The playoffs remain elusive for the Columbian Dyip franchise.
Since joining the PBA at the start of the 2015 season, the Dyip, then known as KIA, have only made the playoffs once: the 2016 Governors' Cup when the team then had a shot-blocking, athletic import named James White.
That Mahindra squad kicked off the season-ending conference with a 4-0 start, the franchise's best to date, before eventually losing to the Meralco Bolts, who enjoyed a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Since then, the Columbian franchise has languished in obscurity, failing to reach the playoffs season after season.
The 2019 PBA season was no different.
Though 2019 marked John Cardel's first full season as head coach, the franchise struggled to get past the elimination round even with a super rookie in CJ Perez, along with cast-offs-turned-valuable contributors in Rashawn McCarthy, Jackson Corpuz and Andreas Cahilig.
It's been just a little over two years since the KIA/Columbian franchise opted to trade its top pick to powerhouse San Miguel Beer in a controversial move in October 2017.
That first pick would turn out to be Fil-German Christian Standhardinger, who many believed was the type of player that can change the fortunes of a floundering franchise.
That trade has haunted Columbian ever since as the franchise won just six times in 2018, before experiencing a slight improvement this year when it won 11 games.
The entry of CJ Perez though made Columbian quite an entertaining and sometimes, dangerous team to play against.
Columbian still failed to reach the post season this year, but the Cardel-mentored squad managed to beat grand slam-seeking San Miguel twice this year. The Dyip also managed to sneak in at least a win against playoff-tested squads in Rain or Shine, NorthPort, NLEX and Alaska this season.
Perez, the former Lyceum Pirate star has lived up to the hype since becoming the 2018 top overall rookie pick. The athletic guard/wingman's impressive first two conferences earned him a call-up at Gilas under coach Yeng Guiao, representing the Philippines in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
After his stint with Gilas, Perez averaged awe-inspiring numbers of 23.18 points, 8.09 rebounds, 3.45 assists and 2.45 steals in over 39 minutes in the Governors' Cup. He also shot 34.2 percent from three-point distance.
Providing solid support for Perez were McCarthy, with his averages of 14.45 points, 4.82 rebounds, 3.27 assists and 1.27 steals, and Corpuz, who normed 8.11 points and 4.33 rebounds in the third conference.
But in order to consistently come out with the W, we all know that the yardstick continues to be San Miguel Beer, given the Beermen's star-studded and experienced squad led by five-time league MVP June Mar Fajardo, Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot.
Columbian just didn't have enough reliable personnel to compete with the PBA's bigwigs, and that's basically one reason why this franchise remains a non-playoff contending team.
What they need
There's no doubt the Dyip need a solid big man if they intend to become competitive and eventually make the playoffs.
Columbian's Commissioner's Cup and Governors' Cup imports-Lester Prosper and Khapri Alston, respectively, were both solid inside operators with decent perimeter shooting. Both delivered the numbers needed for Columbian during their stints with the team.
But then again, PBA fans would always go back to the controversial trade the franchise did in the 2017 rookie Draft. You can almost hear basketball fans saying Standhardinger would have easily formed a deadly 1-2 combo with Perez this season.
But that will never happen anymore.
Instead, what Cardel and Columbian management need to do moving forward is take a close, hard look at its current roster, see what they need, before checking on the incoming batch of rookies for the PBA Draft set on December 8.
Pending the final list of freshmen from the rookie pool, one could expect a good talent base for Columbian to choose from.
And should the final draft order list Blackwater as no. 1 and Columbian no. 2, judging from the two teams' poor 2019 season records, the Dyip have another chance to snag a talented rookie they can pair up with Perez.
If Blackwater opts to select Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena, who is expected to throw his hat in the pros soon, then Columbian could possibly nab another former Blue Eagle in big man Isaac Go, if he decides to join the draft.
Of course, fans can expect a lot of wheeling and dealing in the offseason.
If Columbian can play its cards right by making calculated moves, then more likely, this franchise can finally shed off its doormat tag and become a playoff-bound team in the future.