More details on Australian NBL’s interest in Bronny James

The Australian NBL wants to sign Bronny James after he graduates from high school this summer and has formally reached out to the Sierra Canyon guard’s representatives.

“We think he’s a prodigious talent,” NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger told The Sporting Tribune. “Bronny is NBA bound and he fits into the parameters of our Next Stars program really, really well.”

Bronny, 18, was named a McDonald’s All-American last Tuesday. He is not eligible for the NBA Draft until 2024, but can go pro straight out of high school. 

Loeliger described the talks as a “very preliminary back and forth” with only broad details having been discussed until now. 

“Just letting them know that we’re here, that we’re interested, and that we actually think it would be beneficial to [Bronny’s] rookie year in the NBA if he spent a season playing against pros in the NBL here in Australia,” Loeliger said. 

The NBL’s formal interest in Bronny dates back to last March. The league has since reiterated its interest every few months, although it is “realistic” about its chances of landing the Sierra guard.

Klutch Sports Group, the LA-based agency which handles Bronny’s NIL representation, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Australian league is interested in bringing Bronny on as part of its Next Stars developmental program, which has produced three lottery picks in the last three drafts: LaMelo Ball (3rd pick in 2020), Josh Giddey (6th in 2021), and Ousmane Dieng (11th in 2022). 

Under the Next Stars program, a player — such as Bronny — signs a contract directly with the NBL rather than a given team. Loeliger, he says, then works with said player, their family and/or representatives, and other league officials as part of a joint decision making process “based purely on the basketball outcomes” that the player wants to achieve. 

Matters such as coaches, roster fit, personalities, and geography are all considered once the initial commercial details of the move to Australia are settled. 

Bronny is currently in his senior year and season at Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth. His last year of high school hoops has included a 31-point outburst at the Border League, a 22-point game in a massive win versus Wheeler (GA) and USC commit Isaiah Collier, and breakout showings at the Les Schwab Invitational and Hoophall Classic. He has missed Sierra’s last four games while nursing a knee injury.

“[Bronny] is ranking on draft boards at the moment pretty consistently with where we’ve been recruiting up until now,” Loeliger said. 

The NBL commissioner also noted the Next Stars program’s previous success with prospects “who perhaps don’t necessarily fit into the usual paradigm of the NBA recruiting structure.” 

For instance, Ball’s basketball journey featured stops in Lithuania, his father LaVar’s discontinued basketball league, and Ohio before he went down under. Giddey signed with the NBL out of the NBA Global Academy in Canberra. Recent New Zealand Breakers rookies Ousmane Dieng and Rayan Rupert both arrived from the French national institute of sport. 

Loeliger believes that Bronny’s game would translate to the NBL, which he says would give the Sierra guard a chance to compete against rugged professionals in a fast-paced league. 

“I think he adds to the ability of an NBL team to win games, maybe not immediately, but during the course of the season,” Loeliger said.

Ohio State, USC, and Oregon are some of the schools involved in Bronny’s recruitment should he opt to play in college. He took an unofficial visit to Ohio State in September. 

NBL owner Larry Kestelman publicly renewed the league’s interest in Bronny last Monday when he told News Corp: “We have absolutely reached out and there’s the start of a conversation but it’s very early days.” 

Kestelman was not available to comment for this article, an NBL spokesperson said. 

What type of player is Bronny James?

I’ve watched Bronny James live in different contexts since he was a junior at Sierra Canyon and I firmly believe that he is an NBA-level prospect, regardless of his pedigree, who can be a first round pick in 2024. 

Bronny is not always the most assertive player on the floor, but he’s always active in one way or another and consistently racks up moments that help his team. This is particularly obvious on defense, although it has also been interesting to notice his growth as a vocal leader on and off the court since even this summer.

A Lonzo Ball-esque role as a sort of 3-and-D guard, at least initially, makes a lot of sense down the line for college, Australia, or the NBA. 

The Sierra guard is an unselfish playmaker on both ends of the floor who can legitimately space the floor. This should translate to the next level.

Bronny has solid size for the backcourt at 6-foot-4, but what’s truly impressive is his mature frame with tree trunk legs and wide shoulders. That empowers him to be a sturdy defender who is difficult to beat off the dribble, can read the floor to come up with steals, and has multipositional potential. 

In October, Sierra head coach Andre Chevalier called Bronny a positionless player who allows the team to size up or down. At the next level, I’m confident that he’ll be able to defend both guard positions and smaller wings.

Bronny’s defensive playmaking also allows him to get going on offense. He’s at his best in transition right now, where he can attack the rim if he has a runway or find his teammates. Other than that, his main weapon is his three-pointer. 

The 18-year-old has a pure, compact stroke from downtown and some real diversity to his triples. Bronny can spot up, come off movement when he gets a hand-off or a double stagger, and has also developed as a pull-up shooter. His range is deep, as well.

Bronny has shown some flashes creating his own offense, including from the midrange as of late, but he’s still more of a connector rather than a pure bucket-getter. At this stage of his development, Bronny is better spotting up or catching-and-shooting than creating his own shot off the bounce.

By now, you’ve probably heard that Bronny “plays the right way.” 

A lot of that goes back to his passing. In transition, he can float outlet passes over idle defenses or lead the charge up the floor, but he’s also capable of executing snappy reads in the half-court. The biggest thing for me is that he’s intentional with his touches and won’t pound the air out of the ball.

One of Bronny’s biggest improvement points right now is his finishing at the rim. I’m not overly concerned about his touch or process because he’s largely making the right decisions, but he can leave points on the table at times.

His footwork, pacing, and extension finishes are still inconsistent, although that is not unusual for high school prospects. It’s important to note that Bronny’s room for growth at the basket is not a matter of explosiveness. He has a strong first step and can play above the rim with ease, so it’s more so about becoming more fluid changing directions and comfortable in traffic.

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