2019 PBA Philippine Cup Preview: Will Phoenix finally ascend to the top this year?

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After a forgettable first two conferences last season, the Phoenix Plus Fuel Masters bounced back big time in the Governors’ Cup, thanks in large part to the arrival of Calvin Abueva and the brilliance of import Eugene Phelps.

Can Louie Alas’ troops finally make it to the upper echelon of PBA teams?  FOX PH examines the Fuel Masters’ chances in the upcoming 2019 PBA Philippine Cup.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM LAST PH CUP

Phoenix ended last year’s Philippine Cup eliminations with a 5-6 record, good for a three-way tie with NortPort Batang Pier and TNT KaTropa. The team, however, lost a tie-breaker to TNT and failed to make it to the Quarterfinals.

Matthew Wright emerged as one of the best scorers in the league, averaging 17.91 points on 31 percent shooting from deep, while seasoned veteran Willie Wilson showed he still got it by nabbing player of the week honors from January 22 to 28.

The team also led the league in total steals per game, notching 10.4 per contest.

NOTABLE PLAYERS

Wright and Abueva formed a formidable duo last conference and will be the pillars to the Fuel Masters’ success in the future. The team’s lottery pick Jason Perkins — who’s a lock for the 2018 Rookie of the Year award — also played like a veteran and will surely be a vital piece for the team moving forward.

LA Revilla will also receive a much needed help at the point guard spot with the arrival of Alex Mallari. Dave Marcelo, on the other hand, will add another big body to the team’s bruising frontcourt.

The team also plucked perhaps the biggest sleeper of the 2018 Draft in Jorey Napoles. The virtually unknown forward out of TIP turned a lot of heads in the Draft Combine. They also got another gem in the second round with former FEU star Ron Dennison.

TEAM OUTLOOK

With more time to integrate Abueva into coach Alas’ system, Phoenix is expected to be one of the teams on the rise in the All-Filipino tourney. Mallari will surely help sort out the team’s playmaking deficiencies in the past, while Wright promises to take more of a leadership approach in his third PBA season.

The team’s roster certainly presents a good mixture of young and old talent, which might just be enough to surprise the league’s top notch teams. Whether or not the team could truly take that next step on becoming legitimate contenders might just fall on Abueva’s shoulders. In several stretches last conference, “The Beast” showcased the killer edge he had with Alaska, but his inconsistency and penchant for turnovers hurt the squad, especially in the playoffs.

(Image from PBA)

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