The Alaska Aces recently traded controversial forward Calvin Abueva to the Phoenix Fuel Masters in exchange for Karl Dehesa and a 2019 first-round pick. How does the trade impact both teams? Here's how ESPN5's Chuck Araneta graded it.
Phoenix trade grade: B+
On paper, this trade is an absolute home run for coach Louie Alas and the rest of the Fuel Masters. Phoenix has been a fringe contender since their arrival in 2016. They've made it to the playoffs twice, but have struggled to break through recently despite having an impressive collection of young talent like Matthew Wright and rookie Jason Perkins, as well as veterans like JC Intal and Doug Kramer.
Having Abueva will change that for Phoenix. He will provide a burst of energy, swagger and passion that Phoenix has sorely needed. There have been times during this season where the Fuel Masters would suffer from scoring droughts, due to a misfiring Wright, or being unable to get any easy shots in the paint.
Calvin has the ability to manufacture chaos and contributions from seemingly out of nowhere. When Phoenix needs a critical basket, or a defensive stop, Abueva is the guy to call on.
Another bonus for Phoenix is how Abueva legitimizes the team as a potential contender. Abueva is a polarizing player to watch, but for Alaska fans, there has been no one more beloved in recent memory. He's a draw, and he's going to get a lot of people interested in watching Phoenix basketball.
So why didn't Phoenix get an A+ for this trade? It's because of all the non-basketball things. That's the only possible reason why Alaska moved on from Abueva who is still in the prime of his career. The hope is that Abueva will be on his best behavior, reporting for duty like a good soldier and helping Phoenix win a ton of games, hopefully deep into the playoffs. But as recent history has shown, Calvin has been prone to disappearing acts from time to time. But if he stays controversy-free? This is an absolutely A+ trade for Phoenix.
Hopefully the experiences have taught him a lesson, and that he'll go out there and be The Beast once again. Phoenix took a calculated gamble here, and it was a great one to get a player like Calvin Abueva.
Alaska trade grade: C
This grade isn't about Calvin Abueva. Alaska had some high moments with Calvin - they won a championship in 2013 and made it to the finals several times. Abueva even won a Best Player of the Conference award in 2016. But all good things must come to an end.
This isn't about Karl Dehesa, who was the only current player that the Aces got back in the trade. Dehesa is a solid guard who was never able to find his niche with the Fuel Masters. He's young enough to still have a chance to contribute for Alaska.
This is about the first round pick that Alaska received from Phoenix. The Fuel Masters have two first round picks this year - their own, plus Barangay Ginebra's which they received from the Jeff Chan trade. As it stands, the Fuel Masters' pick is going to be in the top four, because they weren't able to make it to the playoffs in the first two conferences this season. The Ginebra pick, on the other hand, will most likely be in the bottom four.
The 2018 PBA Draft class is going to be stacked, especially with players like Robert Bolick, CJ Perez, Abu Tratter and Ray Parks touted to headline the crop. If this was the draft that Alaska wanted to join by trading Abueva, then it seemingly could have been a worthwhile move.
Instead, Alaska got Phoenix's 2019 first round pick. And here's the problem with that.
The Phoenix first-round pick next year doesn't look like it's going to be as valuable as the upcoming one is. For one, Phoenix is going to have the trio of Wright, Perkins and Abueva wreaking havoc in the PBA. Not only that, whoever they end up picking in the next draft is going to be an instant contributor. That's going to push them up the standings, and push Alaska's chances to get a franchise player in the mold of Abueva further down.
Alaska after the Abueva trade
Alaska head coach Alex Compton and Chris Exciminiano gave their thoughts on the trade which sent Calvin Abueva to Phoenix.
There's still time for that to change, particularly if more players beyond studs like Thirdy Ravena apply for the draft. But the sure thing was a pick in the 2018 draft. So in that regard, Alaska struck out.
In basketball terms, Alaska is going to look like a different team without Abueva. It looks like the success that the Aces had without the controversial forward has emboldened them to prepare for life after The Beast. And it makes sense. If Manuel can stay healthy, and the youngsters on the team like Simon Enciso and Jeron Teng can develop and get better, then Alaska should be able to stay competitive.
But they're going to miss Abueva's chaos and and defiant fighting spirit when times are tough. When the need to bail out starters for a slow start or manufacture a positive during tough situations, Alaska will no longer have Abueva to turn to. It's a heartbreaking way for the partnership to end, but it was time. And now, the Aces will have to find a way to pick up the pieces without Abueva doing it for them.