San Miguel Beer is the consensus top favorite while Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia Pambansang Manok are considered the toughest challengers.
But everybody points to the Kings and the Hotshots as the Beermen's toughest challengers in their quest for a record fifth PBA Philippine Cup crown.
The Beermen, the Gin Kings and the Hotshots are the top bets for among all the personalities who attended the PBA Media Day at the Solaire Tent at the sprawling Solaire Complex in Pasay City Thursday.
"The SMC teams all emerged champions last season. They remain very tough and they should be the top favorites," said TNT KaTropa coach Bong Ravena as to the top choices for PBA Season 44 that unwraps Sunday at the Philippine Arena.
NLEX, Phoenix Petroleum, TNT, Alaska Milk and Blackwater are among those considered the dark horses.
The Road Warriors and the Fuel Masters are now highly touted for their improvement after all the wheelings and dealings in the off-season. NLEX got Poy Erram while the Fuel Masters beefed up its lineup with the acquisition of Alex Mallari, Dave Marcelo and John Pinto.
There's no doubt as to which team is the heavy favorite. All are saying the Beermen are the strongest team that has become even more better.
"They've become tougher with the addition of Christian Standhardinger and Terrence Romeo," said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
Cone, however, said there's also no doubt as to their capability to match up with the Beermen.
"No doubt about that, we can match up with them better than any other team. We have similar size, similar quickness in the backcourt. And some other things they can do against other teams, they can't do against us," said Cone.
And a healthy lineup gives Cone the confidence to compete with the Beermen that they beat for the crown in the Commissioner's Cup last season.
"That's the key, to be healthy. Generally, we're healthy. Greg (Slaughter) is healthy, Japeth (Aguilar) is healthy and LA (Tenorio) who's always healthy, is healthy. As long as those guys are healthy, we have enough to be good," said Cone.
PBA coaches all point to the Magnolia Hotshots as another team that can well give San Miguel a tough challenge.
"Right off the bat, what comes to my mind are Ginebra and Magnolia," said Meralco coach Norman Black.
"They both have the size and the guards to be able to match up with San Miguel, and that's important. You've got to match up with June Mar (Fajardo) and Standhardinger, and you've got to deal with (Chris) Ross, (Marcio) Lassiter and the other guards that they have," Black pointed out.
The Meralco bench chieftain feels Ginebra and Magnolia have well-rounded lineups to compete with San Miguel. (SB)