SEA Games Preview: Domination

It’s one thing to know that the Philippines are very good at basketball. Most people know about the country-wide craze over the sport. I know how good they are. I’ve watched the PBA game after game after game, enough to understand that the level of basketball played in the Philippines is in a whole different level.

But it isn’t until you really see the Nation’s Basketball Team in action while dominating another nation’s select group of players that you totally understand their dominance.

I had this post finished BEFORE the start of the SEA Games, but never got a chance to translate to Thai. Now that the SEA Games are over, I’ll just publish this as a reflection of how I saw the team before the games started just for fun.

Here’s one number that probably says everything. In the SEABA championship, the Philippines beat their opponents by an average of 68.4 points per game. For comparisons sake, only Singapore and the Philippines scored more than 68 points per game. Just going by the stats and you kind of getting a feeling like they are playing another sport.

And then you realize that this is the Sinag Pilipinas team, which is the team that consists based on non-professional players. You sit there in awe and wonder what sort of chance would you have against the professional player based National Team, Gilas Pilipinas.

I wondered if this is how the rest of the world felt when they played the USA Dream Teams (before the rest of the world eventually caught up). Will they be able to bully all the way through the SEA Games 2015?

What they can do:

Umm…what can’t they do?

1st in SEABA in Effective Field Goal Percentage (62.3%, which is 19.1% more than runner-up Malaysia)
1st in SEABA in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (53.01%, no other team rated more than 40%)
1st in SEABA in Defensive Rebounding Percentage (83.25%)
1st in SEABA in Assist Percentage (31.81%)
1st in SEABA in Turnover Rate (11.57%)
1st in SEABA in Block Percentage (8.12%)
1st in SEABA in Steal Percentage (35.3%)

Damn.

To conclude that in a more comprehensible format: Sinag Pilipinas converted their shots at an insane rate (eFG%) off of good ball movement (AST%) while not forcing anything (TOV%). In the rare case that they did miss something, more than half of the time, they were able to get the offensive board (ORB%). On defense, if you were lucky enough to get the ball up the court (STL%) and get off a shot cleanly (BLK%), you better make it count because you are probably only going to get one attempt (DRB%).

Stepping away from the numbers and going to the eye test, it’s hard not to like everything about this Squad from what we saw in Sinag’s only “test” in SEABA.

Sinag ran a full court press for almost the entire game. They did a good job of closing the ball handler to the line and to trap him once he turned back to the open court.

Singapore might have beat that press a couple of times, but more than not, the Sinag press got the better of them. That’s how presses work. You surely would want to force a turnover every play, but sometimes it will breakdown, and the players have to keep their focus on anyways. Sinag did that quite well.

Once Singapore was able to set in the halfcourt and found their shot, the lengthy forwards of the Philippines made it difficult for Singapore’s shooter to keep complete focus on shooting. With their length and athleticism (Hello, Troy Rosario), they challenged shot after shot without giving up. They might not have got the block, but plenty of shots were altered with the mere presence of a tall guy rushing at you.

There wasn’t anyone forcing anything on the offense either. Each player knew their role, knew where to run and where to go. In a team full of players who were/are stars of their collegiate teams, Tab Baldwin convinced everyone to buy into the system. Bobby Ray Parks could have probably played isolation with everyone in this tournament and end up not far from his 77.0 eFG% but he didn’t (well, not all the time). The ball rotation was beautiful, as each player was able to read where the defense was moving and where the ball had to move next.

And if all else failed, they still had Marcus Douthit to throw the ball into down low and finish in the paint.

What they need to improve:

It’s hard for them to improve on anything from what we’ve seen at SEABA and what they can do at the ASEAN level, but because I have to write down something…

The changes from the SEABA team and the SEA Games team will be the replacement of Bobby Ray Parks and Russel Escoto with Prince Rivero and Baser Amer. Parks and Escoto were the two most effective scorers outside of Marcus Douthit (77.0 and 75.0 eFG%, respectively). It probably won’t matter much as the rest of the team is scoring at a clip above 50%, but taking Parks out of the equation does seem like it leaves a certain Isolation player trump card out of the Philippines playbook.

Will it really matter and will it make much of a difference? Probably not. Then again, if I could figure out the weakness of this Sinag team and know how to exploit it, I would probably not be writing this article from a coffee shop as a hobby and would more likely be a coaching staff on a basketball team.

One thing that might not exactly be something they can improve on, but something they might have to watch out for. At an average of 23.83 years spread out between their roster (22.8 if you don’t count the ageless Marcus Douthit), they have the third youngest team in the SEA Games 2015 tournament.

