It’s fair to say the NBL has come a long way in a short period of time.
Not too long ago, the league was an afterthought on the Australian sporting landscape.
The high quality of play is one of the keys to this revival and undoubtedly, the players are holding up their end of the bargain. Players graduating from the NBL to the NBA show that the league is a legitimate NBA proving ground, and Torrey Craig is the latest example of a player refining their game in Australia and then taking their careers to new levels in the NBA.
Craig played two seasons in the NBL - one with Cairns and one with Brisbane. His growth over those two seasons culminated in him being crowned the 2017 NBL Defensive Player of the Year. He was often tasked with locking down some of the most dangerous offensive threats in the league and never backed down.
After a strong Summer League campaign with the team, Craig signed a two-way contract with the Denver Nuggets. This means that Craig will spend most of the season playing in the NBA G-League (formerly known as the NBA D-League). Players who are on two-way contracts can spend up to 45 days per season with their NBA team.
Craig played six Las Vegas Summer League games, averaging 11.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 22 minutes. His stellar defence stood out and the Nuggets were a better team with him on the floor.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIi_Ymj50Pk Craig has been with the Nuggets through training camp and has showcased his game throughout NBA preseason action. In four preseason games thus far, Craig has had limited court time – often playing out the last few minutes of games. Although he has played limited minutes, being exposed to the NBA grind will only be beneficial in the long run. The Nuggets have a super exciting young core, led by the likes of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.
If Craig can continue to develop his game, it isn’t out of the question that he could sign a regular contract with the Nuggets and be a part of that core.
Although not having Craig in the NBL is a massive loss for the entire league, the reputation and respect the league gets from having players make it to the NBA is sure to entice more NBA level talent to our shores.
The star imports, such as Casper Ware, Bryce Cotton and Casey Prather, all have aims of taking that next step, like Craig, and making it to the NBA. With more attention on the NBL than ever before, all they have to do is perform and the rest will take care of itself.
The NBAxNBL games also re-affirm just how strong the league is on an international level. Watching Melbourne United take it right up to the star-studded Oklahoma City Thunder was a landmark moment in Australian basketball history.
The NBL and Torrey Craig are very much on similar paths – Craig’s career is on an upward trajectory as is the NBL’s overall product. One thing is for sure; it’s exciting times for both.