17 October 2014

Three Players That Could Help The Bolts

Players That Could Help Bolts
Sometimes, it's the role players—not stars—that make or break Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) championship teams. The Allein Maliksis. The Jireh Ibañeses. The Harvey Careys. Without those types of "glue" guys, too much pressure falls on the shoulders of a ballclub's top guns, and the results generally aren't favorable. Just ask Arwind Santos.

The All-Filipino conference may be just around the corner, but there are still players of that ilk remaining in the pool. Sure, Danny Ildefonso is an attractive piece for the Meralco Bolts without Rabeh Al-Hussaini, but with his age slowly creeping in to take its toll, it's hard to consider him as a potential "bargain" after he turned down the PhP 200,000 a month from Blackwater Elite.

Bolts followers see this almost every year. Lots of rumors, a flurry of activity where just about all of the big names fly off the market followed by a lull where a handful of veteran free agents bide their time and wait for the best Meralco offer from what they feel is the best situation for themselves.

Some of the guys remaining could be a Carey type: a player who makes all the difference in his team's title chances. Hence, the coaching staff better take notice of the three unsigned players:

Dorian Peña
(24 games played, 20.5 MPG, 5.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG)

Remember the San Miguel days of Peña where he is doing ridiculous things like shamelessly pursuing a double-double every year?

Well, those days are gone now, and the 37-year old center has actually transformed himself into a very useful role player.

The six-foot-six 230-pounder experienced a Renaissance during his time with the Barako Bull (2013-2014), enjoying a productive season and proving to be a very dependable reserve. He just came from a 5.1 points per game average after producing only 2.0 points per game with the Petron Blaze during the 2012-2013 season. The former member of the All-Defensive Team (2005-2006) is also shooting the ball at a respectable 47.5 percent clip.

The 11-year veteran also put his rebounding prowess on display with Barako, particularly during the 2013-14 postseason when he tallied 6.0 boards per 20.5 minutes.

While Peña has never been a go-to guy, he has remained one of the most consistent players in the league. You think a Meralco could use that type of consistency off the pine? Absolutely.

There are no indication that the Bolts is interested in Peña though. His loyalty to the San Miguel franchise might be scaring them off. However, if they can convince him to get his head straight, the Bolts could be getting a potential X-factor for two years more.

Jason Deutchman
(21 games played, 8.0 MPG, 1.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.1 BPG)

One can make an argument that Deutchman is one of the more under-appreciated players in the league.

While he isn't spectacular in any one particular area, he is solid across the board. He can score a little bit, distribute the rock and play some defense.

The 6-foot-6 forward enjoyed a very nice 2012-2013 season, particularly after being picked 10th overall in the draft by the GlobalPort Batang Pier, where he average 5.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 31 games. He also shot 34.0 percent from the floor and posted a career high on 20 points in one game.

Where most of sophomore value comes, though, is in his ability to shoot from the three or create mismatches with his height down low.

You would never expect a player like Deutchman be so adept at shooting threes, but the forward has managed 31 percent per game with the GlobalPort. The promising Fil-Am forward was headed into greater numbers until he got traded to the Petron Blaze and later ended with the Barako Bull during the 2013-204 season.

The 28-year-old entering his second year could serve as a great backup forward for the Bolts and definitely an upgrade compared to John Ferriols.

Leo Najorda
(14 games played, 12.2 MPG, 4.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.0 APG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG)

The native of Ilocos Norte may not be the same Swiss army knife type of player that we saw when he was still playing with the undermanned Air21 Express, but he is still certainly a valuable piece who could fill a significant role on a team looking to get over the hump like the Bolts.

While the 32-year old averaged only 4.6 points per game last season with GlobalPort, he only played for 12.2 minutes average in 14 games, which is still productive considering the limited playing time. Plus, he shot a solid 40.1 percent from the floor and connected on 91.0 percent from the free-throw line, his best mark since chosen 9th overall pick in the draft by Red Bull way back in 2005.

What the Bolts will really like about Najorda is his veteran experience. As a 9-year professional player, the guy has been through just about every situation imaginable, and that savvy could pay dividends for Meralco.

The best part? Najorda will come cheap, perhaps even on a one-year deal.

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