MANILA, Philippines – The Most Valuable Player race for the PBA's 44th season is boiling down to a slugfest among the season's Best Player of the Conference winners, and the top rookie that played like a grizzled veteran.
San Miguel's June Mar Fajardo is on the brink of stretching his record reign as PBA MVP for a sixth consecutive season, but he will have to fend off the challenges of TNT KaTropa's Jayson Castro, NorthPort's Christian Standhardinger, and Columbian Dyip's CJ Perez.
The season's top performers will be awarded during the Leo Awards, which takes place during the opening ceremonies of the PBA's 45th season on March 1.
Fajardo bagged the Best Player award in the Philippine Cup, while Castro took home the honors in the Commissioner's Cup, and Standhardinger earned it in the Governors' Cup. Perez, the top pick in the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft, contended for the BPC plum in two conferences as well.
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In terms of statistics, Fajardo and Perez lead the pack. The "Kraken" piled up a statistical point average of 39.6, while the rookie guard normed 33.47 SPs per game.
Perez also led the league in scoring at 20.8 points per game, while Phoenix's Matthew Wright was in second place at 18.89 points per game. Fajardo was third, at 18.87 points per game.
Castro barely missed the top 5, with 31.5 SPs per outing, while Standhardinger came in 16th with 26.7.
NorthPort's Sean Anthony (33.46), Ginebra's Stanley Pringle (31.8) and TNT's RR Pogoy (31.7) finished third, fourth and fifth in the stats race, thus, putting themselves in good positions to make the Mythical Selections.
Ginebra's Japeth Aguilar (29.9) came at seventh, followed by Wright (29.0), Magnolia's Ian Sangalang (28.7) and SMB's Moala Tautuaa (27.5) to round out the Magic 10.
In the race for the Mythical First Team and Second Team are players in the Top 25.
Others making the list are Troy Rosario (TNT), Scottie Thompson (Ginebra), Alex Cabagnot (SMB), Robert Bolick (NorthPort), Rashawn McCarthy (Columbian), Jeron Teng (Alaska), Chris Ross (SMB), Paul Lee (Magnolia), LA Tenorio (Ginebra), Poy Erram (NLEX), Chris Banchero (Magnolia), Arwind Santos (SMB) and Greg Slaughter (Ginebra).
As an MVP contender, Perez is the top favorite for the Rookie of the Year award.
His closest rivals are Bolick, Javee Mocon and Bobby Ray Parks.
The Leo Awards also feature the winners of the Most Improved Player, the Sportsmanship Award and the All Defensive Team.
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