ESPN5.com previews the 12 PBA teams ahead of their first games in the 2019 Philippine Cup, the kickoff conference of the new PBA season.
Philippine Cup: 5-6 (7th) -- Lost 0-1 in the quarterfinals against Magnolia
Commissioner's Cup: 5-6 (7th) -- Lost 0-2 in the quarterfinals against Rain or Shine
Governors' Cup: 2-9 (11th) -- Did not qualify for playoffs
Robert Bolick, Jomari Sollano
Pao Javelona, Jeric Teng, Jebb Bulawan
Rest of Roster
Paolo Taha, Stanley Pringle, Mo Tautuaa, Nico Elorde, Sean Anthony, Jonathan Grey, Ryan Araña, Lervin Flores, Joseph Gabayni, Bradwyn Guinto
Biggest thing to look out for
Since it joined the PBA, it's been all about improvement for the NorthPort franchise. Anchored on the high-octane duo of Stanley Pringle and Terrence Romeo, the team saw a lot of progress through the years. But after several seasons of banking on their two stars, NorthPort made a bold move by trading away three-time scoring champion Romeo to the TNT KaTropa last season.
Between the two guards, it always seemed like Romeo was Batman and Pringle was Robin. But the exit of Romeo transferred the lead role hat to Pringle. In fact, he eventually dethroned his former partner as PBA scoring champion, averaging 20.1 points. But that trade happened after their stint in the Philippine Cup. So while Stan was already 'the man', he was alongside imports who obviously hogged the spotlight on most nights.
Again, there were more than a handful of occasions wherein Pringle was the biggest star - including that game he dropped 50 points on the Columbian Dyip. Times like those remind us that he is very capable and has long been ready to be the main man of a PBA team. And that's what he's going to be for NorthPort this coming Philippine Cup.
He will not be alone in battle, though. He has always been surrounded by talented locals who are looking to prove themselves in the league. Sean Anthony, for one, has been playing some of the best basketball of his career ever since he got to NorthPort.
And of course, Pringle will roll with a new partner this season. Robert Bolick, the Batang Pier's third overall pick in 2018 PBA Draft, will hope to restore a lethal backcourt tandem for the squad.
It's a very exciting time for the Batang Pier as they come into the new season with one of the best rookies in the league. Like Pringle, Bolick is as effective in the half court set as he is on the break. He shouldn't have a hard time easing into the up-and-down basketball that NorthPort likes to play.
Last season, the team averaged 18.4 fast break points per game. They were top two in that category in each of the three conferences. That is the style of basketball that they want to play because they have the pieces for it. Guys like Jonathan Grey, Paolo Taha and Nico Elorde are built for that.
However, guards and wings have never truly been a concern for this team. What has been a weakness for them is their bigs. It's not that their centers are unserviceable, they are doing their jobs. In last season's Philippine Cup, NorthPort even led the league in rebounds with a massive 60.3 per game. But it just so happens that five-time MVP June Mar Fajardo has set the bar very high for bigs. This is why it has been important for NorthPort to pick the right import in the second and third conferences.
In the Philippine Cup, the pressure will fall heavily on Mo Tautuaa, whom NorthPort acquired in the trade involving Romeo. The first overall pick of the 2015 draft will have to continue his rise with the Batang Pier if the team wants to make a solid run in the All-Filipino.
As they have in previous seasons, the team will be bannering a rather young lineup this year. This, however, could be one of the most well-rounded rosters that the team has brought into a conference. There are enough tools in every position, which should be good to bring into battles with deep teams.
As we talked about, the good thing about this young lineup is these players have grown together and are bringing in different experiences into the mix. Take the stories of Grey and Taha, for example. Both of them have suited up for the franchise before and were actually decent contributors. But as the story goes for a basketball player's career, nothing is ever guaranteed. They bounced around a couple of teams and then found their way back.
The NorthPort Batang Pier bring in a lot of promise and potential into the new season. The measures of their success could very well be two things: their ability to defend and the effectiveness of the leadership of Stanley Pringle.