THE recent news that Kobe Paras has signed with Japan B.League team Niigata Albirex BB was no longer surprising. He will join other Filipinos set to play in Japan this year such as the Ravena brothers (Kiefer and Thirdy), the Gomez de Llano brothers (Juan and Javi), Kenmark Cariño, and Ray Parks Jr.
With their signings, it's safe to say Paras, Thirdy, the GDLs and Cariño are not likely to join next year's PBA Draft as the B.League season usually ends in March, not to mention the possible offer for contract extensions. This is already Thirdy's second season in Japan which means he has skipped the PBA Draft twice.
All these players are highly anticipated in the PBA. Parks, the Ravenas, the GDLs and Paras could easily make up the backcourt of Gilas Pilipinas. Just add Jordan Clarkson to that group and we're good.
Side note: Of course, there will be different opinions and suggestions like Dwight Ramos, but the point is, these are some of the best guards/swingmen in the country today.
The PBA is threatened by this, despite their continued statements to the contrary. What are some of the reasons, aside from the obvious better paycheck, why these sure first round picks decided to make a beeline to Japan?
The PBA is just too crowded
The PBA has 12 teams, and every year, there are about 60 draft aspirants. That means, theoretically, five players are added to a team each year. That's not going to happen. Most of the teams are stacked with college stars and Fil-foreign players. In contrast, the Japanese B.League has 47 teams. That's four times the number of PBA teams and four times the opportunity.
There are many promising prospects that have fallen by the wayside, and it leads one to wonder whether these prospects really lacked the talent or were just placed in a disadvantageous situation. It was quite surprising for me to see Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, once a Gilas invitee and heavily scouted for his combination of height and athleticism, was just an add-on for the CJ Perez trade.
Ganuelas-Rosser went to TNT and was traded to San Miguel. These are two of the heavily stacked teams in the PBA, and maybe with Terrafirma, he can finally catch a break. With more playing time, he could be significant again before another stacked team will acquire him. That is the PBA's vicious cycle.
The PBA is imbalanced
That CJ Perez trade is really a catalyst for most of the PBA's concerns. I was surprised a Rookie of the Year awardee who was also a scoring leader is now just a sixth man for a team. Yes, Perez is coming off the bench for San Miguel Beer because they have Terrence Romeo, Chris Ross, and Marcio Lassiter (Alex Cabagnot is injured).
If stacked teams end up collecting star players, their careers will suffer. Perez is unlikely to be a scoring leader again, even if he breaks the starting five later in the season. While it is a trend in the NBA for over-the-hill stars to band together and form a pseudo-superteam, Perez is way too young to do that.
High level of competition
The Philippines probably has an edge over the Japanese players, generally speaking. Add the fact that Japan's absolute best players like Rui Hachimura are in the NBA. Kobe Paras and Ray Parks will be sure superstars in that league, even with imports, and since Juan Gomez de Llano is in a Division 2 team, I expect him to make a huge impact.
With imports playing throughout the season, the players need to keep up. There are no height limits here (that is now a PBA exclusive). You get to play many different teams and very diverse styles.
The Japan B.League has opened its doors, and it recognizes that the Philippines has a wide pool of talent. With the Asean Basketball League currently inactive, Japan's move to accept Asian imports is genius timing.
Is the PBA done?
The PBA is hoping for heightened interest when these college superstars move up. That has now been delayed. The Japan exodus will continue unless the PBA makes changes. I don't think this league is done, but it has to make a significant move.