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Ranking the best Number 1 picks in the PBA Draft of the last decade

By Kristoffer Ed Bellen

AFTER almost two weeks of rumors on the San Miguel Beermen choosing Christian Standhardinger off an unexpected trade deal with KIA Picanto for the Number 1 overall pick of the 2017 PBA Draft, it seems that the speculations were now finally upheld as the Filipino-German took a quick flight all the way to Robinson’s Place Manila earlier to personally receive the honors.

It has been a tradition for the PBA to gather a set of new faces and talents every year since the draft night was introduced in 1985 featuring the big man Sonny Cabatu of the Shell Turbo Chargers, the first ever player to be hailed top pick of the country’s professional basketball league.

The PBA has witnessed a number of legends and current league superstars to take the spotlight, night in and night out.

Among the many number 1 overall picks that proved to be worthy of positioning themselves atop their draft class were PBA Hall of Famers Benjie Paras, Allan Caidic, Vergel Meneses, and many more.

Not only that these players continue to excel from their collegiate careers but they also pummeled their way through the pro league. Here are three of the best Number 1 overall picks in recent memory:

Honorable Mentions
File Photo: Dennis Jerome Acosta/Dugout Philippines
As far as this article is concerned, we would love to have the likes of Jvee Casio, Stanley Pringle, and Kelly Williams included in this top three rankings, but unfortunately this trio did not make the cut of the best three former top picks as per their current career performances and championship experiences.

While Casio and Williams already have rings in their careers – with Casio having one and Williams with six – Pringle has yet to make for his first championship in his young career, let alone make it to the PBA Finals.

However, these three stars have already proven themselves to be perhaps a Hall of Fame nominee, starting of course with two-time Most Valuable Player Williams and Casio and Pringle, as well.

Other painful giveaways: 2009 Number 1 pick Japeth Aguilar and 2013 Number 1 pick Greg Slaughter.

Third - Gabe Norwood
It was a difficult choice of putting Norwood over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s twin towers of Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter, but the 32-year old product of George Mason redefined the delineation of being an elite perimeter and wing defender in theleague.

The arrival of Scottie Thompson and Jio Jalalon does not degrade the status of the former PBA Defensive of the Player and six-time PBA All-Defensive Team member, who at 6-foot-6 can guard all stars of his opposing team as well as limiting their scoring production.

Drafted by the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in 2008, Norwood averaged 11.5 points, 7.95 rebounds, and 3.27 assists per ball game in his rookie year including a promising performance at the All-Star Game as a neophyte which eventually led him to winning the PBA Rookie of the Year Award as well as being chosen as one of the members of the PBA All-Rookie Team of that season.

Not only did the league’s one of the best defenders managed to win a ring twice under one team – at the 2012 Governors’ Cup and 2016 Commissioner’s Cup – but Norwood has been a valuable part also of the Philippine national men’s basketball team.

He had won two gold medals for the Philippines since being part of the national team which was highlighted by a 2007 SEA Games stint and 2012 Taipei Jones Cup dismantling on USA.

Facts: Gabe Norwood is an eight-time PBA All-Star who missed only one All-Star Game in his entire PBA career and that is this year’s edition. Apart from it, he also holds one of the longest streaks in active players to be able to make it to the PBA All-Defensive Team (2013-2017). His major highlight in his career was a one-handed facial poster dunk against Luis Scola of Argentina in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, at Sevilla, Spain.

Second - Joe Devance
File Photo: Dennis Jerome Acosta/ Dugout Philippines
Surprised? Don’t be.

Although Joe Devance is somewhat delayed in showcasing his rookie season after being selected as number one overall by the Welcoat Dragons in 2007 under head coach Caloy Garcia, the Filipino-American forward was not held longer as he was traded to the Alaska Aces the following season to tally the best offensive year of his career so far after shooting 46 percent from the field.

In his first year as a professional cager, Devance put up 13.6 points, 6.5 caroms, and 1.1 assists per ball game despite playing with limited minutes to be part of the PBA All-Rookie Team for that season.

His career began to shine in 2008 as he became Coach Tim Cone and Alaska’s second most important player after Willie Miller when he was treated as a feared stretch shooter alongside face-up forward Tony dela Cruz as well as being a serious threat in the low post and probably one of the most efficient passing big man that the league has ever witnessed.

After playing in four different teams which include the sister franchises of Star Hotshots and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, the six-foot-seven Devance holds the record of one of the active players with the most PBA championship titles at eight.

Facts: Joe Devance has never won a championship without Coach Tim Cone. Their partnership which can be taken from their playing time in three different teams – Alaska, Star, and Ginebra – could probably be unmatched as they had won eight titles altogether with the 2017 Governors’ Cup being the latest.

First - June Mar Fajardo
There’s no doubt about it. Duh.

June Mar Fajardo is one of the most decorated young players in the PBA which at his only fifth tenure as the big man of the San Miguel Beermen that drafted him first overall in 2012 (Petron Blaze Boosters at that time, by the way) had already won five championships, five Best Player of the Conference Awards, five All-Star selections, and four Most Valuable Player awards.

Not only that he already won four MVP titles in his name in just five years, but Fajardo also dominated the league for four straight years since 2014 up to 2017, making his way to join the PBA 4-time MVP club as the third player to ever do that feat alongside legends Alvin Patrimonio and Ramon Fernandez.

Taking the course of Fajardo’s early supremacy in his PBA career with the San Miguel, and soon to be paired up with co-Gilas front man Standhardinger, this might be start of the new promising career of what to be the LeBron James of the modern day PBA.

So far, Fajardo has a double-double career averages of 16.7 points and 12.1 rebounds, courtesy of an impressive 57% shooting from the field.

Facts: June Mar Fajardo is the second quickest PBA player to ever win the MVP award after bagging the title in his sophomore year. Benjie Paras holds the record as he both grabbed the Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in one year for the Shell Turbo Chargers.

The views and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of Dugout Philippines.

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