Has the PBA rookie draft served its real purpose lately?

ByRonald Agbada

Just recently, a trade proposal from KIA and San Miguel burst into the scene and drew tremendous flak from PBA fans, the media and even from some of the league’s teams.

The deal, which calls for KIA to send its 1st round pick in the upcoming rookie draft to San Miguel for seldom used players Yancy de Ocampo, Rashawn McCarthy and Keith Agovida, hasn’t been approved yet by commissioner Chito Narvasa but all indications point to an approval along with major revisions.

This now begs the question, what is now the essence of the rookie draft?

Well, the actual purpose of the annual rookie draft is to give inferior teams a higher chance of acquiring blue-chip rookies as opposed to teams which have performed better throughout the season.

The draft order is based on the team’s performance during the league’s three conferences.

Going back to controversial deal, KIA is widely acknowledged as the weakest team in the league, no thanks to the mind-boggling decisions of its top management.

Aside from appointing a boxer whom they chose in the 1st round of the 2014 rookie draft as its playing coach, they went ahead and traded their 1st round pick in the succeeding draft, which turned out to be Troy Rosario.

Not only that, they either released or traded away proven/promising talents in KG Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos, Paolo Taha, Bradwyn Guinto, Mike DiGregorio, John Pinto and Joseph Eriobu, just to name a few.

Now, when a team desperately in need of top-notch talent trades away the top overall pick to a team which has 4 players in the league’s Mythical Five, then that is a serious indication that something must be terribly wrong.

At this point, it’s safe to conclude that KIA is not in the PBA to compete but merely for marketing purposes and of course for the additional income from trade proceeds from the rich and more established teams.

But before KIA, who could ever forget Barako Bull?

Barako Bull came into the league via the second coming of the Tanduay franchise in 2002. They carried the FedEx name until 2005 and then switched to Air21. In 2009, they switched to Burger King then reverted back to Air21 after just one season.

In 2011, Barako Bull was born. A closer look at the franchise’s trading history especially the ones involving draft picks will give the average fan a bigger picture on how the PBA’s rookie draft functions in reality.

Since the focus is only on the draft picks, we won’t go into the names of the players involved and the trade details anymore.

2009 – Burger King (Barako Bull) traded the 1st overall pick to Talk ‘N Text
2010 – Air21 (Barako Bull) traded the 1st to 3rd overall picks to San Miguel
2011 – Barako Bull traded the 2nd overall pick to Rain or Shine
2011 – Barako Bull traded the 3rd overall pick to San Miguel
2011 – Shopinas.com (Air21) traded the 5th overall pick to B-MEG (Star)
2012 – Barako Bull traded the 1st and 3rd overall picks to Petron Blaze (San Miguel)
2013 – Air21 (sister team of Barako Bull) traded the 1st overall pick to Brgy. Ginebra
2013 – Barako Bull traded the 2nd overall pick to San Mig Coffee
2013 – Barako Bull traded the 3rd overall pick to Rain or Shine
2014 – Barako Bull traded the 3rd overall pick to San Miguel
2014 – Barako Bull traded the 4th overall pick to Brgy. Ginebra
2015 – Blackwater traded the 1st overall pick to Talk ‘N Text
2015 – KIA traded the 2nd overall pick to Talk ‘N Text
2015 – Barako Bull traded the 5th overall pick to Brgy. Ginebra

As you can see, the Barako Bull franchise, along with its sister team Air21, has had its own annual tradition of trading its prized picks to the highest bidder. Reason why its stint in the league didn’t amount to anything, except make good teams improve even further.

Air21 sold its franchise to the MVP Group via the NLEX Road Warriors in 2014 and Barako Bull followed suit in 2016 via the Phoenix Fuel Masters. It was seen as a good development by many as no “farm” teams would mean a balanced distribution of talent, especially during the rookie draft.

The positive news was short-lived however as the league welcomed expansion teams Blackwater Elite and KIA Sorento in 2014. The two solidified their roles as the new farm teams by trading away their 1st round picks to Talk ‘N Text. Of the two, it seems Blackwater has already shed the tag owing to recent trade transactions which has certainly improved the team, at least on paper.

Regarless of Narvasa’s decision on the controversial trade, fans and even media are clamoring for KIA to sell its franchise. The league’s credibility, already tattered as it is, is facing more damage with the team’s continued presence.

For a league to be truly credible, all participating teams should aspire to win the championship. Even if they fail to, the important thing would be to try their best by building a team capable of winning. And it all starts during the rookie draft. How they play their cards is an indication of how they plan to compete.


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