The NBA has yet to reach a quarter of the season, but the big revelation is Luka Doncic. The young Slovenian (he is just twenty years old) is firmly in the conversation of MVP contenders, right up with Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and LeBron James.
Those were last year’s contenders, and the best player in the world of the last decade. Luka is in the same league, and the Dallas Mavericks are now legit contenders in the West. Will the rampage continue and the Texans sing “Halle-Luka”at the end of the season?
Most likely. Luka’s game is not based on freak athleticism or streaky shooting. This is who he is, honed by being a professional at age sixteen. The European league is the paradigm for the evolution of basketball, and the NBA is starting to catch up with their athleticism.
No wonder that nationalist hoops fans are hoping Kai and other potential players take the Euro route. Our players are getting taller, but they will be hard-pressed to be as athletic as a Zion Williamson. But they can be Luka. We can always hope.
Draft steal or big mistake?
Hidden among the seventy-one draft applicants is Maurice Shaw. He is 6’9 and 34 years old. The first stat will make him a top 5 prospect, what with the dearth of big men in this year’s edition, but his age is a major red flag.
His online bio states that he was born in Binan, but he is listed as an American. He grew up in the US, and was listed as a top 20 high school player in 2002 by Sporting News, alongside another fancied prospect from Akron, Ohio named LeBron James. LBJ is turning 35 years old late this year.
The rest of his career has been spotty, as he ended up on the Harlem Globetrotters, and eventually played in Portugal and US minor leagues like the IBL. He even tried out for the NFL but only ended up on the support staff of the Oakland Raiders.
He returned to basketball in 2016, for the Dunkin Raptors in the Thailand Basketball League, then he transferred to the Kabayan Pilipinas Basketball Club. Some of his listed teammates are Eric Salamat (of Ateneo) Rudy Lingganay and Leo Avenido.
Which team will gamble a first round pick on Shaw? Is being a 6’9 bruiser enough to skip over some 25-year old proven college prospects? Another issue is that this is the first time he has been declared as Filipino. The PBA has been wrong before, if you remember names like Sonny Alvarado, Rob Parker and Al Segova.
Some of the storied prospects in this draft are those from Ateneo and the Fil-foreigners. It’s a toss between Roosevelt Adams and Isaac Go, with Sean Manganti, Arvin Tolentino and Rey Suerte who are UAAP standouts. Then those who excelled in the MPBL, Mike Ayon-ayon and Aris Dionisio.
Not exactly game-changers, but they can fill a need for a team. But aside from these familiar names, there are other players worth a look.
The San Beda Red Lions failed to accomplish what their UAAP counterparts did, but unlike the Eagles, their stars will have another chance. They will lose their imports because of the NCAA ban, but their backcourt combo of Canlas, Nelle and MVP Calvin Oftana will run it back.
One of their key players should be a draft steal. Clint Doliguez has good height for a PBA guard, he’s strong and has decent range. He can help even the contenders as a guard off the bench. Because of the Bedan loss, more people notice their opponents like Jerick Balanza and Bon Batiller—if the result of the NCAA Finals were different, who knows?
The duo from FEU are also not being touted, but the Tamaraws in the PBA have been very solid contributors, even to Gilas. Think Carl Bryan Cruz, Raymar Jose and RR Pogoy. So it’s likely they would sleep on Wendell Comboy and Barkley Ebona. Teams that won’t push them to heavy offensive roles would be pleasantly surprised with how PBA-ready they are.