It might not mean much, seeing how mature they play and the poise they display. If the more seasoned teams like Indonesia (28.75 years) and Thailand (27.75 years) can get into their head, maybe (just a tiny slight MAYBE) they might breakdown enough to get a loss.

The Players

I usually reserve this spot for the “Stars” of each team, but seeing as to how the Philippines operated, it’s quite difficult to peg a specific someone as the “Star” of this team. Therefore, I’ll just be highlighting a couple of players who I feel like should be worth a watch.

Kiefer Ravena

kiefer

Kiefer is the headlines for this team. He’s the type of player that teenage boys idolize, teenage girls fantasize about, and auntie’s wish they could cook for. He is the future face of the PBA, if all the hype can be bought into. Was I completely blown away by what I saw in SEABA? Not really. He used up the most of Sinag’s possessions (25.15% Usage Rate) but he didn’t register any particular number that blew your mind. He didn’t do anything particulary bad as well either. It just seemed like he was in cruise control the entire time.

I like watching him play the pick and roll, where he has a nice recognition of how the defense places itself and quickly takes advantage.

Kiefer also flashed a couple of plays where he exhibited his attacking mindset, most notably this play where he just drove down the middle and went up for the dunk.

But like I said, it seemed like he wasn’t really challenged that much, so we might have not got to see exactly got to ride the full Kiefer Experience yet.

Jiovanni Jalalon

jio

For anyone who has been constantly reading this blog, you will known how much affection I have for Jio Jalalon since I watched him play in their tune up game against Blackwater. After watching him in SEABA, he still holds a special place in my heart. Where Ravena was a more scoring/attacking point guard, Jalalon was a facilitator/bulldog. He led the entire tournament in Assist Rate (24.54%) and Assist/Turnover Ratio (7.5). Jalalon loved moving the ball around. He found ways to draw in the defense and kick it out to ignite a string of extra passes for the easy shots. Sometimes, it did seem like he was a bit too willing to pass the ball, but with the balanced fire power he has around him, it should be much of a problem.

Jio was a menace on defense as one half of the two headed monster than pressured the opposing guards. He had a Steal rate of 84.7% (a number which has had me checking for any bugs in my excel spreadsheet).

You wouldn’t want him to the be leading star of your team as he still lacks in the scoring department, but he is the ultimate sidekick. Plus, he has a pretty killer crossover.

Marcus Douthit

marcus

Douthit is somehow like the bail out card for Tab Baldwin and the Cadets. The Philippines won’t completely be depending on his size as their gameplan, and they might even be better off for some period of times with him off the court.

But Douthit gives them a guy who you can place on the court and change the whole scene of game. At 6-11, there are few players in the ASEAN basketball scene who are actually able to anything to him around the rim, which he is shooting at 80.0 eFG%. He grabbed the second highest rebounding rate at 21.01%.

Philippines don’t need Douthit, but he is one hell of a player to have.

Player who I am Holding Out My Judgement Until Further Notice

Jeth Troy Rosario

troy

Apart from Jalalon, another player I fell in love with early on was Jeth Troy Rosario. He had the length, the hops, the fluidity of someone who was bound to dominate every single play.

And well…he didn’t.

He was underwhelming on the boards (10.94%, third lowest on the team) and while he annoyed a lot of shots, he didn’t really pose as much of a defensive threat as one would expect.

I still have faith in Rosario and that he will burst out in one of these games, but right now he’s just not there yet.

Baser Amer

baser

Amer is one of the players who was called up to fill the void that Bobby Ray Parks left for Sinag Pilipinas. He might not possess the explosiveness and athleticism that Parks had, but Amer is as much of an all-around player as Park was (from what I’ve read).

The Jury is out on Amer until we get to finally watch him play.

TONES & DEFINITION’S BOLD PREDICTION

Is it bold to predict a Gold Medal for the Philippines? I’ll just crank it up a notch and predict that the Philippines will blow by all of their opponents to average a 25+ point differential throughout the tournament.

WORST CASE SCENARIO:

The worst case scenario would truly be for them to lose a game because Kiefer Ravena already announced that they wouldn’t return to the country if they didn’t win the Gold. I confidently think that that is unlikely to happen, but if it must happen, it would probably come at the hands of a really talented Indonesian team.

BEST CASE SCENARIO:

Is there anything better than a Gold Medal in the SEA games?

That wraps it up for the Philippines national basketball team preview.

nat

You can read Tone’s & Definition’s other SEA Games related previews here:

Philippines (Tune Up Game)
Thailand
Malaysia
Indonesia
Singapore

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