The 2019 PBA Draft will have a special feature. Similar to the 2016 PBA Draft, they have provided exceptions for the younger players who are considered to be prospects for the Philippine National team.
The ideal situation is to have the best young players be trained as one team and this means passing on the PBA Draft and the financial rewards of being a professional. Even with the remarkable sponsorship of Manny V. Pangilinan and the SBP, this has proven to be unsustainable.
For one thing, the young talents were simply not enough to compete in the world arena (the goal of Gilas 1 formation was to qualify for the 2012 Olympics). You can only get so far if your big men are Jason Ballesteros and Magi Sison, (two players who are not even in the PBA anymore).
Gilas 2.0 had to resort to the old “hugot” system, and even with Marcus Douthit as their naturalized player, they failed to reach their goal. It was obvious that even with pro talent, they still needed time to develop team chemistry.
The other ‘special draft’
The 2016 Draft will be remembered for the bizarre turn of events of that led to the distribution of 12 players that were part of the Gilas pool. The agreement was that these players shall be called up to the national team two months before any international meet. There was also a provision that these players will not be traded for at least two years.
Instead of being drafted, the players were “distributed” among the 12 teams behind closed doors, and there was no transparency on the basis of how they ended up on those teams.
Of course, the agreements were not followed to the letter. In July 2017, the San Miguel Beermen traded Arnold Van Opstal to Global Port for Von Pessumal. The Gilas players were loaned when Gilas practice commenced, not exactly two months before.
The new special draft
The 2019 version has the same objective in 2016, but this time, they will follow the draft order and make it part of the public draft selection. This is to leave out the dominant teams (the SMC-MVP teams filled out their team needs with that draft) and also, they limited it to five players.
We can speculate that they only made it five players because this has become a shallow draft, and also, the rest of the draft would be utterly boring.
Under the new rules, only the players with the top five picks are allowed to participate. Also, the special draft only gives them “rights” when the SBP releases these players. Finally, the teams will still get their top 5 picks in the “regular” draft.
This is a better option. For one, the bottom teams will not cry out that it’s unfair that TNT somehow got Roger Pogoy or SMB got highly touted AVO. Also, there is no danger that teams will be reluctant to release them on time since SBP has control of them.
How long has this special draft been in the planning stages? Did these somehow affect the decisions of top prospects, namely Thirdy Ravena and Kobe Paras?
It’s hard for a mere observer to find out. I think this would have even encouraged Thirdy to throw his hat in since he can still commit to Gilas, but perhaps he really has other plans.
Because the draft already lacked talent to begin with, it actually got worse. There were no real top Gilas prospects in this year’s draft. Next year, FIBA-eligible prospects could include Ravena and Paras, Baltazar, Oftana, Pasaol, Rike, Ambohot, and Abando among others.
Not too many mock drafts out there, but Isaac Go will likely lead the special draft and Roosevelt Adams will likely lead the regular draft. Blackwater could gamble on a legit big man (something they kept trading away) in Maurice Shaw. They could also choose between Sean Manganti or Arvin Tolentino (simply because they have too many guards).
Most of the other prospects are guards, and most of the team needs are on the frontline. That’s Philippine basketball in general.