The Rabeh Al-Husseini PBA Number One Draft Snub

I have been “weaning” myself away from basketball, but still knew enough to be shocked by the news when Air21 picked Nonoy Baclao over Rabeh Al-Husseini as the number one pick overall in the 2010 PBA Rookie Draft.

I have nothing against Nonoy, I think he is a good player, and will have a long, storied career in the PBA. Baclao reminds me a lot of a younger, taller, more talented version of Freddie Abuda, because he is a player who gets things done in the frontline by virtue of hard work, determination, and heart.

However, in terms of awards (Season MVP versus Finals MVP), and statistics in college, there is no doubt that Rabeh has a clear advantage over Nonoy. So why would Air21 intentionally pick Nonoy over Rabeh as the number one pick?

I don’t agree with Air21’s assertion that it didn’t matter because they had three first picks in the draft. A number one pick automatically puts you in the PBA history books, and carries a lot of prestige with it, so it does matter.

As to why, I can only hazard these guesses:

* Air21 Sees More Potential in Baclao Than Rabeh, and Thus Considers Him as More of a Priority
– Despite Rabeh’s better accomplishments and statistics, maybe they saw something in Nonoy that made them think he is the more promising player than Rabeh. They are, of course entitled to their own opinions, but right now, it is just that: Subjective Opinions, as opposed to hard facts and statistics.
– Besides, even if they think Nonoy has more “potential”, the word “potential” means it MAY, or MAY NOT happen. Then again, they are the experts. However, even experts should not be ignoring hard, quantifiable facts. To do so is quite risky, even for them.

* Air21 Picked Nonoy Over Rabeh as a Negotiation Ploy
– Being picked number one in the PBA Draft does not only come with prestige and a place in the PBA history books, it also helps in negotiations for the contracts of the players. The agents will say, “hey, you picked my kid number one overall, he should get more extras and bonuses”. Rabeh was highly regarded, and expected to be the number one draft, and putting him at number two would sort of deflate the expectations and position of Rabeh during the negotiation phase.
– Then again, whatever “savings” they thought they could get from Rabeh is offset by the fact that Nonoy might ask more than he expected to since he was picked number one.

* Air21 Picked Nonoy Over Rabeh Because of Influence
– It could be that the people around Nonoy is closer, or has more influence than the people around Rabeh on the Air21 management. And since Air21 has the first three picks in the draft, some pushing on the part of Nonoy’s people could’ve resulted in the situation, where Nonoy got a little more prestige than Rabeh.

* Air21 Picked Nonoy Over Rabeh to Motivate Rabeh
– Rabeh’s first two years with the Blue Eagles were not very impressive. Part of it was because better big men were around, but I do remember reading in the Gameface Forums observations from the ADMU alumni that Rabeh needed to be constantly motivated, positively, or negatively, to give his best game in, and game out.
– However, this could backfire on the Air21 team, if not sooner, than later. The fact that Rabeh lost out on the history books will always be on the back of his mind, and when the time comes that he has made a name for himself, and his contract expires, he could say he doesn’t owe Air21 anything more than needed, and could go and search for a better pasture. The feeling of “loyalty” will not be there. This can be the case when it comes to repercussions of “Tough Love”.

* Air21 Picked Nonoy Over Rabeh as a Publicity Stunt
– In showbiz, and the PBA is getting closer to “entertainment”, any kind of publicity is almost always good, even negative, or controversial publicity. That’s because that will get people to talk about you. And that is certainly what happened in this case, as it got the local basketball scene talking about the whole incident. More publicity, could mean more sales.
– Then again, it could cause behavioral, or administrative problems later on for the team, and that could end up in a situation wherein the gains are much less than the losses.

It could be one of the above, or a combination of the above items. We will likely never know for sure. At any rate, the latest news items says that Rabeh has so far taken the whole thing positively, and thus will be motivated to do better in the PBA.

That is good, and time will tell, and people will be closely watching also how both Nonoy, and Rabeh will be playing in the PBA. Will Nonoy overshadow Rabeh in the pro league, or will Rabeh, as expected, be a more dominant big man than Nonoy? ‘Abangan!’


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