IN DEFENSE OF... PBA'S UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT POLICY




I have seen a lot of articles lambasting PBA’s unrestricted free agency.


Why?


I have no idea.


Back when the players had no control over where they would play, we riot.


Now, when the players have a say on which teams they would take their talents, we also riot!


I don’t get it.


Now I know that super teams are going to get more super. I mean… in the NBA, the big market teams have dominated free agency and if we translate the Lakers, Celtics, Nets, Knicks, Warriors, Bulls, and the Heat in the current PBA landscape, then these teams are probably San Miguel Corp’s San Miguel, Magnolia, and Ginebra… as well as the MVP Group’s TNT, Meralco, and NLEX.


But again, here’s the thing.


It’s better for the players to have a say on things than the crappy shit we have for almost two decades.


Again, PBA player restrictions have ruined the potential Hall of Fame careers of Enrico Villanueva, Don Allado, Yancy De Ocampo, Rico Maierhofer, Rich Alvarez, and a lot of countless others.


Wait…


YES, I placed Rich Alvarez’s name here as a player that had a nightmarish PBA career. You saw the former Ateneo player as a bust… but people tend to forget how he became one. Shell should have been his team and when it disbanded, he bounced from team to team because none of these teams can figure out how his talent works.


There was one coach that got his game though. Rich Alvarez averaged 8.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 0.9 steals in his rookie year… and he would average 5.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for Yeng Guiao in his second season in Red Bull – which is basically his fourth year in the league. Sure, you might say his numbers were kind of mediocre and I get you… but he is also playing in a system that back then had a slew of up-and-comers. Injuries wrecked Year 5 of his pro career but it also didn’t help that the struggling franchise is also transporting their players to other teams.


I bet my balls that if these players had a say, they would have at least tried to go to a lower-tier team in which they could play the part as top dog before going to a powerhouse team in which they would act as a benchwarmer.


In the current PBA free agency, the players that are moving to the top teams are also the players that have seen their careers go to either second-stringer status or bust levels.


If I can pinpoint one name from the early player free agent signings, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser was seen initially as the second coming of Gabe Norwood. He kind of looked the part during his rookie year but has since regressed to a seldom-used benchwarmer with San Miguel. When he was traded to Terrafirma, MGR kind of had a career reawakening… which is why the PBA fanbase is up in arms when he decided to return to TNT than stay in Terrafirma.


But here’s the other side of giving the players free will – this is a chance for the players to make insane and probably dumb decisions. The other thing the big market teams can give the players is stability. Needless to say, some players are willing to part with their superstar ways just to give their loved ones their dream house – or perhaps save up on some program wherein their kids can go to the States and do what Kai Sotto did. You can’t blame the players for wanting more. You can’t bully a player to choose on double-digit averages over winning bonuses as benchwarmers. Rosser is going to a team in serious need of bench depth and since most PBA players start their careers at the tail end of the primes at around the 25 to 30 range, considering money over prestige is a good thing. He also comes on board after playing for a team that is notorious for giving up assets - which is basically the reason why they have yet to win a title in almost a decade of existence.


I guess for Rosser, it's better for him to choose a team than to be part of a lopsided or unfavorable deal.


Honestly, the sports peeps are overacting with how the league works now. I get that Roosevelt Adams has yet to check out Terrafirma but assuming that he lands an SMC job, can he get the minutes he is getting with Team Dyip in that squad?


Adams is also 27 years old. In the PBA, the rookies aren’t young – regardless of when they entered the league via college, ABL, abroad, and even MPBL.



Just check this out:


Here are the top picks of the last ten drafts and their current ages as of January 2022.


2021 | JOSHUA MUNZON – 27 YEARS OLD

2019 | ROOSEVELT ADAMS – 27 YEARS OLD

2018 | CJ PEREZ – 28 YEARS OLD

2017 | CHRISTIAN STANDHARDINGER – 32 YEARS OLD

2015 | MO TAUTUAA – 32 YEARS OLD

2014 | STANLEY PRINGLE – 34 YEARS OLD

2013 | GREG SLAUGHTER – 33 YEARS OLD

2012 | JUNE MAR FAJARDO – 32 YEARS OLD

2011 | JVEE CASIO – 35 YEARS OLD

2010 | NONOY BACLAO – 34 YEARS OLD



If you compare their ages to the current ages of the NBA top picks from 2010, here is the discrepancy.


