While season one of the NBL's Next Stars Program was a great success, the U.S. was never going to accept having two of its brightest stars poached lightly.
Securing LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton was a massive coup for the NBL, and the sheer amount of eyeballs and attention they brought to the league was worth the investment. However, it was never going to be sustainable.
After just one season, the NBA has taken swift action, implementing a G-League pathway program for college eligible stars, with young athletes pocketing somewhere in the range of $AU700,000 and access to an exclusive development program outside of ordinary G League commitments to set them up for the next step.
Prospects will partake in community events, attend 'life-skills programs,' receive professional coaching and combine training and exhibition competitions against the likes of G League teams, foreign national outfits and NBA academies throughout the world, sources have told ESPN.
The G League pathway is no doubt an enticing one. Last week, Jalen Green, a potential 2021 No. 1 NBA Draft pick, was the first player to commit to the new program and bypass college. Green's decision immediately cleared the way for more commitments from elite prospects, including No. 13-ranked Isaiah Todd, who decommitted from Michigan to join the same pathway.
Both Green and Todd were being chased by the NBL and there was confidence that had there not been a global pandemic going on that restricted international travel, both prospects may have followed in the footsteps of Ball and Hampton.
So what does this all mean for the NBL and its Next Stars Program?
While losing out on two super exciting U.S. prospects seems like a big blow at first, it's not all doom and gloom.
The NBL is justifiably excited about the signing of Josh Giddey -- arguably Australia's best young talent, being the youngest player to suit up for the Boomers since Ben Simmons in 2013 -- through the Next Stars Program.
But the real key to this program can be found by looking at Didi Louzada.
Louzada was an unheralded signing for the Sydney Kings when he joined last season, a relative unknown coming out of Brazil after being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks and traded onto the New Orleans Pelicans.
Louzada is a perfect example of a 'draft and stash' player. A prospect NBA teams take with a late selection, generally from an overseas league without any intention of having them join the roster that season, but retaining the rights to sign them with an eye to developing them, while not paying them a salary or taking up a roster spot.
This tactic has been hit or miss over the years since it was effectively kicked off by the Spurs drafting Manu Ginobli with the second-to-last pick in the 1999 draft, while more recent examples of this tactic include Nikola Jokic, Dario Saric, and Serge Ibaka.
For the NBL and its clubs that cannot secure a Ball or Green, securing a stash player will undoubtedly become the way forward.
The league should continue to compete for talents such as 2022 prospects Kenyon Martin Jr, MarJon Beauchamp and Makur Maker -- who are all are expected to forego college next year -- but the future for the program lies in securing good draft and stash players and becoming a development pathway.
And when the NBA returns next season, every franchise will tune into Pelicans games to see Louzada and judge the merit of the Next Stars Program, and identify whether the NBL is a viable pathway forward for their young, raw draft picks.