Consistent since Day 1 or dominant replacement? Tyler Bey, Bennie Boatwright share take on Best Import race ahead of SMB-Magnolia finals

Despite only playing seven games so far, Bennie Boatwright has become the leading candidate for the Best Import award. Dennis Acosta (file photo) 
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—When the recent statistical points race update for the Best Import of the Conference was released at the start of the PBA Commissioner's Cup semifinals, there were heated discussions among fans as to who deserves to win the said award.

San Miguel's Bennie Boatwright was way ahead of Magnolia's Tyler Bey in the SP race up to the quarterfinals, and with the way Boatwright played in SMB's semifinal sweep of Ginebra, he might still be keeping that lead.

However, some fans argued that Bey deserves the Best Import award more than Boatwright since he has been putting up consistent numbers since the start of the season.

Meanwhile, some other fans defended Boatwright, saying that he has been monstrous for the Beermen even if he only arrived on Christmas night as Ivan Aska's replacement.

When asked by Dugout Philippines about it, Boatwright said that he cannot influence further the Best Import race beyond playing his role with SMB.

"That's not up for me to decide. I don't make the decisions on who the Best Import is. Those guys have been there longer. I'll just go out there and play," Boatwright said with an added reference to Phoenix's Johnathan Williams.

Being here since the start of the season could be enough narrative for Tyler Bey to earn a lot of Best Import votes from the media and the players. Dennis Acosta (file photo)
In a separate interview, Bey told Dugout Philippines that it would be fine with him if Boatwright wins it even if he is just a replacement import.

"If it doesn't go my way, it's understandable. Bennie is a great player," Bey said.

PBA fans need not research further from older archives regarding replacement imports winning the Best Import plum as TNT's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson won the said award in last year's Governors' Cup even if he replaced Jalen Hudson as the PLDT franchise's foreign reinforcement after their first six games.

The Tropang Giga tapped Hollis-Jefferson again at the start of this season's Commissioner's Cup until a neck injury during their pre-Christmas EASL game against the Taipei Fubon Braves prompted them to replace him with older brother Rahlir.

Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson would have been the top contender for the Best Import award stats-wise if TNT stunned Magnolia in the quarterfinals, but with the Tropang Giga's elimination, Boatwright and Bey are now 1-2 in the race.

However, both Boatwright and Bey said that they are not thinking about the individual award just yet as both the Beermen and the Hotshots collide in the conference finals beginning Friday night.

"Truthfully, I don't think about the Best Import race. I just wanna win games. That's the most important thing. As long as we keep winning games, everything will play out the way it is," Boatwright said.

"For me, I'm just focused on winning the championship and just go on from there," Bey added.

Up to the semis, Boatwright averages 35.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.0 block per game through seven outings, while Bey norms 26.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 2.3 steals per contest through 16 matches.

Based on the latest criteria for judging, the stats will make up 45 percent of the total points for an individual award per conference, while votes from the media account for 30 percent and the player votes are worth 25 percent.

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