For rookies, making it to the PBA, the oldest league in Asia, is just the first step of the process.
Staying in the league for the years to come requires a high level of unwavering commitment and dedication. Factor in the fact that there are only 12 teams in the league, cracking a roster spot, even if you’re a veteran, is not an easy task.
Today, FOX Sports Philippines takes a look at the best available free agents that could fit the bill if PBA teams need more hands to strengthen their campaign in this year’s Philippine Cup.
- RR Garcia
The PBA has always been a guard-heavy league. It’s no wonder why combo guards like RR Garcia have found themselves looking for a niche in the pros. Having won the UAAP Most Valuable Player award in 2010, Garcia was a highly-touted prospect entering the draft. But his suspect defense and below-average playmaking skills had him bouncing from one team to another, with the TNT KaTropa the recent team to cut him. He has never been a natural point guard, and never transitioned into one. But Garcia is still a more than capable juggernaut on offense who relies on his quick first step and his ability to shoot the lights out from the perimeter. Teams desperate for outside scoring should take a serious look at Garcia.
- Harold Arboleda
Harold Arboleda’s name doesn’t really sound off that much for PBA fans. But if you’re watching the MPBL closely, you’d know that Arboleda has what it takes to be an impactful player in the pros. A tireless workhorse on both ends of the floor, one of the factors that Arboleda’s game didn’t translate in his short stint in the PBA is because he’s undersized at the power forward position. He doesn’t really have a wide-bodied structure of an undersized four like Willy Wilson, making it hard for him to go up against bigger power forwards. But he has learned to use his mobility to be a versatile player in the MPBL, averaging all-around numbers of 13.0 points, 12.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists and a stellar 43% clip from deep for Zamboanga.
- Arnold Van Opstal
This 6-foot-9 behemoth had brimming potential entering the league. He was drafted in 2016 by the San Miguel Beermen but at that time, he was still recovering from an Achilles injury. That injury obviously took its toll on AVO, who wasn’t the same mobile center that he was when he played for DLSU in college. He was recently spotted near the bench of the TNT KaTropa this conference, prompting rumors that he could be making his way into the league. Players of his size and potential don’t come everyday in the PBA, and it’s a pity that he is in this situation. It may be that his confidence in his game is on an all-time low right now, but expect Van Opstal to make one more push to crack a roster spot.
- Mark Yee
PBA fans remember him for his crazy antics, but Mark Yee is actually an effective player who fits the mold of a quality 3-and-D wing for his teams. A hard-nosed defender with a sweet shooting touch from outside, Yee could still be a serviceable defensive stopper for PBA teams lacking depth in the wing. He is playing right now for the Davao Occidental Tigers, posting impressive averages of 12.9 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists, while shooting a stellar 38% clip from beyond the arc.
- Gab Banal
Banal could be the most complete player in this list. With the exception of his three-point shooting, Banal is good at almost everything, a jack of all trades player who could easily be an able sixth man in the PBA. He played for the Mighty Sports Philippines in the recently concluded 2019 Dubai International Basketball Championship, but he has been blazing quite a trail in the MPBL. Suiting up for the Bacoor Strikers, Banal is producing 17.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game.
- Carlo Lastimosa
Lastimosa, a spitfire scoring guard, was surprisingly cut by Columbian Dyip just days before the 2019 All-Filipino Cup started. Just a couple of years ago, Lastimosa was one of the league’s deadliest scorers, averaging 18 points per game for Blackwater. Since then, Lastimosa has bounced in and out of the league, and is now taking his act to the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup. Talented as he is, Lastimosa just needs to be more disciplined at both ends of the court if he wants to crack a roster spot in the PBA.
- Paolo Hubalde
Hubalde is leading the MPBL in steals with 2.9 per game, while putting up 12.4 points, 8.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Valenzuela Classic. Hubalde entered the league oozing with potential and athleticism, but his game never translated to the pros. He became a journeyman in the league, having last played for North Port Batang Pier in 2017. With how he is dominating the opposition in MPBL right now, Hubalde can still carve a niche as a defensive ace should he try out again in the PBA.
- Dylan Ababou
It’s really unfortunate how Ababou sustained successive injuries that hampered his development in the pros. Ababou put up 11.9 points and 4.7 boards per game as rookie for the Barako Bulls Energy, but an ACL injury in 2012 really cost him a lot of his athleticism. Like Lastimosa, Ababou will also play in the 3×3 after being cut by Columbian Dyip, where he will play with Joshua Munzon, Taylor Statham and Troy Rike for the Pasig-Grindhouse Kings. Ababou’s ability to shoot the lights out from the perimeter will be his trump card if he wants another shot at the PBA.