09 August 2015

Bolts Bench Is Better, But Not Good Enough

Meralco Bolts
Keeping Clifford Hodge, Gary David and Jared Dillinger DeAndre were the most vital component of the Meralco Bolts' offseason, but upgrading the supporting cast around the team's stars was also of the utmost importance for coach Norman Black. The team's weak bench was a problem all season and was badly worn down by the end of the stunning Governor's Cup playoff collapse against the eventual champion San Miguel Beermen.

Going to the Annual PBA Rookie Draft, Black did an admirable job upgrading the roster with the return of Rabeh Al-Hussaini. He also turned an the seldom-used Kelly Nabong into a productive center who could deliver double-double in an import-laden conference. Black was also able to lure the veteran Jimmy Alapag from retirement to replace Mike Cortez and Barnes and James Sena. With limited resources to make additions, it sure seems like Black hit a home run.

But while all these names are upgrades on paper, there are reasons to be skeptical about their ability to push the Bolts over the top and be considered as one of the heavy-hitters in the league because there are still too many overlapping skills off the bench.

Trading for Jimmy Alapag was a calculated risk with a potential high reward, but we can't dismiss just how awful he was in his last season with the Talk N' text. He posted the worst production of all time in his career and had PER under nine. Some of that was caused by injuries and a the emergence of Jayson Castro and Kevin Alas as the new faces of the Texters. Black will surely try to play to Alapag's strengths and return him to a role as the primary ball-handler of the team.

However, Alapag will have to compete alongside fellow ball-dominant players like David and a possible rookie point-guard, so the fit isn't much better. This was precisely the reason why Mike Cortez was traded to alleviate some of those possible issues.

This new bench group, without Cortez Crawford, will also have serious problems spacing the floor. During the 2015 Governor's Cup, the team had a very woeful shooting percentage from the 3-point line. David shot only 25.4 percent, Hodge is worse with 21.4 percent and Sean Anthony did not do better with 21.3 percent. Only Dillinger had a decent average with 58.8 percent and Simon Atkins with 50.0 percent.

Those numbers aren't pretty. The improved shot creation and passing should help mitigate some of the outside shooting woes, but teams will pack the paint against some of these bench-heavy lineups until they prove they can consistently knock down jumpers.

One thing going for the Bolts is that Alapag is an offensive upgrade compared to Cortez. He will bring more shooting to the roster, and he'll be much more reliable than Cortez on the offensive end in general. Alapag has championship experience and proved in the Commissioner's Cup that he's still adept at knocking down big shots, whereas Cortez folded when the Bolts needed some offensive option.

But Alapag will be 36 years old by the start of next season and won't provide the same defensive presence that younger point-guards can. Alapag and David isn't the most intimidating defensive duo on the wing, and the options on the bench aren't all that much better unless Dillinger slides to the shooting guard in a big way. Having Reynel Hugnatan and more able rim protectors in Al-Hussaini and Hodge (who could also provide some perimeter defense) off the bench will help the defense, but this is an issue that could prove costly when trying to navigate through the quarterfinals and semifinals.

The Bolts didn't have many options to defend players like Terrence Romeo, Castro, Paul Lee, Marcio Lassiter and Cyrus Baguio last year. They'll have even fewer this season if they failed to pick their rookies wisely.

No comments:

Post a Comment