18 July 2012

What Now Bolts?

Bolts Eliminated
The Meralco Bolts were just eliminated from contending for the Finals berth in the on-going PBA Governor’s Cup. They have some games left in the semifinals, but they will probably use those games to give their bench players a chance to play. They won’t make any serious threat from this point on to the remaining running teams, especially to their sister team – Talk N' Text.

With a roster comprising of only three franchise-potential players, much work must be done if the Bolts have any hopes of winning a championship in any three of the Conferences soon. Returning to the precipice of the PBA semifinal round is one thing; for the Bolts to have any chance to be serious championship contenders, they will need to upgrade in several areas.

Initial reports indicate that the centerpiece for the Bolts off-season activity has been resolved; as management is keen on bringing back aging and prolific center Asi Taulava for one more year. The possible Taulava signing is a good sign that the team is looking to pry their window of opportunity for a year and helps shape the direction of subsequent draft picks this August and free agent acquisition.

In assessing the possible draft picks and available free agents that the Bolts could have signed had Taulava decided to retire offer a far less promising outlook. Now that the possibility of Taulava returning, the Bolts can now place their entire focus on building a team around the group of Taulava, Macmac Cardona and Sol Mercado.

The next order of business is determining whether the bench players will need a serious reshuffle. Chriss Ross, Reynel Hugnatan, Jay-R Reyes, Mark Macapagal and Mark Borboran should be retained as the core of the team next season. The rest can be used as trade baits to leverage for a higher position in the draft or to acquire defensive role player who also has the ability to close games.

At the moment, the caching staffs are adopting a stop-and-run system of plays which leaves too much room for error. It can be confused as a defensive strategy, but it does not work if there are not enough defense-oriented players in the likes of Denok Miranda and Ryan Reyes. The system was similar to the mold employed by Coach Boyet Fernandez, one of the assistant coaches of the Bolts, when he was still handling the Sta. Lucia Realtors.

Unfortunately, for Coach Ryan Gregorio, only Ross had the intensity and energy to actively disrupt the defensive backcourt of their opponents. Cardona and Mercado may be potent offensively, but has yet to display defensive capabilities. If the Bolts will have a chance to reunite Fernandez with his potent defensive backcourt of Ryan Reyes, Miranda and Joseph Yeo, they might have chance make a serious hunt next season and beyond.

The center position is an area that the Bolts have suffered through attrition in the last two years.The lack of a key frontcourt player has hampered the team's ability to grab the elusive championship ring. Whether it was Marlou Aquino or Taulava and Jay-R Reyes, the lack of size up front has been a hindrance for Meralco. The team's efforts to bring in veteran talent to man the interior have been mostly ineffective (i.e. Gabby Espinas, Hugnatan and Dennis Daa).

If the Bolts desire additional solid presence, players in the draft pool should be seriously considered since Taulava may not be playing this well two years from now. This player obtained from the next draft will be the pivotal part that determine whether this is a serious contender team or a mere pawn in boosting Talk N’ Text’s chances for a rare grand slam feat.

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