Another blockbuster trade rocked the PBA on Friday, when the league's trade committee approved a one-on-one trade between NorthPort and Barangay Ginebra involving Christian Standhardinger and Greg Slaughter.
The transaction is easily one of the biggest deals in recent history considering the resume that both former top picks carry.
Standhardinger, 31, is already a two-time champion and one-time Best Player of the Conference (BPC) awardee after just three seasons, quickly establishing himself as a potent two-way force with San Miguel and NorthPort.
Slaughter, on the other hand, owns a BPC award himself and is a four-time champion and a five-time All-Star. Ginebra selected Slaughter at No. 1 in the 2013 Rookie Draft, and the 32-year-old big man firmly established himself as one of the top centers in the PBA after six seasons with the Gin Kings.
What are NorthPort and Ginebra getting from their new acquisitions moving forward? We may have a couple of ideas.
Christian Standhardinger and Ginebra
If we're basing on recent production alone, it may be fair to say that Ginebra won this trade by a good margin.
Standhardinger is coming off yet another impressive season that saw him average 19.9 points on 49.4 percent shooting, a league-best 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals in 37.5 minutes per game. NorthPort just couldn't take advantage of his play, winning just one of 11 games in the 2020 Philippine Cup.
In a star-studded Ginebra lineup, Standhardinger won't have to completely carry the offense like he did in NorthPort. He won't be reduced to a mere spectator like his days in San Miguel, either.
It's easy to identify Standhardinger's biggest strengths. On offense, he actively seeks to be a threat in the post, in rolls and in dump-offs, and he can hit the mid-range shot as well. More importantly, he's got good senses as a passer, and that ability at the five will be a very welcome addition to the offense.
Per RealGM, which used 2020 stats to tabulate advanced basketball data, Standhardinger's 22.7 assist percentage -- a stat which estimates the percentage of field goals a player assists on while he's on the floor -- was No. 1 among all centers. That's important for a Ginebra offense that thrives on equal opportunities on offense. The team handed out 22.7 assists per game in 2020, good for third overall; 68 percent of their field goals were assisted, per RealGM, which was the second-highest mark.
Being around high-level creators on offense will also certainly ease the burden on a usually efficient Standhardinger, who in 2020 wasn't as red-hot compared to his first two years. His true shooting percentage (TS%) -- a measure of a player's efficiency in field goal attempts, three-point attempts and free throws -- was at 50.8 percent, a tad below the league-average of 51.2. That's mostly thanks to some subpar work at the stripe, where he shot a career-low 49.4 percent on a career-high seven attempts per game.
Being with LA Tenorio and Scottie Thompson will certainly make offense easier for Standhardinger. The duo are terrific playmakers -- Thompson's 27.0% assist percentage was a team-high, while Tenorio had the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio (3.6) in the league last year. Both guards don't stick with the ball for too long, either; per RealGM, Tenorio and Thompson were the only players in the top 10 assists leaderboard to post a usage rate under 20 percent.
In his two conferences with NorthPort, Standhardinger simply didn't play too often with a lot of great playmakers. He played with Robert Bolick for only one game together before the rookie guard went down with an ACL injury. Sean Anthony was excellent and ran the offense very well, but a hamstring injury cut his 2020 campaign short, which was a huge loss for NorthPort; he recorded 5.5 assists in the only three games that he played, and his 11.0 assist-to-turnover ratio and 42.7 assist percentage would have been first by a mile if he qualified and sustained it for an entire conference. Nico Elorde was a good passer, but he had high turnover rates.
Standhardinger's frenetic energy on offense means teams will have to devote extra attention to try and contain him, which in turn could help other star teammates break free from tighter defenses. When that happens, Stanley Pringle stands to benefit the most. He led the team in usage (26.4%) and capitalized on it, churning out a team-high 18.5 points on pretty efficient shooting (44.3 percent shooting, 38.3 percent on 3s, 89.1 percent from the free throw line).
Defensively, the Gin Kings are now more versatile. Standhardinger is more switchable when it comes to matching up with guards and bigs, and he's got good hands; his steal numbers are often unusually high for a center. He doesn't block a lot of shots -- Standhardinger swatted away just one shot last conference -- but it's a good thing he'll have an airborne partner in Japeth Aguilar, who was second in the league in blocks (1.4) and block rate (4.4%) in 2020.
