14 June 2016

Hard To Judge How Good Cliff Hodge Is

Clifford Hodge
When Clifford Hodge was drafted 4th overall by the Meralco Bolts in 2012, he transformed this team in the same way he transformed his D-League club, the NLEX Road Warriors. Sure, he brought his defensive skill-set to the Bolts, but more than that he brought an identity to this Meralco squad that had been lacking.

It was the acquisition of Hodge that made the Jay-R Reyes trade a possibility and in some ways an inevitably. When Meralco drafted the young athletic forward, they saw the opportunity to build not around a player’s ability but around his identity.

Hodge's focus, his energy, his drive, and perhaps more than anything his hustle have all become defining features of the current era of Meralco basketball. His ambition and his intensity are a perfect fit for a franchise that has always pushed passionately for their first-ever championship glory.

For several seasons, he has been instrumental in several big wins and has shown up in key moments. He seems to make hustle plays exactly when they’re most needed. He’s been described as the avatar for Bolts' productive chaos and the embodiment of their winning formula.

Despite all this praise, opinion is still divided on Cliff Hodge. For every article dubbing him central to the Meralco's success, another article will describe him as a faulty cog in the Bolts' well-oiled machine.

Fans are even more at odds with one another than the analysts, with some fans seeing Hodge as the team's savior and other seeing him as an over-hyped false hope.

Like so many other players on this current roster he has passionate supporters as well as his fair share of fiery detractors. Part of this is, of course, his often admonished offensive woes.

Despite his much admired defensive ability, Hodge hasn’t quite developed as the offensive threat that some had hoped. This season saw his three-point percentage drop considerably from 29.4 percent in the 2013-2014 season to 21.0 percent in the 2014-2015 season.

However his two-point percentage saw a mild improvement from 40.1 percent to 42.5 percent, and this is with increased attempts and more minutes, indicating that his offensive decision-making is maturing. Regardless, his troubles on the offensive end are even more a subject of scrutiny this season than they were last season.

Even still, players and coaching staff gush over Hodge's intangibles and his ability to impact the game in ways not reflected in the box score.

Part of the reason opinion is so divided is exactly because of Hodge's central role to Meralco's rebuilding plans. In a lot of ways he has come to represent the team's success or failure. As the embodiment of controlled chaos, he also doubles as the personification of the Bolts' rebuilding success.

How people perceive Hodge seems directly tied to how they believe Meralco's rebuild is going overall. In fact, almost every criticism that is said of Hodge could just as easily apply to the entire Meralco team.

Comments about lacking offensive ability and relying too much on grit, drive, hustle or being too defensive-minded are slights that can easily be leveled against Hodge, Jared Dillinger, Chris Newsome and the Bolts overall in equal measure.

So all of this makes it difficult to look at Hodge's season individually.

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