The Melo effect: The NBL stumbles across the way forward
With the rise of social media a new competition has emerged. When last year's No.1 NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson was in high school, more than one million people followed his development from the palm of their hand. That following had doubled by the time he had played his first college game for Duke University in 2018.
Young prospects must now perform even when the scouts aren't in the stands - but those that thrive know their value better than ever. Players like Williamson and Ben Simmons are looking to the "one-and-done" path: play one year at college before cashing in at the NBA draft. There is also a rising tension between the NCAA organisation that rakes in $1 billion in revenue every year - mostly derived from its March Madness basketball tournament - and the players that provide the entertainment for free.
The NBL has offered an alternative. Its Next Stars program offers a $100,000 salary, housing and flights to a hand-picked group of players who will be eligible for the NBA Draft. It offers would-be NBA players the chance to develop their game outside of the college system and showcase their skills against experienced professionals.