Luke Travers signs with Melbourne United in effort to be NBA ready

Luke Travers knew a change of scenery was the thing he needed to be NBA ready.

He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2022, with his sights set on joining them sooner than later, but that would require reaching the next iteration of his development.

Travers, 21, decided that the best place to achieve that was with Melbourne United.

"It's the track record they have of developing guys to the NBA," Travers told ESPN, on his decision to sign with United.

"That was appetising for me. That's where I want to get to. It's the culture that's been built there; you see it when you play them. Dean's been a focal point of that and, speaking to him through it all, what he wanted to do with me and his plans for my development, but to also win games at the same time, that was the big deciding factor for it all."

The 6'8 forward signed a three-year deal with United, forming a high-level local frontcourt with Jo Lual-Acuil Jr., and joining Chris Goulding, Shea Ili, Tanner Krebs, Ariel Hukporti, and Flynn Cameron on the team's roster.

"I think we're all going to complement each other, which was another reason why I went there," Travers said.

"Obviously CG's a shooter and I love to pass it. Same with JLA and Ili as well. They can knock down the three, so that's where I see myself: playmaking for them, and then being able to spot up for them at the same time. I think we'll all complement each other. I see myself being an important piece for them, and that's the exciting part."

Travers spent the first four years of his professional career with the Perth Wildcats, and is coming off a campaign where he averaged 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Perhaps most importantly, he shot 39.3% from downtown over the regular season and play-in tournament, a significant leap from earlier in his career.

Though he had some material improvements, there was an expectation that Travers would take a bigger leap than the one he did in the 2022-23 season -- the popular thought was that he'd emerge as the team's secondary playmaker and become a Best Defensive Player candidate -- but, for whatever reason, he wasn't able to reach those lofty expectations.

Now, under a new coach and in a new system, he hopes to step into a larger role.

"The big thing going around is that Xavier Cooks role," Travers said.

"Getting a rebound and pushing in transition, or whether it's coming off an on-ball or setting an on-ball. There's a lot of actions I think I can be used in, in that aspect. It was a deciding factor to have the ball a little bit more, but also I'm not going there just to be the man."

United struggled finding continuity at the four-spot over the past season, unable to fill the void left by Jack White, who was a two-way force for the team. The addition of Travers gives United a version of that skillset, and another creation option for Vickerman.

"He can come in and play the four for us which is a crucial position in this league," Vickerman said.

"It starts our defence and initiates our offence, which is a massive strength for Travers. He's a guy that can grab it off the rim and start the break or someone we can flip it to in the halfcourt to create for others. The shooting is really developing, we saw that this year and then he's a crazy athlete. Someone who can be a lob threat and a dangerous cutter.

"I think with the ball movement that we can generate, people like him are going to have opportunities to attack mismatches and play at a higher pace than he has in the past. This is an opportunity for him to take his game to the next level."

Travers says he plans to work on his body and shooting over the off-season, before ultimately heading to the U.S. to join the Cavaliers for the 2023 NBA Summer League.

And, for the first time, Travers will be preparing for a professional season that won't have him returning to his hometown Wildcats; an element of this decision that points to a maturation process the Perth local knew he had to go through.

"I've been in Perth my whole life," Travers said.

"Getting out of home was something that I needed to do, just to become a better person at the same time, and take that next leap to get to the NBA so I can prepare myself for that sort of stuff. It was definitely a good time for it.

"No better time to do it."