works and learning the level of the competition. Certainly, bigger things are in store for this undeniable talent.
3. Abu Tratter, Blackwater (week's averages: 18 ppg, 59% fg, 8 rpg in 2 games)
Tratter continues to show discipline in that he plays within his capabilities. He hardly forces anything, keeps it simple, and does not make too many mistakes. He uses his athleticism and quickness in one-on-one situations and is not afraid to bang with the more-established bigs in the painted area. He has shown the ability to switch from finesse moves to power moves depending on the matchup. He still shoots at a high percentage three weeks into his PBA career and even improved his free throw shooting. Tratter had four steals against Phoenix on Friday to go with 24 points on 8-of-11 field goals and has not been embarrassed on the defensive end.
4. Paul Desiderio, Blackwater (week's averages: 9.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.0 apg in 2 games)
The former UP Maroon had his best week so far. Given more minutes (about 25 per game), Desiderio had a chance to feel his way around and get comfortable. He was also tasked with guarding bigger opponents and held his own. He needs to improve his shooting percentage (37% field goals and only 1-of-7 three-pointers for the week), but he is playing under control and showing aggressiveness attacking and drawing fouls.
5. JP Calvo, Columbian (week's averages: 2 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists in 30.3 minutes in 1 game)
His statistics, particularly his point total in the Dyip's lone game for the week against Ginebra, do not scream for attention, but after not playing at all at first, Calvo has been used more and more frequently. There has to be respect for a new fellow who stays on the floor for most of the game even if he is not scoring; surely, he is being effective in other ways, including handling the ball, rebounding, and dishing out dimes to his teammates. Calvo goes about his business practically unnoticed since all eyes are on his more-heralded co-rookie teammate Perez, but he is perfectly fine playing away from the spotlight, as long as Coach Johnedel Cardel sees what he is doing and appreciates him for it.