PBA Philippine Cup review: Blackwater Elite

Blackwater’s defense has made a lot of strides, but now it’s time for them to do work on the other side of the court.

TNT and the Elite were the only teams in the league this conference to have both a bottom-four offense and a top-four defense. Blackwater allowed only 88.1 points per game (fourth) and held opposing teams to only 39.3 percent shooting from the field, which is the second-best mark in the league, while forcing 18.1 turnovers per contest. If not for their paltry offense, they could’ve mustered a few more wins – they shot 40 percent from the field as a team and ended with a 5-6 win-loss card.

This conference, however, definitely isn’t an indication that they’ll continue to lounge in the bottom half of the standings. Blackwater actually had convincing wins against San Miguel (106-96), Rain or Shine (92-87) and Ginebra (94-77) while losing close ones against Magnolia (72-78) and Alaska (84-88). They already have the mold of a competitive and scrappy squad and they can only move forward from here.

Together with talent that they have in their roster, Blackwater’s a couple of coaching adjustments and player developments away from competing in the playoffs. Look out.

CONFERENCE STATISTICS

Blackwater has been respectable in multiple categories in the Philippine Cup. They were in the middle of the pack in terms of three-point shooting (32.4 percent, sixth), and steals (8.4, eighth) while posting top-five numbers in rebounding (49.3) and blocks (4.5).

The team might want to focus on free throw shooting and ball movement – the Elite posted the league’s worst rating from the line at 63.2 percent while recording only 19.2 assists as a team per game. They also posted league-worst numbers in true shooting percentage (46.9) and effective field goal percentage (44.4).

NOTABLE PLAYERS

JP Erram had been by far Blackwater’s best player this conference. He led the league in rebounding (13.8) and blocks (3.0) while having PBA’s fifth-best defensive rating (89.8). Mike DiGregorio has also been impressive, scoring 14.1 points while knocking down over two threes per game on a 48.1 percent shooting clip. And despite not having been fully healthy, Mac Belo led the team in scoring with 15.8 points, albeit on an inefficient 40.5 percent from the field.

Nard Pinto wasn’t able to do much on offense (3.5 points on 28 percent shooting) but he did lead the team in assists with 3.5 per game in only 20.2 minutes.

Looking forward, what can we expect from Blackwater?

Sooner or later, they’ll be a playoff team. They might even be able to sneak into the later seeds in the reinforced conferences if they find a viable import.

Expect Raymar Jose’s playing time to see an uptick. Raw numbers don’t tell the complete story (9.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 40.7 shooting) but he had the team’s highest offensive rating (114.6) and is arguably the team’s second-best rebounder already (13.8 percent rebounding rate, behind Erram). The best part? He did damage in only 20.4 minutes per game.

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