Didi Louzada’s looming signing with the New Orleans Pelicans from the Sydney Kings will pave the way for more potential NBA players to join the NBL’s Next Stars program.
In another boost for the Australian league as a legitimate pathway to the world’s best competition, Louzada is poised to ink a deal with the Pelicans following one-and-a-half seasons with the Kings.
Sydney officials granted the Brazilian guard permission to travel to the United States as he prepares to officially join New Orleans in the coming days.
Louzada was drafted with the 35th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks before his rights were traded to the Pelicans and he subsequently signed with the NBL’s Next Stars program.
He will become the fourth NBL Next Star to progress to the NBA after Brian Bowen (Sydney Kings-Indiana Pacers), LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks-Charlotte Hornets) and RJ Hampton (New Zealand-Orlando Magic).
Ball, who was taken at pick three in the 2020 NBA Draft, has shown during his outstanding rookie season with the Charlotte Hornets that the NBL was ideal preparation for the rigours of the world’s biggest league.
NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger revealed Louzada’s journey from Sydney to New Orleans has inspired other rising talents to look at the NBL as a career path to the NBA.
The Kings management has also been vetting potential Next Star candidates for the 2021-22 NBL season for some time and look forward to developing another NBA-level talent.
“Didi’s rapid development in the NBL has not gone unnoticed by NBA teams and other NBA draft hopefuls as interest in the Next Stars program continues to grow,” Loeliger said.
“It’s a tremendous credit to him, the Kings and the league that he will now take the next step into the NBA.
“The Next Stars program, which this season features NBA-bound players like Josh Giddey, Mojave King and Justinian Jessup, gives aspiring NBA players an opportunity to develop on and off the court in a world class professional league in the NBL.
“We are strongly committed to continuing to invest in the program with the objective of developing more NBA players over the coming seasons.
“They follow a number of other players who’ve also successfully transitioned from the NBL to the NBA in recent seasons, and there’s no doubt that the NBL is now one of the best leagues in the world outside of the NBA.”
Louzada believes the Kings, and the NBL, is the perfect launch pad to the NBA for any rising basketballer.
“There are so many things I loved about my time in Sydney, too many to mention,” Louzada said.
“It’s a good city and a good league. They’re continuing to grow a lot here and it’s very comparable to the NBA. The game is fast and strong, so I think here is the best place for young guys to come and play and develop.”
When Louzada arrived in Australia, he couldn’t speak English.
Now he can confidently complete interviews, and he has nothing but praise for the Kings.
“I’m thankful to everyone who has helped me here in Sydney since I arrived last year – the players, the staff, the organisation, everyone,” he said.
“I’m happy but I’m a little bit emotional. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve here, and I’m proud of this team.
“I can’t thank the Sydney Kings enough for having me over the last two seasons. I think I made the best choice of my life choosing to come and play here, and I hope everyone will tune it to watch some Pelicans games in the future.”
The Brazilian native played a key role in helping the Kings to a minor premiership and their first grand final appearance since 2008 during the NBL20 season.
In his 45 games in the purple and gold, Louzada averaged 9.36 points and 3.33 rebounds in 23 minutes per game.
Louzada becomes the fourth Sydney Kings player in the past three seasons to have joined the NBA ranks, with Didi joining Jae’Sean Tate (Houston Rockets), Andrew Bogut (Golden State Warriors) and Brian Bowen (Indiana Pacers). Former Kings head coach Will Weaver also joined the Houston Rockets earlier this year.