National Basketball Association
Will Bronny James stay in the NBA Draft?: 'It all depends on what the Lakers do this year'
National Basketball Association

Will Bronny James stay in the NBA Draft?: 'It all depends on what the Lakers do this year'

Updated Apr. 10, 2024 3:02 p.m. ET

Bronny James, the oldest son of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, announced on Instagram Friday that he's declaring for the 2024 NBA Draft after just one season at USC.

Bronny isn't projected to be a high draft pick after averaging a meager 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in 25 games with the Trojans — there's a good chance he's not drafted at all — but the possibility of a team drafting him to lure LeBron in free agency exists, and the team willing to take the risk could be the Lakers.

"I just believe he's going to be a Los Angeles Laker next year, whether you like it or not," Skip Bayless said on "Undisputed" Tuesday. "Whether some Taurean Prince likes it or not. Taurean Prince might be saying next year, ‘What the hell, man?'"

"I just think LeBron wants to retire a Laker, his business is here, he's Hollywood, he's SpringHill, he's got a mansion in Bel Air, he's building another one in the Hills — their hearts are now here. As he graduates into his next life, it's going to be here."


The topic of Bronny potentially taking up a roster spot on an NBA team has been one of great debate in recent months, with many arguing it would be unfair to established, veteran players in the league. Boston Celtics legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Paul Pierce doesn't share that perspective.

"It happens all the time," Pierce said. "It doesn't have nothing to do with Bronny. It happens every year. There's going to be a guy that says, ‘Hey, we can develop this guy, and we have more time to waste with him than this guy. We know who he is, and he can't help us any further, so we're going to develop this guy that may turn into something.' Teams use a signing or a draft pick on a player like that, that maybe has the potential to be an impact starter or impact role player — you use a roster spot for that."

The question that has yet to be answered, though, is whether Bronny is a legitimate NBA prospect. Bayless sees the potential, at least on the defensive end.

"I told you from the start: when I watched his USC games, I saw an NBA defender," Bayless said. "I'm not saying he's First Team All-NBA; I'm just saying he can hold his own on that end of the floor at the next level because he's got a tenacity about him, he's got a will about him. He's had to have that will because he got named LeBron James Jr. He's had to have a will in life, to stand up to the pressure and expectation and spotlight that is on him, and it manifests best when he's on defense more than when he's on offense. But I think he has enough of an offensive skillet as a complementary player, especially to his father."

Pierce also believes Bronny has the tools to succeed at the next level.

"When you look at it, you've got to assess his will and his IQ, because when I look at an NBA defender, I ask: How's his lateral movement? Does he have long arms? Is he getting stronger? Does he challenge shots? Is he ready as an NBA defender? Maybe at the point guard. He still has to get stronger, he still has to develop. But if there's a team with LeBron's clock ticking — like he said — that's willing to take him and let him play with his son, the Lakers have to make the jump. You've just got to do it."

Bronny has until June 1 to withdraw from the draft and maintain his college eligibility, which would give him enough time to assess if he fits the Lakers' timeline. If not, Pierce thinks his best option is to return to college.

Will Bronny James ultimately leap to the NBA?

"I think [Bronny's] decision to come out will be predicated on what happens to the Lakers this year. I'll give you two scenarios: The Lakers make a deep run in the playoffs — conference finals or Finals — and they're not too far away, Bronny can go back to school and develop one more year. But if the Lakers lose in the Play-In or lose in the first round, and they're further away from another championship than we thought, it's time for Bronny to come in."

The Lakers are currently the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference with three games remaining in the regular season. If their place in the standings doesn't change, they'll have to win two games in the Play-In Tournament just to make the postseason as the No. 8 seed.

"If they flame out and lose in the Play-In, I would consider, if I was LeBron, asking for a trade to Cleveland for Donovan Mitchell," Pierce said. "Donovan Mitchell doesn't want to be there, we're not seeing signs of him wanting to re-sign. Bronny gets picked up by Cleveland and Bron has his farewell tour with his son — I can see a scenario where that happens. But it all depends on what the Lakers do this year."

James has a player option worth $51.4 million that he can opt out of this summer.

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