Raymond Almazan's tumultuous relationship with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters has ended. The marquee center was included in a package, which was approved on Tuesday, that sent him to Meralco in exchange for the Bolts' 2019 and 2021 first-round draft picks.
Almazan played six games for the Elasto Painters in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup after going AWOL due to a misunderstanding with Rain or Shine head coach Caloy Garcia. The two patched things up during the offseason but it appears the relationship never fully mended.
What may have forced the Rain or Shine management to finally pull the trigger was their performance in the first conference. Even without Almazan, the Elasto Painters managed to make it all the way to Game 7 of the semifinals, losing in overtime to the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok.
With Beau Belga filling in the point-center role nicely and with youngster Norbert Torres showing vast improvement, Rain or Shine's decision to part with Almazan will save them a lot of money. The trade also frees up a roster spot, which could be used for a free agent. This should be another positive development for Rain or Shine, which has proven to be a good squad to join for journeymen who are looking for another opportunity.
The management made it clear that they would only part with Almazan if they received two first-round picks in return. Meralco's 2019 selection could very well earn the Elasto Painters a big name after the Bolts finished second to the last in the Philippine Cup, which is the biggest determining factor in terms of the draft order.
The 2021 pick may not be as good, however, if Meralco shows improvement with the entry of Almazan. But it will still be an extra first-rounder in Rain or Shine's back pocket.
On the other end, the trade also makes sense for Meralco which has been lacking a reliable big man. Plug in a player like Almazan in their last couple of finals appearances against Ginebra in the Governors' Cup and the results could have been different.
The Bolts feel that their lineup right now, with a combination of veterans and youngsters, only has a slim window to still compete for a title so they decided to pull the trigger on the deal, even if losing two first rounders is painful.
According to a source close to the situation, Meralco was open to trading their 2019 pick and a marquee player of the Elasto Painters' choosing in exchange for Almazan, but this was thumbed down because Rain or Shine did not want to take back salary, preferring the 2021 pick instead. The same source also said that Meralco did not want to lose its first-rounders in back-to-back years, so the Bolts will keep their 2020 pick.
Both teams are preparing for their upcoming Commissioner's Cup campaigns. Almazan should form a fearsome duo with incoming Meralco import Gani Lawal, while his departure from Rain or Shine will give Denzel Bowles more room to operate.
The Bolts have a wealth of guards in Baser Amer, Mike Tolomia, Anjo Caram, recently added John Pinto, and rookie Trevis Jackson. With enough bodies at the point and shooting guard spots, Chris Newsome can transition to the small forward spot for faster units while still spending time at either guard positions in case they need size.
Adding Almazan will bring balance to their unit, especially at times when their import takes a break. Almazan had the leeway to take long shots with the Elasto Painters but Meralco also allows its bigs to do the same, with Ranidel De Ocampo and Reynel Hugnatan as the reliable gunners.
In the end, this is one of the few trades where both teams actually benefit. If the relationship between Almazan and Garcia couldn't be repaired, then there was no point in staying together. The fresh scenery should be a welcome sight for Almazan who has never experienced playing for another PBA team since he entered the league in 2013.