Long Way To Go Before NBL Becomes NBA Growth League

The Perth Wildcats secured a major coup over the weekend, signing NBA rookie James Ennis to a one-year deal, but expecting the NBL to become a destination for the developing talent of America’s top teams remains a long way off.

Ennis, the 50th selection of the 2013 NBA Draft, was initially chosen by the Atlanta Hawks before later being traded to the reigning champion Heat. Looking to provide for his financially struggling family, Ennis opted to sign a more lucrative contract in Australia rather than joining the D-League, the NBA’s developmental league.

Wildcats CEO Nick Marvin believes the NBL can become a hotbed for emerging NBA talent.

“The NBL playing in summer actually does work and I think, after spending time with seven NBA clubs and watching the summer league, we can establish a relationship,” Marvin told the AP.

Ennis has an opt out clause in his contract that will enable him to return to the Heat at any stage and still receive his full NBL salary.

“If we could get the NBA to release say 16 players to the NBL instead of the D-League, the quality of our league and the resultant spin-off advantages would be huge,” he said.

“We’d need to play more than one game per round – I think it’s at 1.5 per team now – but it would work.

“If they (the NBA) wanted a player in-season, the only difference would be a 16-hour flight.”

Marvin’s dream is aided by Australia’s player-friendly (English speaking) league as opposed to European competitions NBA prospects often find themselves in, however the overall talent of the NBL will be the major roadblock in more NBA quality players venturing Down Under.

Speaking to a couple of NBA scouts at a recent FIBA Europe youth tournament, the general feeling was the NBL wasn’t yet able to offer the talent European competitions or even the NBA affiliate D-League where teams can closely watch their talent from an arm’s length.  

Former lottery pick Jonny Flynn played last season with the NBL’s Melbourne Tigers are failing to latch onto an NBA team. Flynn was a standout talent-wise and recently returned to the US to participate in the NBA Summer League in an attempt to revive his career in America. 

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Nick Laham, Getty Images.