2021 | CADE CUNNINGHAM – 20 YEARS OLD

2020 | ANTHONY EDWARDS – 20 YEARS OLD

2019 | ZION WILLIAMSON – 21 YEARS OLD

2018 | DEANDRE AYTON – 23 YEARS OLD

2017 | MARKELLE FULTZ – 23 YEARS OLD

2016 | BEN SIMMONS – 25 YEARS OLD

2015 | KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS – 26 YEARS OLD

2014 | ANDREW WIGGINS – 26 YEARS OLD

2013 | ANTHONY BENNETT – 28 YEARS OLD

2012 | ANTHONY DAVIS – 28 YEARS OLD

2011 | KYRIE IRVING – 29 YEARS OLD

2010 | JOHN WALL – 31 YEARS OLD


It’s insane that most PBA top picks from the previous decade is a couple of years younger than 2003 NBA Draft top pick LeBron James. And as for why most top picks like Simmons, Zion, and Irving are acting like babies… is because they were pushed early and they have tasted the power most PBA players are finding hard to wield.


Age is a factor for the PBA free agents and this is also the reason why PBA players are finding it difficult to break the international leagues. Top players are looking for the PBA as the endgame – the dream of providing for their family ellipses their need to become better basketball players. Just like most Filipinos, they would rather have job security and financial stability over becoming the top dog of their industry… and this isn’t a bad thing.


Again, you can’t fault the players for sacrificing for the greater good.


Perhaps the biggest takeaway here is that there are good contracts and there are bad contracts. In some ways, I get why San Miguel parted ways with Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot. They are 40 to almost-40-somethings with max salary deals. In the NBA, the only reason why guys like John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Ben Simmons are chastised as much is that they have big money salaries. The PBA players from here on out will experience hearing how big their contracts are and how crappy their gameplay is.


And it’s not like all 90 San Miguel Corp and MVP Group slots are available to the free agents. Sooner or later, they need to sign where the opportunity lies. For SMC players of the last decade, a benchwarmer spot would signal career death. And if they want big-time financial gain, they need to show that they are capable of doing so.


One player, in particular, is JP Erram – an unsigned draftee who took his talents to Blackwater which prompted the MVP Group to take an interest in him. Jackson Corpuz, an undrafted player, unleashed hell on his foes in Kia which led to Magnolia acquiring him. These players, when SMC or MVP got a hold on them, were already established which kind of protecting them from going to bench-warming hell. When a player is the one approaching the team, this means he is willing to chase for a position and not the other way around. In some ways, a player or a team could benefit from “poaching” a player via trade than relying blindly on what a free agent can bring to the table.


Now if I am a PBA player (haha), I might look for a big market team at the tail-end of my career AFTER I establish myself as a potential Hall of Famer. Championships are great on the resume… but so are individual accolades and all-star citations.


Also, the small market teams need to exert more effort to drive players to their teams. The thing about small-market teams is that they have an aura of conduit-ness either due to their previous incarnation or the fact that they have yet to score a title. San Miguel leads everyone with 27 titles. Magnolia and Ginebra have 14 and 13 championships, respectively while TNT has eight. This is though, Alaska is tied for second all-time with 14, and Rain or Shine has two titles – with Meralco having three runner-up finishes. Phoenix might lose Chris Banchero to free agency but their team has evolved from the shitty Air21/Barako Bull conduit situation.


Sure, they can give away their players to the big market squads… but they also need to have balls in dealing with these teams.


Norman Black and Chris Gavina have expressed approval on the free agency development – although they would have wanted the start to be at the end of the season. They are insanely correct with this though – as this hampers their potential title hunt if and when the league concluded the Governors’ Cup.


And maybe this is the right time for the PBA to disclose team salaries. The best way to make the PBA watchable is the obvious steps they aren’t making. Once the crowds have seen that a particular player earns this much money, they would either root for the player to get max salary… as well as either chastise the player or team for missing completely the awesomeness of free agency.