More offseason player movement, more Next Stars and more individuals following in the footsteps of Andrew Bogut.
Those were just some of the key topics NBL CEO Jeremy Loeliger discussed in his recent trip to America, with the league looking to build more assets and strengthen their link to the NBA.
Speaking on SEN’s The Sporting Capital last night, Loeliger explained how the NBL is now regarded as one of the premier league’s in the world, which plants the seed for further growth and development in the coming years.
“People are taking a long hard look at the competition now,” Loeliger said.
“No longer are we afraid to be compared to the best league in the world.
“I think the NBA is still well out there in front of everyone else, but we now are as good, if not better, than any other league in the world.”
One of the numerous connections the NBL and NBA have built is the Next Stars program, which provides players an alternative path to the NBA, instead of going to college or another overseas league.
Under the Next Stars program, the NBL will contract overseas players and develop them in Australia to give them the best chance of being drafted into the NBA. Next Stars players must be eligible to nominate for the NBA Draft, and will be hand-picked by a panel of experts to be appointed by the NBL.
Sydney’s Brian Bowen was a member of the Next Stars initiative this past NBL season and has now been invited to the NBA Draft Combine next week.
Loeliger is hopeful Bowen can achieve his NBA dream this year but has left the door open to an NBL return if it doesn’t martialise. He also confirmed the league is looking to get more Next Stars players for the 2019/20 campaign.
“First things first, let’s cross our fingers and hope that Brian gets picked up in this draft,” Loeliger said.
“He is doing workouts and training camps over there at the moment and he has been performing well enough that he has been invited to the draft combine.
“There are a couple of different combines over there, but the draft combine is the pick of the bunch. That means he is still in consideration for potentially a first round draft pick, let’s hope first round but if not most likely second round draft pick, I guess.
“We could see him return to the NBL as a second round draft pick, he could come back and play another season for Sydney before he goes off and joins the NBA.
“We do intent to extent the program this coming season. We had one very talented youngster (last season) and I think we will up the stakes again this coming season.
“I think we will see more Next Stars, I think we will see a different calibre of player again taking it to a whole new level.
“The really exciting part of that is it increases the relevance of our league into the US with the biggest basketball market in the world.”
The NBL’s player movement market continues to grow, as marquee players such as Casper Ware, Melo Trimble and Nathan Sobey have all moved clubs.
Loeliger says it provides another news story for NBL fans and media to debate, which could lead to further avenues of player movement in the future.
He also revealed it is gaining worldwide attention, such is the quality of players in the NBL.
“The fact that people are interested in that offseason free agent movement is really exciting and it leads to discussions about whether or not we want to introduce things like trade windows, which I think is on the cards for the next few years,” Loeliger said.
“The introduction potentially of a draft, so there is more news for people to be talking about.
“Interestingly enough, moves like Melo Trimble, Casper Ware, people are cognisant of those over in the US.
“Obviously I was talking to people who keep a pretty close eye on the basketball industry, those aren’t just people walking down the street.
“NBA folk were pretty well aware of the fact those guys had changed clubs and they’ve got a pretty close eye on that kind of talent and their movement. It’s getting attention from all corners.”
NBL MVP Andrew Bogut continues to make a contribution for the Golden State Warriors during the playoffs, which has the American basketball fraternity becoming more interested in the NBL.
According to Loeliger, it could see Bogut’s blueprint of playing in the NBL and NBA in the same season becoming a model for other players.
“Everyone wants to know if he has set a new precedent,” Loeliger said.
“I know Andrew is getting a lot of questions over there as to what his intentions are for next season and if he is going to sign on with Golden State or whether or not he is coming back to the Kings.
“He has been fantastic and unequivocal in saying that he is coming back to the Sydney Kings. That asks the next question which is, could this become a prototype for him for next season as well.
“If it works for Andrew Bogut getting on in his career and perhaps not being up to playing an 82 game regular season in the NBA, does that model perhaps work for other players getting near the end of their career?
“To come and play 28 regular season games in the NBL, keep themselves fit, in shape and in really good form, and then parachute in at the pointy end of the season as a bit of a pinch hitter heading into the playoffs.
“Bogut has had real penetration for us both as an Australian and an ambassador for the NBL. Having just come off his MVP season here, there was real curiosity as to how this all came about.
“He broke his leg in a terrible accident in the NBA, basically rehabbed in Australia, proved himself as being fit and ready to go here in the NBL.
“Then he flies in just in time for the fun part of the season in the playoffs and to tremendous effect. What a fantastic insurance policy for Steve Kerr to have up his sleeve.”