Standhardinger is also a great rebounder, and he's even better on the defensive glass, where he grabbed a league-high nine per game last season. That makes an already elite Ginebra team even better in that department; in 2020, the Gin Kings grabbed 37.1 defensive rebounds, a league-high. Opponents also grabbed a total of just 43.8 rebounds against the Gin Kings, the second-lowest figure in the league.
The Gin Kings were stingy inside the bubble. Their 100.3 defensive rating ranked fourth, and opponents shot 40.2 percent from the field and 29.1 percent on 3s -- both the second-lowest marks. They were disciplined and they didn't foul a lot -- the 16.5 opponent free throw attempts and their 17.3 fouls per game were league-lows by a mile. Expect those numbers to trend up with Standhardinger on board.
Greg Slaughter and NorthPort
It's a little difficult to evaluate Slaughter since he went on a self-imposed sabbatical in 2020. But if he is able to carry over the offseason improvements that he's been showcasing online, then NorthPort is in a pretty good spot.
During his last full season with the Gin Kings, Slaughter logged 9.6 points on 50.8 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.9 blocks in 22.4 minutes per game, 49 contests and 26 starts. His best conference in 2019 came in an all-local setting in the Philippine Cup: 14.2 points on 55.2 percent shooting, 8.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.9 blocks in 28 minutes.
In Slaughter, NorthPort gets a legitimate seven-footer who is still an effective deterrent at the rim. The 0.9 blocks he recorded in 2019 probably belie his ability to adequately protect the basket; his 3.34% block rate -- which estimates the percentage of shots a player blocks during his playing time -- was high. He blocked 1.4 shots per 36 minutes that year, too.
Mobility will always be a problem, especially if he's switched onto smaller guards and wings, but few players in the world with Slaughter's height and size don't struggle in that regard. His physical profile is still an uncommon commodity in today's league, and he wasn't completely unplayable in the times that he played. In all three conferences in 2019, Slaughter posted a positive net rating, per RealGM, and he ended the year with a solid 100.9 defensive rating and a +5.3 net. In the All-Filipino conference, he logged a team-high +11.9 and a 95.7 defensive rating -- the latter 17th among players who played at least 15 minutes a game.
Slaughter was also pretty good on the defensive glass, especially during that Philippine Cup, where his defensive and total rebound percentages -- or simply put, the percentage of rebounds that a player grabs during his stay on the floor -- were at 21.4% and 15.1%, good for eighth and ninth overall, respectively.
Offensively, Greg can establish good post position. He's still more of a finesse player than a power player, but that's manageable for the most part since Slaughter still towers over everyone. He's got a soft touch on his jump hooks, and he can extend to the mid-range if necessary. He was efficient in 2019, sporting a 55.0 TS%.
Slaughter still needs other great players and playmakers to take the heat off of him, and the Batang Pier have that in Bolick and Anthony.
Bolick averaged 13.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 0.9 steals in 32 games in 2019. He's bound to get even better, especially at running the point. In seven games he played in the 2019-20 Governors' Cup, the 25-year-old guard averaged 6.0 assists and led the league in assist percentage by assisting on 29.2% of his teammates' field goals.
Anthony, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, can cover up Slaughter's deficiencies and magnify his strengths on offense. In three games that he played before missing the rest of NorthPort's bubble campaign, he averaged an impressive 14.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.8 steals and just 0.5 turnovers. He recorded 23 assists against only two turnovers. Per RealGM, he posted a 127.5 offensive rating and a 93.3 defensive rating for a ridiculous net of +34.2 -- third league-wide among players who played a minimum of 15 minutes per game.
A healthy NorthPort should improve vastly from the team that struggled mightily in the bubble. On offense, the Batang Pier ranked ninth in points (89.6), 10th in field goal percentage (39.8) and 10th in offensive rating (97.6). Defense was an issue, too; they gave up the third-most points at 98.5, and the 107.2 defensive rating they posted was the second-worst. Teams shot 43.6 percent from the field and 34.5 percent on 3s against NorthPort, which were also the second-lowest marks. Even with Standhardinger, opponents outrebounded the Batang Pier on a regular basis.
Slaughter won't make all those problems go away single-handedly, and at this point in their careers, Standhardinger is better and plays with more pep in his step. But NorthPort has their reasons in trading for Slaughter, who said in his farewell post to Ginebra on Instagram that "I still have my best basketball ahead of me." That can still be proven true; as various examples in the past have shown, players peak and hit their stride differently from each other. It would be unfair to Slaughter if we suggest that his game has plateaued completely. All the Batang Pier can hope now is that their new center continues to grow and that he and the entire core stays healthy moving forward.