Should we call Mo Tautuaa a bust?

There are always two sides to a coin.

After being traded from Globalport to TNT KaTropa, the general public has mainly been interested in how Terrence Romeo is going to fit in with his new team. Given that Romeo has led all locals in the PBA in scoring the past two seasons and arguably has the best ball-handling in PBA history, this focus of interest is understandable. The other side of the deal, however, also involves a player worth discussing.

In exchange for Romeo and center Yousef Taha, the KaTropa sent Moala Tautuaa and two future draft picks to the Batang Pier. A lot of people have scrutinized Globalport for the deal, saying that it was lopsided in favor of TNT. Many have even called the Fil-Tongan a bust.

But is he? Let’s find out.

Tautuaa was the first overall pick in the 2015 PBA draft. He was projected by many to be a slightly smaller version of the ageless Asi Taulava, who won an MVP with the TNT franchise back in 2003. In Tautuaa’s two seasons in the league with TNT, he averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1 assist, 0.2 blocks, 51.8% from the field, 25.6% from the three-point line, and 57.5% on free throws. These numbers are a far-cry from what one would expect from a #1 overall pick, and moreso from someone who was supposedly the “next Asi Taulava”. He’s also just averaged 17.9 minutes per game, consistently falling behind the depth chart to Kelly Williams (a 36-year-old, injury-prone converted center) and Troy Rosario (the second overall pick in the same 2015 draft).

One of the biggest mysteries about Tautuaa’s play is his defense. With his size and athleticism, one would expect him to be one of the team’s best shot-blockers, while his bulk alone should make him a physical presence on defense. Yet, for all the gifts he has, Tautuaa still hasn’t lived up to his true potential.

In the Philippine Cup, he only recorded a block percentage of 1%, lower than guards Jayson Castro and Roger Pogoy. He also has a career net rating of minus-2.3, meaning TNT has generally been outscored whenever he played. His overall efficiency from the field has also trended downward from his first few seasons. Looking at the evidence we have now, it is easy to see why TNT decided it was time to move on from the “Mo Tautuaa era.” There are, however, some signs of hope for the big man.

A positive development for Tautuaa so far this season has been his zeal for rebounds. In the Philippine Cup, he averaged a career-high 7.3 rebounds with a rebound rate of 16.9%, good for 6th in the league. He also averaged a personal-best 37.5% from the three-point line (albeit in limited attempts). If Tautuaa can keep up the improved rebounding and outside shooting while carrying a bigger offensive load, especially when playing against imports, he could definitely help revitalize his career moving forward.

Looking back, Tautuaa was regarded as a mobile, new-age big man when he was in the Asean Basketball League. At TNT, a team which lacked a dominant big man, he was tasked to play the role of a traditional center, especially during times when Williams wasn’t around. This clearly limited his effectiveness.

With his new team, GlobalPort, Tautuaa will have the luxury of essaying his role as a big man who can play multiple roles as he now has guys like Bradwyn Guinto, Joseph Gabayni, Kelly Nabong and import Malcolm White on his side – four players who can play as legitimate centers for the team.

RELATED ARTICLE: GlobalPort ready to move on life after Romeo with Pringle-Tautuaa combo

Tautuaa should be given enough opportunities to prove that he can sustain those improved numbers and that he can contribute more if he is utilized properly. He is going to play for a team that not only has complete faith in him, but actually desperately needs his production. The ball is completely in his court to prove the naysayers wrong. Despite just being in his third season, Tautuaa is already 28 years old, which should be right in the middle of his prime as an athlete. If he doesn’t turn his career around soon, it’s going to be hard to point fingers at other factors anymore.

So, no. Mo Tautuaa isn’t a bust… not yet, at least.