For the second straight conference, the Phoenix Fuel Masters have failed to spread its wings and fly towards success.
In our Commissioner’s Cup preview, we said that there was nowhere else to go but up for the Phoenix Fuel Masters. As it turned out, Phoenix did find another direction to go to — downwards.
After barely missing the playoffs in the Philippine Cup, Phoenix finished in 10th place in the Commissioner’s Cup and never really threatened to enter the playoff race. Where did it all go wrong for themc?
A quick look at the Fuel Masters’ Commissioner’s Cup stats shows a mixed bag of results that may explain why they never really got into their groove in the season’s middle conference. They were first in free throw attempts (28.8), but only 10th in free throw percentage (65%). They were second in rebounding (53.4), second in attempts per game (91.2), and fifth in total points per game (104.1), but only ninth in three-point percentage (31%) and 11th in field goal percentage (42%). What all of these stats are saying are clear: Phoenix was inefficient and relied on sheer volume for their production.
His team may have struggled, but Matthew Wright continued his rise as one of the best players, let alone guards, in the league. The Fil-Canadian averaged 20.8 points, 5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists for the Fuel Masters last conference — numbers that could rival anyone’s in the PBA right now. He has now developed to more than just a shooter. The next step for Wright is for his numbers to translate into wins.
Eugene Phelps also deserves to be noted here. The team’s performance may have hardly improved upon his inclusion in the line-up, but the fact that Phelps, who is Phoenix’s resident import for the Governor’s Cup, agreed to play for the team earlier than expected due to James White’s injury, is very admirable. And despite being undersized compared to other imports in the Commissioner’s Cup, Wright was still able to hold his own against his taller counterparts. He averaged 29.9 points, 18 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in 43.9 minutes per game.
Jason Perkins also continued to impress despite playing in an import-laden conference for the first time in his career. The first-year player averaged 11.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting 52% from the field and 42% from beyond the three-point arc. With Perkins and Wright, the Fuel Masters have wonderful foundations for their team moving forward.
With Phoenix being able to incorporate Eugene Phelps a lot earlier than most imports and with Matthew Wright and Jason Perkins’ continued rise, Phoenix has the pieces to be competitive in every game of the Governor’s Cup. The problem is no one else on the roster outside those three players really inspire much confidence to being main contributors on a contender.