What they should have picked


Call this my post-draft syndrome.

Yes… you may.

This is a story of those who were on top… and those that were overrated.


Yeng Guiao tells people that it doesn’t matter how Rabeh Al-Hussaini or Nonoy Baclao ends up in the draft. Surely, they will find their selves wearing the Air21 colors. However, we disagree. While there are a lot of players out there who dreams to someday play in the PBA, there is a significant batch of above average players who wants to be recognized as the flag bearer.

Rabeh was prepping to claim that.

Baclao was satisfied to just matter.

Then the surprise happened and it shocked everyone.

Hmmm…

History tells us how a number one pick makes or breaks a squad. When Andy Seigle was drafted first by Mobiline, the Cellulars rose out of the cellar. Sure, they did not win anything… but from that period, fans were sure that Eagle Seigle will be part of the team’s ascent to the top.

But what if Nic Belasco was selected as the top choice? A couple of years in the future, Seigle would be displaced as the top guy in favor of Asi Taulava. Meanwhile, Nic Belasco would brush off his crappy rookie season where he was a generic power forward with zero offensive skills and became an offense-defense combo that has the range of a shooting guard.

Seigle would end his career as a bench warmer with a bad knee but Belasco would play significantly a few years more.

Belasco was sought for his veteran leadership while Seigle was waived when his contract expired.

Don’t worry this has happened a lot of times to different types of players.

When year 2000 entered, here were the guys that were top picks… or shouldn’t have been top picks.

Game starts now!


2000 DRAFT
Top Pick: Sta. Lucia selects Paolo Mendoza
They should have picked: Paolo Mendoza

It’s not like they can do anything worse here. Paolo Mendoza and perhaps Dino Aldaguer were the only names that could have made an impact in the PBA (Marc Victoria? Meh). Most of the college players and the Fil-Ams that went directly to the MBA were little by little snatched by the PBA teams which means the relevance of the rookies were set aside. The draft depth was too weak that Paolo Mendoza and Egay Billones, the survivors, could see their selves playing less or no minutes this season.


2001 PBA DRAFT
Top Pick: Red Bull selects Willie Miller
They should have picked: Mike Hrabak

Thank goodness Yeng Guiao knew better! At this point, there was a Fil-Am witch hunt and their big man combo of Davonn Harp and Mick Pennisi were threatened. Kerby Raymundo was still suspended at this point because he had an “invalid” birth certificate. Willie Miller proved to be a superstar but he was introduced to the Red Bull lineup as Jimwell Torion’s backup. Hrabak could have given Red Bull another big man which could prove important once the Bureau of Immigration suspends Harp and Pennisi. Hrabak could be the monster inside force the Bulls will need for their future. Turns out, critics bashed Hrabak’s inside game and Miller got the starting spot because Jimwell Torion was uncontrollable. Mark Caguioa? No one knew him back then. Besides, Miller and Caguioa are basically the same size.


2002 PBA DRAFT
Top Pick: FedEx selects Yancy de Ocampo
They should have picked: Yancy de Ocampo

This is elementary since the Express then needed size and Yancy was also the best in that bunch. Comparing Yancy with second pick overall Rafi Reavis and third pick overall Omanzie Rodriguez, Yancy had post-up moves, an outside game, and youth. Even if Renren Ritualo became the star of that batch, de Ocampo should have been picked first. Besides, back then FedEx already had Vergel Meneses so all they needed then was the size battle against the top teams.


2003 PBA DRAFT
Top Pick: Alaska selects Mike Cortez
They should have picked: Romel Adducul


I found it funny that Cortez earned the top spot of the draft. No, I am a rabid Cortez fan but Adducul was the most celebrated athlete that is not in the PBA back then. Sure, in the PBA he was a mere rebounding demon, but his history should be enough for teams to pick him first. The draft was very, very deep with guys like Enrico Villanueva, Reynel Hugnatan, and Jimmy Alapag outside the Top 5 and John Ferriols, Cyrus Baguio, and Ronald Tubid outside the Top 10. The reason why it could have been better if Adducul was picked first is because Alaska had two chances to pick a guy like Jimmy Alapag in the draft. When they sent Kenneth Duremdes to Sta. Lucia, they could have gotten Alapag in place of Brandon Cablay and instead of trading their tenth spot to TNT (for Don Camaso), they should have kept the pick and selected Alapag. Sure Cortez was good, but on that draft, he could have been a second pick overall at best.


