The All-Star Game was first organized in 1982 by teams from the East and West. It was revived in 1988 when teams from the north and south competed. This match was played every year until 1997. In the 2003/04 season, the concept was revived with an east-west match in Melbourne. The following season, the format changed, with a local team (Aussie All-Stars) playing against an import team (World All-Star). This was discontinued after the 2007–08 season. The concept was revived in 2012 with a North-South All-Star Game, scheduled for December 2012.  It may be obvious, but there are still a handful of teams a year that don`t seem able to understand the idea. The Wildcats can sleep a little more peacefully knowing they`ve banned Cotton, but it will be an extremely important free agency for the rest of the league. Offensive production has long been the top priority for import players, and it should remain largely the same. Defensive skills can be much harder to quantify, making new recruits focused on this side of the floor more of a bet for teams. That doesn`t mean he shouldn`t come into play at all, but even a defensively-focused import has to be at least one competent offensive player.
DJ Newbill and Jae`Sean Tate showed their ability to be elite defenders last season while playing an important role in their teams` offenses. Although player and team salaries are not publicly available, the Taipans have historically struggled to retain players due to a budget likely lower than many of their competitors. Their recognition of talent has been phenomenal, but in recent years their few Australian stars have been lured away from the far north of Queensland. Boomers point guard Cam Gliddon joined his Brisbane rivals after six years with the Taipans, while Mitch McCarron was nicknamed „Money Makin` Mitch“ after his move to Melbourne United. In addition, there are imports of superstars Torrey Craig (Brisbane Bullets), Travis Trice (Brisbane Bullets) and Melo Trimble (Melbourne United), all of whom left after successful stints in Cairns. In three of the last four seasons, the finalist teams have had a combined performance of higher scoring than the non-finalists, with the 2018/19 season being the only exception. This is somewhat surprising given that import contributions have tended to increase throughout the league and in finals in recent years. Below are the percentage of points scored by imports for final and non-final teams over the past eight seasons.
Together, the four finalists earned 50.83% of their points through imports. The other teams were only seated at 38.99%. This makes it all the more important for teams to get the most out of their import locations. The last two teams from last season both suffered badly when Billy Preston for Illawarra and Keith Benson for South East Melbourne both left early after disappointing appearances in the league. Other factors certainly played a role in both teams` fights, but their overseas engagements were among the most important. On March 2, 2018, the NBL announced the „Next Stars“ initiative, which would begin with the league`s 2018-19 season. The program is designed to provide a professional option for elite young players from overseas, mostly Americans (who are currently excluded from the high school NBA draft for up to a year), as well as Australians and New Zealanders who plan to play American college basketball, who immediately drop out of high school. Each team will receive an additional slot to provide a „Next Star“ slot. Players who will be part of the program will be selected by a special committee of the NBL and, if they accept the league`s offer, signed directly by the NBL and placed in an allocation pool distributed among the teams in the league. Selected players will receive a salary of A$100,000 as well as a car, apartment and return flights during league breaks. The program is funded by the NBL for the first season, meaning Next Star players don`t count toward the salary cap.
Finally, under current rules, the NBA allows its teams to spend up to $700,000 to buy players under professional contract in non-North American leagues. If a „Next Star“ is purchased by an NBA team (or by a team from another foreign league), the redemption amount will be shared between the team and the NBL.   The first player to sign a Next Star contract is American Brian Bowen, who signed on August 7, 2018 and was assigned to the Sydney Kings.  While imports can travel to Australia, it is also possible that some of the elite European or Chinese stars will want to try the NBL, as major basketball nations such as Spain, Italy and China have been hit hard by the pandemic. 1 scoring player per team (unless the import is exchanged for another) Note that 4/5 are (US) imports, with Australian Andrew Bogut (former NBA veteran) being the only exception. They have occupied only one import spot so far, with Canadian-born Nigerian guard Caleb Agada joining the club in August, putting together a solid performance in the Israeli league for Maccabi Tel Aviv. United also added German teenager Ariel Hukporti via the Next Stars program, a seven-footer preparing for a bow to the 2022 NBA Draft who has previously spent time with the pros in Lithuania and Germany. As for the past few seasons, most of the NBL`s most important awards have been dominated by imports. Nine of the last ten MVP awards have been won by imports, as well as three of the last five best defensive player awards (go back even further and Damian Martin`s dominance is overwhelming). All-NBL teams give a similar perspective, as they, too, have had mostly imports lately. Eight of the ten players selected last season were from abroad, as were 21 of the 30 players selected over the past three years. Should a team focus on imports or local products first? There may not be an absolute rule, which is more important, but there are trends that can be observed in recent seasons.
Looking at the league`s imports as individuals and its teams as a whole, one can get a sense of its overall importance. But there you have it. They would have had a lot on their minds, so the lack of a formal change to the admission rules could now potentially come back and bite them. Most notable is the significant increase in the overall import rating during the 2016/17 season. This is undoubtedly related to the arrival of Larry Kestelman, who took over the NBL in 2015 and had an immediate positive impact. After experiencing financial difficulties under previous owners, the league has thrived over the past five years, resulting in the signing of more and more overtalented players. Without insulting imports into the league in previous seasons, but there has never been so much NBA-caliber talent playing in the NBL. That is, unless they want to exchange an import for another branded player.