After a short two-week break, PBA action will once again resume with the start of the 2017 Commissioner’s Cup.
In previous years, bottom-ranked teams were given an advantage in the second conference where they could bring in imports of any height. This year, all teams were given a 6’10” height limit for the imports they will be signing to their team.
This conference’s import crop will have a lot of familiar faces, as several teams selected imports that have played in the PBA before to bolster their roster. However, there are some returning imports that won’t be joining the teams they played for before. Instead, they are coming back for another tour of duty helping a new team.
SLAM PH opens our look on the imports of this conference by shining a light on the selections of the Mahindra Enforcers, NLEX Road Warriors Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, and the Meralco Bolts.
James White – Mahindra Enforcers
James White was an enigma when he first came into the league. He was a little-known player with no previous international or D-League experience before joining the PBA. In fact, his time with Mahindra was his first professional experience. He jumped straight to the PBA after his NCAA stint where he was a rotation player for the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets, averaging just 14.5 minutes and 3.5 points per game.
He wasted no time making a name for himself in the PBA.
The 6’8” forward gave the Enforcers a new dimension with his athleticism, work ethic and non-stop motor. White wasn’t a ball dominant import. He didn’t need constant touches to be an efficient player on the floor. He preferred to play off the ball where he could use his slinky frame to get past his defenders with smart cuts to the basket. White also used his length and leaping ability to get put-back baskets and keep possessions alive.
In 12 games, White helped Mahindra get to the playoffs with a 6-6 record. He averaged 24.7 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in that span.
White will be bringing the same boundless energy to the Enforcers this conference. He will have to improve on his last run in the PBA though, because he will be going up against bigger, tougher imports compared to last season’s Governor’s Cup.
Wayne Chism – NLEX Road Warriors
One of the players returning to the league but playing for a new team is Wayne Chism. He followed his former coach, Yeng Guiao to the Road Warriors in his third run in the PBA.
Chism hasn’t had a chance to show off his abilities in a full conference as he joined the Elasto Painters late in the conference for his first two runs and his third run was cut short by injury. His best conference was in 2015 where he played a total of 17 games in the eliminations and the playoffs. That year, he averaged 32.0 points and 14.2 rebounds in six games. In 11 playoff games, Chism averaged 22.5 points and 16.5 rebounds.
Chism is a versatile offensive player. He can face-up and attack the defense off the dribble or take the outside jumper off the bounce. He’s a decent outside shooter, hitting 41.7 percent of his three-point shots. He can also work in the post as a back-to-the-basket player. Chism is just as comfortable making a move in the paint as he is attacking outside. At 6’9” and 245 pounds, he’s a big forward that’s hard to dislodge in the paint or while he’s barelling into the lane.
The Road Warriors are patterning their game after the Elasto Painters where they share the wealth on offense. Just like he did with Rain or Shine, Chism brings a legitimate scoring option to NLEX. With Asi Taulava finally slowing down and the rest of the team still green, Chism will bring stability on the offensive end.
Shawn Taggart – Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
Another player donning a new uniform in his return to the league will be Shawn Taggart.
Taggart first played in the PBA as a member of the GlobalPort Batang Pier. He came in as a replacement for the underperforming Calvin Warner. Taggart is a massive player standing in at 6’10”, 229 pounds. He uses his size to affect both ends of the court.
Offensively, Taggart is a rim-running big man who can get to the basket when he gets the ball off a pick. All he has to do is take one dribble, go hard to the basket, and finish over the defender. He also uses his frame in the block when he posts up. Tagart has a nifty drop step to hook shot combo that he can unleash using his long limbs. He was a beast on the offensive end scoring 34.4 points on 51.8% shooting.
On the defensive end, Taggart also can make an impact. His size is a deterrent to players who would want to go into the lane. He’s also a strong rebounder that dominates the boards as well. In five games last season, Taggart averaged 14.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, providing an inside presence for the Batang Pier.
Taggart can be the focal point of their offense and a dangerous target for Maverick Ahanmisi and Mike Tolomia in the pick and roll. His strong rebounding will also fuel Rain or Shine’s running game. Taggart fits into the Elasto Painter system well.
Alex Stephenson – Meralco Bolts
The Meralco Bolts are getting another beast in the middle. Alex Stephenson is in the mold of Arinze Onuaku and Allen Durham. He’s a monster in the middle that can anchor the post-centric offense of the Bolts. He gives Meralco a presence in the middle, someone they didn’t have in the Philippine Cup.
Stephens played majority of his collegiate and career for the University of North Carolina before he transferred to the University of South California for his final two years in college. He went undrafted in the NBA and transitioned to playing professionally in Greece, Slovenia and Turkey since 2011.
In 2015, he joined the Dallas Mavericks for their Summer League campaign and then moved into the Iowa Energy for the NBA Developmental League. He was a productive player in the D-League, averaging a double-double of 15.7 points and 13.3 rebounds in 34 games.
In 2016, he signed a 10-day contract with the LA Clippers and then another 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies, ravaged by injury was able to use Stephenson as a fill-in. He had his most productive NBA game with the Grizzlies, scoring 12 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in March 14 against the Houston Rockets.
Stephenson will be the center that the Bolts need for a bounce-back Commissioner’s Cup campaign.