30 August 2011

More Lopsided Deals for Meralco

Jason ballesteros
In the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), there are always moments that have everyone scratching their heads in wonder and utter amazement. And one particular subject that captures this reaction very well is trades. The media and fans love when trades happen. It strikes up around-the-cooler conversations in several forums, some of which can get pretty heated.

The more lopsided the swap is, the more intense the threads become. Some trades seem extremely one-sided upon first glance, while others turn to be out later down the line as a player(s) develops into a star. No team in the PBA can claim a clean conscience on these, particularly not Meralco Bolts, a team that gained a lot from several one-sided and head-scratching deals.

When Meralco acquired the Sta. Lucia Realtors franchise two years ago, they purchased a team with no legitimate superstars. They immediately went to work fast by acquiring Macmac Cardona from sister team Talk 'N Text using Air21 as conduit. At the time of the trade, Cardona led the league in scoring with a 20.0-point clip in 2009 and his team with a 17.1-point average in the last conference of 2010.To get those numbers, the Bolts had to give up only Josh Urbiztondo and the team's 2010 No. 3 pick.

This deal isn't quite as bad as it would seem to be at first glance (which is pretty awful). That third pick was used to take Rey Guevarra, a player who can shoot from downtown or in the perimeter and can drive fast to the basket as what he did during his collegiate days in Letran. Guevarra have turned in professional numbers that leave a lot to be desired at the Air21 bench, but showed flashes of brilliance when he was shipped to the Petron Boosters and became an integral part of their championship run in the 2011 Governor’s Cup.

Early this year, the Bolts were again set to acquire a potential explosive player by trading for Rain or Shine point guard Sol Mercado in exchange for Beau Belga and Reed Juntilla. This was the official start of Yeng Guiao's witch hunting foray at the Elasto Painters bench and the weeding out continues to this date.

Guiao dealt a future Hall of Famer (albeit a Hall of Famer who does not want anything to do with coach Guiao) for a one-half version of a Nestle twin that has a mentality of a three-point shooter trapped in the beefy body of a forward and a local version of Jeff Hornacek who used to knocked down bucket after bucket for those amateur and college teams. Not even the inclusion of Paolo Bugia from Rain or Shine and Eric Rodriguez from Air21 can sweeten the deal.

With no picks during the 2011 PBA Annual Draft, Meralco Bolts set to work again using their sister team as a shoulder to cry on. Together with Powerade, Meralco acquired the rights to Talk 'N Text's No. 7 overall pick, Tropang Texters forward Mark Yee, and guard Mark Macapagal from Powerade.

Talk 'N Text received guard Shawn Weinstein and swing man Bam Gamalinda from the Bolts. Powerade, on the other hand, received guard Chris Timberlake and swingman Ogie Menor from the Bolts and the last pick of the second round (No. 21 overall) from the Tropang Texters.

The number 7 overall pick turned out to be center Jason Ballesteros, a backup big man from the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team.

Compared to the two other blockbuster trade of Meralco, the acquisition of Ballesteros easily takes the cake (pun intended) as the most lopsided trade so far for the Bolts. Weinstein, Gamalinda and Menor have so far averaged in single digits in points, assist and rebounds in their short career with the team, while Timberlake didn't do anything in his time there.

Ballesteros has the potential to become one of the league's most skilled big men in the game and the Bolts just took him and ran off. He is also one of the best defensive big men in this year’s draft, therefore, everyone had a hard time swallowing the fact that he was acquired in exchange for a bunch of bench and role players. This trade is the definition of highway robbery of the century in the basketball circle (or a gift from Manny Pangilinan).

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