19 October 2014

Determining the Bolts Starting PF Position

Starting Power-Forward
If you think the Meralco Bolts starting lineup and rotations are set in stone, think again. While most people assume that the opening night starting power forward will be Cliff Hodge, nothing is official.

With sophomore Sean Anthony and veteran John Ferriols still on the roster, pre-season games will be important for coach Norman Black in determining which player will earn that starting role. The key question for is who separates himself, not only as the best players to play, but as the best groups.

Moreover, the focus needs to be on what do they do well, how does the coaching staff put them in positions to succeed, and who accentuates that when they're on the court.

Assuming the Bolts start a "true" center like Rabeh Al-Hussaini or the undersized Reynel Hugnatan, then we can only pencil in Hodge as the starting power forward.

On paper, the 6-foot-5 athletic big man provides a lot of positives. He's highly efficient on the low post, can spread the floor with his shot, and is a fantastic rebounder. In fact, you could argue that Hodge fits the description of a throwback power forward.
But there is no guarantee that's what the Bolts are looking for out of the starting unit in terms of how the pieces all fit together. If Anjo Caram and Jared Dillinger starts for the team, there are already two players who are not exactly threats from the outside, so Meralco could possibly use at least one big man who can spread the floor beyond the three-point line.

That is why the 6-foot-4 Anthony is another strong candidate to start at power forward this season. Anthony might not be the low post threat or the rebounder that Hodge is, but he's a superior three-point shooter, passer, and ball handler. Those skills could potentially give him the edge, though Hodge is still an improving shooter.

It was actually quite humorous seeing a shaded-lane operator shoot from the outside, but if you tried to mimic his movements you would see how it'd work to help your athleticism.

Fortunately, the eye test shows that Anthony has continued this hard work throughout the 2013-2014 season. His arms look more toned and his lower body is a thicker, a sign that he improved his core strength and cut down on his body fat.

In his 4 seasons with the league, Anthony shot had steadily risen from 23 percent to 30 percent from three. If he continues that hot shooting throughout the pre-season it would not be too surprising if coach Black inks his name in as a starter.

But we're forgetting someone. Entering his 12th year in the league, he's a knockdown mid-range jump shooter, a hard worker, a versatile defensive player, and a proven veteran. This player also has 395 games tucked under his belt.

That player is Ferriols, who somehow has become the dark horse for the starting gig. Perhaps it's due to his decreasing production, but if Ferriols gets a contract, he deserves to be in the conversation as a starter.

The goal at the beginning of every season is to put the team on the floor that gives the Bolts the best chance of winning games. Ferriols shares that sentiment.

Considering Ferriols’ experience, a lineup with him, Caram, Dillinger, Al-Hussaini, and John Wilson could be one of the better defensive units in the league. While Ferriols doesn't provide the same offensive spark as Hodge and Anthony, there is no doubt he is currently a superior individual defensive player.

When it comes to Ferriols starting, it's also worth considering how potent Hodge and Anthony could be in the next season. Both can spread the floor and has basketball awareness for a couple of frontcourt players.

Starting Al-Hussaini and Ferriols could give the Bolts a superior defensive unit to begin games, and then Hodge or Anthony could come off the bench to jump start the offense as they feast against the opponent's weaker bench players.

This is why pre-season is vitally important, contrary to popular belief. Which combinations of bigs playing the best together, and how they interact with the guards and wings will be crucial in determining how the rotation flows at the beginning of the season.

But if there's one thing that's for sure, it's that nothing has been determined yet and we won't really know which groups of bigs will be paired together until the month of October is winding down.

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