While the rest of the basketball world is being consumed by small ball, in local hoops, the saying "height is might" still holds true. Despite the relative success of floor-spacing big men like Mick Pennisi and Reynel Hugnatan, having traditional centers that make a living inside the paint is still one of the keys that decide the fate of their respective PBA teams.
June Mar Fajardo is well on his way to a fifth consecutive Most Valuable Player award, with a healthy Greg Slaughter the only player who has the size to legitimately challenge him. This season, a crop of old-school pivots is emerging as franchise cornerstones. We're not even factoring in the arrival of the 2017 draft No. 1 overall pick, Chrisitian Standhardinger.
FHM ranks the best pivot from each PBA squad based on their body of work, current skill level, untapped potential, and the player's value to his team:
12. JayR Reyes (Kia Picanto)
9.8 ppg 8.5 rpg 1.5 apg
This is an example of "bloated stats," with Reyes having logged more minutes in three games with Kia than his two years with SMB. Kia's "unconventional" system has not only reduced the team to a laughing stock, but also hindered the development of Prince Caperal.
11. Bradwyn Guinto (GlobalPort Batang Pier)
5.5 ppg 4.5 rpg 1 bpg
It's though to put up impressive numbers when you have fight for playing time with three other players listed at center in the team (Yousef Taha, Lervyn Flores, Joseph Gabayni). Coach Pido has to figure out GlobalPort's frontcourt logjam so Guinto could be unleashed.
10. Reynel Hugnatan (Meralco Bolts)
9 ppg 4 rpg 43% 3p
Hugnatan's inclusion sums up the dearth of Meralco big men, although they do have Ken Bono and Jason Ballesteros. The premier stretch 5 could have placed higher in the list if he wasn't playing here. Nevertheless, the true value of Tito Reynel shines in the playoffs.
9. Rabeh Al-Hussaini (NLEX Road Warriors)
5.5 ppg 5.3 rpg
A couple of things helped Al-Hussaini's cause: team record (2-2) and productivity from the ageless yet limited Asi Taulava (4 ppg 3 ppg). Given how erratic Coach Yeng's rotation is, he should be grateful and take advantage of the extended burn (20+ mpg).
8. Vic Manuel (Alaska Aces)
12.8 ppg 4.5 rpg 1.8 apg
Yes, he is a natural power forward, but the Muscle Man is clearly the strongest and most able slotman in their roster. Alaska's other centers are either too young (Marion Magat, 29) or too old (Sonny Thoss, 36). Just imagine if Manuel was a few inches taller...
7. Moala Tautuaa (TNT KaTropa)
10 ppg 8.5 rpg
For the most part, the Fil-Tongan hasn't lived up to expectations of being the 2015 top pick. His teammate—the player selected after Tautuaa—Troy Rosario has had a better career than him. Here's to hoping he'll have more games like his last one (18 pts 9 reb 1 blk 2 3p).
6. Justin Chua (Phoenix Fuel Masters)
12.7 ppg 4 rpg 1.3 apg
Despite coming off the bench for Doug Kramer, the sweet-shooting journeyman (six teams in four years) seemed to have found a home. If he could crash the boards a bit more, Chua has the chance to be mentioned on the same breath as the league's elite bigs.
5. Raymond Almazan (Rain or Shine Elasto Painters)
10.5 ppg 10.5 rpg 2.5 bpg
Interestingly enough, three of the Top 5 pivots came from the same draft class (2013). Already an imposing two-way player, Almazan even benefited from his Gilas stint.
4. Ian Sangalang (Magnolia Hotshots)
16 ppg 9 rpg 1.3 bpg
Sangalang has built his case as the future of the team, alongside Jio Jalalon, early in the seaon. Poised for a breakout year, the former NCAA MVP is next in line to join the great bigs (Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codiñera, Marc Pingris) in franchise history.
3. JP Erram (Blackwater Elite)
13.7 ppg 11.7 rpg 3 bpg
His trajectory is the same as that of the Elite's. Does this look like someone who already had two ACL surgeries? In the words of basketball YouTuber Mike Korzemba, the frontcourt trio of Erram, Raymar Jose, and Mac Belo will break the PBA!
2. Greg Slaughter (Barangay Ginebra San Miguel)
20.3 ppg 10.5 rpg 4.5 bpg
Isn't it obvious? Ginebra's success depends on GregZilla's health. Well, Slaughter has been on the court for 35 minutes a night, following a successful Governors' Cup title defense. With numbers like those, he could easily be the league's top center, if not for this guy.
1. June Mar Fajardo (San Miguel Beermen)
24.5 ppg 7 rpg 2 bpg
When all factors are taken into consideration, the Kraken can be considered the best player in the PBA.