Basketball: NZ Breakers owner confident they can still attract top US-based young talent

NZ Breakers owner Matt Walsh still expects an influx of talented NBA prospects into the Australian Basketball League despite a new high school player initiative.

The NBA announced on Thursday a new professional path for top high school players looking to skip college. 

Players will be paid US$125,000 to spend a year developing in the G-League before they can enter the NBA Draft after the season. 

The programme has been established to help fend off overseas leagues, like the ANBL from snatching up talented prospects like LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton, who spent last season at the Breakers.

But Walsh is still confident the Australian league will attract some of the top young talent, through its 'Future Stars' initiative.

Walsh believes being able to offer a more relaxed environment in an equally talented league will provide quite a temptation. 

"I don't think so," Walsh told Newshub when asked if the new scheme was worrying.

"It's another option for these young guys, but I also think that idea isn't proven yet.

"The whole idea about playing in our league is about playing away from the spotlight and not being scrutinised by your every dribble, while still playing against grown men and proven pro players. 

"I give kudos to the NBA for making this change, but there will still be certain players who pick the NBL over the G-League. 

"We have a lot to offer young, exciting talent, that wants to skip college and escape the fishbowl of US sports media."

Meanwhile, the former NBA champion with the Miami Heat has praised the NBL for sensibly working through a player salary decrease proposal.

The league announced on Friday how it will structure player payments next season, while also limiting clubs to just two imports in a bid to cut costs post-pandemic. 

"The players association and the owner of the league, working on behalf of the club owners, have been working on a deal that everyone would be comfortable with moving forward. 

Financially for the clubs and the league, next year will look different than this year. That is just a nature of the current climate and coronavirus being a very real thing. We will still move on with the season and It will be successful, but it will be different.

"We have to make sure we get through this next season with all nine teams and the players have been a big part in making that happen."

And while Walsh agreed with the import reduction for next season, he believes the situation remains fluid and that could be looked at as again as both New Zealand and Australia financially recover from COVID-19. 

"We have six months before the season is supposed to start and I am hopeful we will continue to see the world recover from this. 

"I would like to see a scenario where we can go into the season with three imports.

"These measures have been taken to ensure the level of the league remains as what I see as the second-best league in the world, and three imports will continue to keep up that standard. 

"If things improve, I would like to see that revisited."

Walsh also revealed to Newshub the Breakers organisation has opted against staff redundancies.

Walsh said he is confident they will be able to come through the pandemic with all staff still in their employ.