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 February 4 to 10, 2019.
Things clearly got tougher for the league's rookies in the fourth week of the Philippine Cup. Unlike in the prior three weeks, there was no particularly outstanding rookie performance as the defense clearly focused on the previous weeks' young contributors and the matter of consistency has been a challenge for most of them. Still, let's rank the best from the week just past. There are some new names that made the list.
1. Abu Tratter, Blackwater (week's averages: 11.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg (4.5 offensive), 3 spg in 27.5 mpg in 2 games)
Tratter has been the most consistent among the mostly inconsistent crop of rookies so far. As we observed in past weeks, he does not try to do too much, which lessens the potential for mistakes. His shooting percentage dropped in week four (40% fgs), but the defense of San Miguel Beer on Wednesday really gave him a hard time. He did shoot 50% (5/10) against Barangay Ginebra on Saturday in Digos, Davao del Sur. He also had five steals in that out-of-town game. His strength and athleticism were again on full display and in his short stint in the PBA, with far less expectations, he may have already played better than he did at DLSU.
2. CJ Perez, Columbian (week's averages: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist in 36.5 minutes in 1 game)
While Perez only shot 38% from the field (5/13), he still showed the ability to attack the basket and make use of his quickness and athleticism. While he has yet to duplicate the spectacular debut he had this conference, he has also not played miserably in any of his team's games, contributing in ways other than scoring if need be. Best of all, the way opponents react to him already shows that they respect his game and his capability to stand out on any given day.
3. Robert Bolick, NorthPort (week's averages: 9 points, 1 rebound, 6 assists, 0 turnovers in 36.2 minutes in 1 game)
Determined to bounce back from a relatively poor performance in NorthPort's previous game against Columbian Dyip, Bolick started strong against Rain or Shine on Friday, scoring a couple of baskets early (a three-pointer and a short stab). As the game went on, however, his shooting turned sour yet again, as he only managed only four more points from that point. Despite that, he still played major minutes and handled the ball most of the time - a testament of Coach Pido Jarencio's faith in his new recruit. He clearly eases Stanley Pringle from the burden of orchestrating. He must re-find his shooting touch though to keep that going. He issued six assists and did not commit a turnover, proving that there are other ways you can help your team when you are not shooting well from the floor.
4. Kyles Lao, NLEX (week's averages: 8 points, 1 rebound, 6 assists, 1 turnover in 16 minutes in 1 game)
Lao was able to play in a tough game on Friday against the then still unbeaten Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters and actually performed above expectations. The former UP Maroon did not back down, played physical defense against the bigger Phoenix guards, and was able to show a varying offensive attack. He nailed three of four free throws and issued six assists against just one turnover. At least in the fourth week of the tournament, Lao was yet another in a long line of beneficiaries of the Yeng Guiao system, which enables anyone on the roster to shine as each player is given an ample opportunity to show what he can do.
5. Jesper MJ Ayaay, Alaska (week's averages: 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists in 19 minutes in 1 game)
Alasks ran the Dyip out of the gym on Wednesday, and Ayaay played a little more than he did in his team's first game against Rain or Shine two weeks ago. While he was already able to put up six points in his first outing, he upped his production against Columbian, and added rebounds and assists as well. He shot 50% from the two-point area and nailed both his free throws. The former Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirate has held his own in two outings so far and while he is not nearly as heralded as many of his fellow rookies, Alaska should be satisfied so far with his output.