Christian Standhardinger single-handedly turning the fortunes of Kia’s franchise around is only just a lost reality now.
Now known as the Columbian Dyip, the club has had more team name changes than playoff appearances in 10 conferences. Formerly known as the Kia Picanto, Kia Sorento, Kia Carnival, Mahindra Enforcers, and Mahindra Floodbusters, the team climbed to the quarterfinals of the 2015-16 PBA Governors Cup and finished fifth behind import James White.
It would have been a different narrative, however, if the front office had the foresight to hold on to its picks and draft carefully. That way, the Fil-German could have been the final piece of a competitive roster rather than be just the building block of a marginal ball club. Of course, there’s also no guarantee that Kia would have ended at the bottom of the standings had the team decided to hold on to its first round pick instead of trading its rights for a bunch of discards.
How Kia should have driven the 2014 PBA Draft
The franchise, now owned by the Columbian Autocar Corporation, entered the PBA before the start of the 2014-15 season. A month before the regular rookie draft, they participated in an expansion draft with the Blackwater Elite at the Microtel Acropolis. None of Columbian’s selections back then are still part of their current roster, but that couldn’t have been the case if they selected John Paul Erram over guard Jai Reyes. Had they taken a flier on the 6’8” center, he would have been a formidable anchor in the middle, especially on defense. Now, the lefty former Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagle is now thriving with Blackwater after averaging a conference-leading 13.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game during the 2017-18 PBA Philippine Cup while holding his own against the likes of marquee names up front like June Mar Fajardo and Raymond Almazan.
They made that occasional hit by selecting LA Revilla, an unprotected player by GlobalPort, with the 20th pick of the dispersal draft. The former De La Salle Green Archer is a proven orchestrator on offense who could have helped unleash Erram’s inside presence. Their partnership also could have been the seed to more respectable finishes in team’s infancy. But after being the face of the franchise in its early years, Revilla had to pack his bags; after tweeting his frustrations regarding the team’s decision to deal the first overall selection in the 2017 PBA Draft to San Miguel (which turned out to be Standahardinger), he was traded to Phoenix for a 2018 second-round selection and rookie Jayson Grimaldo, who was also released shortly after as well and is now playing for the Batangas City Athletics in the MPBL.
With Erram and Revilla presumably in tow, they could have beefed up the team’s front court in the regular draft. But in a move which was seen as a pick to increase gate receipts rather than to build a competitive squad, Kia selected eight-division boxing champion and head coach Manny Pacquiao with the 11th pick of the draft. Two picks later, the Alaska Aces chose Rome De La Rosa, a second generation player who has been showing a lot of upside for the Magnolia Star Hotshots this season.
Unlike Romy, who loved to operate with his back to the basket and was one of the most undersized power forwards of his generation, Rome, a former San Beda Red Lion, is a tenacious wing defender who can also space out the floor with his perimeter shooting. Having a threat like De La Rosa would have given more space for Erram to operate in the paint and would have given Revilla another guy he can look for, especially if the defense clamped down low. The younger Dela Rosa blossomed during the recently concluded PH Cup finals for Magnolia, where he normed 11.6 points and six rebounds per game.
Kia also selected Kyle Pascual with the last pick of the second round and he would have been a nice addition to the team’s young but promising crop of big men. The Filipino-American could have also provided Erram some minutes of rest at center or may have conspired together up front with their long wing spans to give Kia its own version of the “Sampayan Brigade”. Furthermore, Pascual’s ability to shoot could slide him down to the four spot. But after three seasons with the franchise, he was traded to Blackwater for Jason Ballesteros before ending up with Magnolia.
In the third round of the 2014 PBA Draft, they had a chance to pick former University of Cebu standout Brian Heruela to solidify their rotation at the point guard spot. Instead, the team snagged Rene Pacquiao from Southwestern University while Heruela was drafted by Blackwater. After two seasons, Heruela found himself reunited with Fajardo after San Miguel sent Jeric Fortuna to Barako Bull Energy. Heruela then showed that he could perform on the big stage when he posted an impressive 11-point performance off the bench in Game 3 of the 2018 Philippine Cup Finals.
With a potential line-up of Revilla, Heruela, De La Rosa, Pascual, and Erram, the Sorento could have given other PBA teams a run for their money.
A promising 2015 PBA Draft
Parading a line-up of expansion draftees and cast-offs, the Carnival finished 11th, 11th, and ninth, respectively, in their maiden conferences. In return, they had the second overall selection in the 2015 rookie draft and made the right call in picking former National University star Troy Rosario. The tall but versatile forward’s quickness and touch on offense would have given Mahindra a new dimension on offense. But two days after the draft, he was dealt to Talk N’ Text after a three-way trade with NLEX. In return, the Enforcers received Nino Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos, and Rob Reyes – who are, at best, rotation players for a contender. What’s more surprising was the fact that both Ramos and Canaleta, two center pieces in a trade with a first round pick, didn’t last long with the squad and had to be traded separately as well.
Also drafted by the Enforcers were Bradwyn Guinto, who could have been the big man doing the dirty work, and Michael DiGregorio, who is a shifty guard/forward who can penetrate the lane in pick-and-roll situations. But after one season with Mahindra, Guinto, along with Chito Jaime, was dealt to NLEX for Renen Celda and Jeckster Apinan. On the other hand, DiGregorio was signed by Blackwater after becoming an unrestricted free agent. The transaction proved to be an ace for the Elite as he averaged 11 points a game last season.
Two years into their PBA existence, the franchise could have been a terrifying force in the league with a possible roster of Revilla, Heruela, DiGregorio, De La Rosa, Pascual, Rosario, Guinto, and Erram. Without Rosario, they would have had Ramos, Canaleta and Reyes, three frontliners who could provide additional veteran presence and floor spacing as well. This team could have gone 10-man deep in its rotation and would have saved Coach Chris Gavina’s job.
Russel and Christian
A special draft for players in the Gilas pool was originally scheduled before the 2016 PBA Rookie Draft. However, the PBA board agreed to parcel out one national team cadet per team. The Mahindra Floorbusters got former Far Eastern University slotman Russel Escoto, a dependable rim protector with a solid mid-range and post game. Add him to the roster and the Mahindra coaching staff could have plotted a number of rotation options for their versatile big men.
We could have been looking at a possible starting five of Revilla, DiGregorio, De La Rosa, Rosario, and Erram. Each player has a specialty that does not overlap with other players, and they can switch positions when needed. Heruela would have been a steady replacement for Revilla, while Escoto and Guinto would have been the energy guys. Had they kept this roster, the playoffs would have been more of a routine pit stop rather than just a dream destination.
This could have been the positive scenario that Standhardinger would have been looking at had Kia/Columbian/Mahindra held on to the top pick. He would have definitely anchored the middle and would have been either a perfect pick-and-roll partner for the guards or a post playmaker, barreling his way in the post or passing it to a teammate when he gets double-teamed.
But it just wasn’t meant to be. Instead, the pick was dealt to the Beermen for Ronald Tubid, Rashawn McCarthy, Jay-R Reyes, and a 2019 first round draft pick which will most likely be the last selection in the round given San Miguel’s dominance.
Coming into their 11th conference, the franchise hasn’t made much progress in building a competitive roster. Selecting Standhardinger could have been a nice reversal to their questionable moves, but even then they couldn’t have had more success since it’s pretty hard to win with just a one-man wrecking crew.
We’ll forever be deprived of a super team.
Instead, what we’re witnessing is a franchise embroiled with a series of controversies – from making questionable decisions with its personnel, being dragged into a legal battle with the coaches who dragged them to arbitration, and even players coming out to divulge how they were mistreated.