2004 PBA DRAFT
Top Pick: Shell selects Rich Alvarez
They should have picked: James Yap


Imagine the combo of James Yap and Tony dela Cruz playing alongside Dale Singson, Chris Calaguio, Eddie Laure, Chris Jackson, and Mike Hrabak. While this is not a dominant team, this really isn’t a bad team as well. In terms of talent, Yap was the better scorer but Rich was the better defender. I don’t think Alvarez wouldn’t win his UAAP MVP trophies if Enrico Villanueva put on his best behavior. And yet, I can’t see Yap winning the UAAP MVP title because UE back then was fairly a Final Four squad. Ateneo was extra dominant during those days but Yap had a better PBL career. Overall though, Yap was the top guy in his squad while Alvarez was only Enrico Villanueva’s Scottie Pippen.


2005 PBA DRAFT
Top Pick: Air21 selects Jay Washington
They should have picked: Jay Washington


The first two picks of the draft were highlighted by two Fil-Ams. Again Air21 lacked height so picking Alex Cabagnot is something that’s not possible. I think this was the start of Air21’s emergence as Talk N Text’s bitch. After they picked Washington, they traded him and Mark Cardona for former Air21 pick (formerly FedEx) Yancy de Ocampo and Patrick Fran. TNT used Washington and Cardona as players that would soup up their bench (Washington was at one point injured). At this point, TNT was souped up in every position so by picking the best player, they got what they want when Air21 selected Washington.


2006 PBA DRAFT
Top Pick: Sta. Lucia selects Kelly Williams
They should have picked: Kelly Williams

Even if Arwind Santos has been phenomenal in the UAAP and in the PBL, Kelly Williams should be the only person to be considered as the top pick this season. Williams emerged out of nowhere to displace PBA vets in the Philippine Team. Williams is an exciting player that doubled the Sta. Lucia fans during his tenure. With Williams and Santos playing awesome offense for PBL’s Magnolia, coaches found it hard which was better of the two. However, when it came draft day, Santos’ reed-thin body was in question compared to Williams’ bulk. Santos can’t play the center/forward spot he played in the amateurs because the risked of getting outplayed in the middle was great (although he has been playing the spot for SMB every since Siot Tanquingcen reinforced small ball). While both stars continue to have great years in the league, at least Santos was the healthier between the two.


2007 PBA DRAFT
Top Pick: Welcoat selects Joe Devance
They should have picked: Joe Devance

Devance is the best pick to get for Welcoat. They were dead last during the previous season and they need a force inside. Sure, Sam Eman is the better post-up player but Devance was more solid between the two. The problem for Devance was that they instantly made him their savior, and he couldn’t play the part. If they gave Devance a worthy backcourt partner then he would excelled. Welcoat wouldn’t prosper… but Devance will shine.


2008 PBA DRAFT
Top Pick: Rain or Shine selects Gabe Norwood
They should have picked: Gabe Norwood

Just like Kelly Williams, Gabe Norwood being the number one guy needs to happen. He can actually do it all. He can score (not as much), board, pass, play defense, and most importantly, make his teammates look good. If Devance was still playing for ROS (formerly Welcoat), JDV would have prospered because he finally has a partner that would feed him the ball. There were a lot of talk about Jared Dillinger getting the nod as the top pick but this was quickly brought down. Come to think of it, Norwood is also a good product endorser…


2009 PBA DRAFT
Top Pick: Burger King/Air21 selects Japeth Aguilar
They should have picked: Japeth Aguilar


Again Air21 was in desperate need of a center and Aguilar was the perfect player for them to pick. Unfortunately for them, they never thought that Aguilar would back down and ditch their commercial troupe for a nationalistic one. Had they known, they definitely pick Rico Maierhofer because he is the only star worthy for the top recognition. But that was not the case and Air21 paid dearly for their actions.


But thanks to the Japeth problem, Air21 gained Talk N Text’s draft picks for two straight years so yeah, getting Japeth did have its perks for the Express.

I therefore conclude that most of the teams who owned the top pick made the right choice.

The top pick is such an important gift for a player. It gives them the satisfaction that they are sought by teams because they are basketball’s future.

This is also a curse for the player who is destined to earn it. The critics will have no problem in maiming the poor soul as he is expected to become almost a basketball demigod because he is the chosen one to lead basketball’s future.

Game over.

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