New-look Gilas Pilipinas gets a split from the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers, losing to Iran 81-73 and beating Qatar 92-81. So how did this latest incarnation of Gilas perform? We asked five of our writers.
1. Who was your MVP for the fourth window?
Chuck Araneta: Tough to say, because Christian Standhardinger was the obvious standout choice against Iran, but he wasn't there in the match against Qatar. So this is going to be a strange answer, but I'm actually going to go with their coach, Yeng Guiao. Guiao was the glue that held this team together, according to coach Ryan Gregorio. It was his calming presence at the halftime locker room that gave Gilas the jolt they needed in the third quarter to rally from a 17-point deficit to beat Qatar.
Charlie Cuna: This is tough because none of the players merited this consideration in both games of the window. Alex Cabagnot's numbers were steady in both games (9 points, 6 assists vs. Iran; 16 points, 3 assists vs. Qatar) so he deserves some mention here, but, if forced to name the one that for me solidly delivered in both games not just in terms of numbers but in overall impact, I will go with Beau Belga. He played about 18 minutes each game, and his presence was felt because of his energy and effort, and the amount of fight that he exhibited. In Tagalog, lumalaban siya! Pumapalag! Especially in the Qatar game, his toughness and resolve really helped the team.
Carlo Pamintuan: It's tough to say because the best player in the Iran game -- Standhardinger -- did not play in the second game. And Japeth Aguilar, who was the top performer against Qatar, did not suit up due to suspension against Iran.
I'm picking Cabagnot who had 9 points, 2 rebounds, and 6 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block against Iran and 16 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals against Qatar.
Cabagnot was a steadying factor for the team as he hit crucial baskets, especially against Qatar. His buzzer-beating floater to end the first half was the start of the momentum shift in the contest.
Jutt Sulit: It's usually easy to answer this question. For this window, however, it's tough. Standhardinger was beyond spectacular against Iran, but he didn't play against Qatar. I'll go with Cabagnot. Yes, he could've shot the ball better against Iran, but the guy found ways to still help out. He had six assists in that game. He finally found his rhythm against Qatar and finished with 16 points and was a plus-23. Cabagnot looked pretty comfortable in a Pilipinas jersey.
Noel Zarate: Scottie Thompson. Like in the PBA, he doesn't have to score to make an impact. If you look at it closely, he's the odd man out offensively (similar to how Matt Ganuelas-Rosser was during the Tab Baldwin administration), but he disrupted enough plays, deflected enough passes, tapped enough dribbles and, of course, rebounded well enough (especially against Qatar) to make a difference on a team that struggled on offense in both games. Gilas Scottie deserves to stay on the squad moving forward. Honorable mention: Cabagnot.
2. Who performed better than your expectations?
Chuck: Beau Belga. He was solid against Iran, and even better against Qatar. Without Standhardinger to rely on, Gilas had to trust their bigs to contain their Qatari counterparts. Belga did this, and even more. He proved that he belonged on that stage with Gilas.
Charlie: None of them. We know how good all these guys are and we have yet to see their best.
Carlo: Thompson. I really did not know what to expect from him on the international stage but, in the game against Qatar, he proved that what makes him effective in the PBA will also help the national squad. His ability to chase loose balls in the third quarter against Qatar was crucial in their comeback bid.
Jutt: It may sound blasphemous but I didn't expect Thompson to be able to play the way he does in the PBA. I didn't think he'd be able to get up there and steal rebounds from the big men of Iran. But he did. And he was as impactful as he is when he plays for Ginebra. It was astonishing to see.
Noel: Belga. His tenacity was infectious and is probably the one other than Gabe Norwood who understands the Guiao system the most. He was also a disruptor and got into the heads of the opposition. Belga also showed leadership on one of the most stacked Gilas incarnations ever while still contributing on the court. He led the Philippines in Efficiency Rating against Qatar and surely left his imprint against Iran.
3. Sum up the performance of the team in one word and explain.
Chuck: WIP (Work in progress). Since it's an abbreviation, does that count as one word?
The seeds of what could be a good team have been planted here. They play an up-and-down frenetic pace that could spell a lot of problems for other squads in the future. The backcourt is stellar, and now it just needs a better scoring punch in the paint. When Greg Slaughter and June Mar Fajardo join this squad, that will come. I'm excited to see what this team will look like with a full suite of players come November.
Charlie: Shaky. There was no consistency at all. There was a clear lack of chemistry, which is direct result of the compressed preparation time. The shooting percentage, particularly from three-point range (8-for-59, 13 percent), speaks for itself. There were defensive lapses (too many layups) and too many fouls. The bright side is, despite all of this, there was a chance to win vs. Iran and there was a come-from-behind win vs. Qatar. The only way to go is up.
Carlo: Enough. A win against Iran would have been nice and it could all but guaranteed Gilas' entry into the 2019 FIBA World Cup but beating Qatar at home was what they needed from this window. With the usual pool of players thinned by the suspensions and Fajardo out with an injury, it could have gotten ugly for Gilas Pilipinas.
Jutt: Worthy. This team was out to prove themselves not only to opponents but to their own countrymen. It had been a very eventful stretch for Philippine basketball. With everything happening, this team was put together in the hope of restoring order. And this team did. There will be work to be done but there also is a lot of potential.
Noel: Resilient. They never gave up on both occasions and were just a couple of breaks away from shocking Iran in Tehran while against Qatar, they weren't daunted by having to overcome a huge deficit. Once those shots start dropping, Gilas will be very difficult to defeat in the next two windows.
4. Complete the sentence: Gilas needs to work on ...
Chuck: Shooting. There's no way that a team that has Matthew Wright, Marcio Lassiter, Stanley Pringle, Paul Lee, and Alex Cabagnot should be shooting this badly. You can chalk it up to bad luck, but the lackluster 3-point shooting against Qatar make it two straight games that Gilas has shot below 30 percent from that range. Let's hope this is just an anomaly, not a trend.
Charlie: Shooting, especially 3-point shooting. There should be no other answer to this fourth question.
Carlo: Defense. As coach Tim Cone said, this will come in time. Guiao's defensive philosophies are different from coach Chot Reyes' and a few practices would mean there'll be a lot left untaught. The offense runs well enough to get good looks but Gilas shooters did not make enough 3-pointers. There are issues on the defensive end that still need to be addressed.
Jutt: Outside shooting. If Gilas' shots fell against Iran, that game would have had a very different ending. If Gilas' shots fell against Qatar, there would not have been any worrying in the first half. They just really need to be consistent.
Noel: Offense. Not just shooting better. Against Iran, two defensive lapses against Rouzbeh Argavan's 3-point shots really became the ultimate difference. Against Qatar, the defense once again was the catalyst in the win. Those situations may not have happened if Guiao's system was fully implemented. Gilas has about two months to get it right and once they do, Lassiter, Wright, Lee, Cabagnot and even Taulava will have more prep time. That will happen in the fifth window, for sure.
5. Three players you are looking forward to seeing in the fifth window.
Chuck: Greg Slaughter, June Mar Fajardo, and Bobby Ray Parks.
Charlie: Greg Slaughter, June Mar Fajardo, and Troy Rosario (Rosario will be available vs. Iran).
Carlo: Greg Slaughter, Jayson Castro, and June Mar Fajardo
Jutt: June Mar Fajardo. Greg Slaughter. and Jayson Castro.
Noel: Obviously, Fajardo and Slaughter and the return to the pool of Jayson Castro. Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario, and Andray Blatche will also be cleared by the second game of the fifth window against Iran, but Castro joining a guard rotation with Pringle, Cabagnot and Paul Lee adds a different dimension. Castro is built for international play.