The Leo Awards officially closed the PBA’s 47th season. While the winners are still busy celebrating their respective awards, we decided to jump the gun and guess which players will receive the same awards at the end of this current season.
With only two conferences to play and with a field that looks wide open, at least in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, fresh names might be able to sneak in and claim individual honors.
Most Improved Player - James Laput
The Magnolia Hotshots big man really benefited from the minutes he played during PBA On Tour, and now, the player who called himself The Project, seems ready to break out. He got the start in their first game of the season and this bodes well for his future campaign.
With Ian Sangalang still working his way back up to full strength, Magnolia will need Laput to step up, especially in rebounding and defending the bigger imports in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Rookie of the Year - Stephen Holt
He’s putting a lot of pressure on his shoulders by saying his target is for the Terrafirma Dyip to make it to the playoffs. Being alongside a point guard threat in Juami Tiongson should be beneficial for Holt as the former can help create for him.
The franchise should have another Rookie of the Year awardee, following the path of Cjay Perez in 2019.
Alec Stockton - Stockton and defense. Seems like an automatic fit. He’s a pesky defender who has earned the trust of Converge Fiberxers coach Aldin Ayo, so he’ll see a lot of time on the floor. He plays in-your-face baseline-to-baseline defense, which makes it easier to see his effort.
Chris Newsome - He did it in the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games, and he came home with two gold medals. Newsome’s defense has been an underrated facet of his game since being drafted by the Meralco Bolts, but that is now a thing of the past. He won his first All-Defensive Team citation in the PBA’s 47th season and you can expect him to win another one.
Cliff Hodge - At 35 years of age, he is still playing with the same intensity he had as a rookie in 2012. Another All-Defensive Team nod should be in the future for Hodge as the Bolts really rely on him heavily on the defensive end. Hodge is highly capable of being an import defender in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Justin Arana - The reigning Rookie of the Year puts a premium on battling for the boards, and this should enable him to chase a spot in the All-Defensive Team. It also doesn’t hurt that the Converge center times blocks well, as he was tied with Northport Batang Pier's Arvin Tolentino at 1.7 swats per game in the PBA On Tour.
June Mar Fajardo - As long as he’s healthy, Fajardo is a shoo-in for his spot, as he gobbles up rebounds with his superior size. And that’s the most surefire way of joining this team for the seventh time in the San Miguel Beermen star's career.
Mythical Second Team
Juami Tiongson - He is showing no signs of slowing down. After winning Most Improved Player of the Year in 2021, the Terrafirma guard is still delivering the goods for the franchise. The Dyip seem to have found renewed energy for the new season and more wins, and even maybe an entry to the playoffs, could get Tiongson rewarded with another individual trophy.
Kevin Alas - Parlaying his success from the Asian Games, Alas can elevate his game and be the leader the NLEX Road Warriors need him to be to become a playoff threat. He said their target is to at least make it to the semifinals, and that will certainly grab the attention of voters if Alas helps them get there.
Jamie Malonzo - He will still play a big role for the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel this season, but the player that I think will replace him in the Mythical First Team might be ready to make the leap to becoming a PBA superstar.
Arvin Tolentino - He might be known as a gunner, but he has elevated his defensive game as of late. As mentioned earlier, Tolentino was tied with Arana as the league leader in blocks during the PBA On Tour, and it looks like he’ll be bringing this defensive mentality into the new season with NorthPort. With the Batang Pier unable to sign Arwind Santos to a new contract, Tolentino could provide a similar two-way effort enough to earn him a second straight spot in the Mythical Second Team.
Troy Rosario - He was part of this team in 2019 but there has been a considerable drop in his game, which led to his departure from the TNT Tropang Giga. However, Blackwater Bossing coach Jeff Cariaso seems ready to give Rosario all the opportunities he needs to get back into his old form.
Mythical First Team
Scottie Thompson - He will continue to be a stat-sheet stuffer for Ginebra. As the team waits for LA Tenorio and Jeremiah Gray to get back to 100%, Thompson will be the lead point guard, which means he’ll continue to produce.
Cjay Perez - Playing alongside a dominant big in Fajardo has not affected the statistical output of Perez too much. He will continue being an MVP threat for San Miguel, as he will be one of the top scorers in the league for sure.
Calvin Oftana - With Mikey Williams and RR Pogoy not seeing action, Oftana will have no other choice but to try and carry the offensive load among the locals of TNT. He was good enough for a Mythical Second Team last season but he should be gearing up to take another step forward.
Christian Standhardinger - He will be playing a bigger role for Ginebra with Japeth Aguilar showing some signs of slowing down. Standhardinger is a top-level rebounder and an able scorer when he needs to be a scoring threat.
June Mar Fajardo - A Mythical First Team can’t be without The Kraken. Even though he’s getting up there in age, he is still a force to be reckoned with.
MVP - Christian Standhardinger
It just feels like this would be a big year for Standhardinger. While Fajardo will always be one of the MVP favorites, San Miguel's roster is so loaded. C-Stan, on the other hand, might be expected to play close to 40 minutes a game for Ginebra to continue being a title threat.
My guess? Standhardinger and Fajardo will split the Best Player of the Conference awards with the Filipino-German snatching the MVP trophy.