LeBron James on Bronny draft projection: ‘Let

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LeBron James shared his thoughts on the chatter surrounding his son Bronny’s readiness for the NBA, writing on social media Monday, “Can y’all please just let the kid be a kid and enjoy college basketball.”

In since-deleted posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, LeBron wrote in response to a post citing a report that ESPN removed Bronny from its 2024 NBA mock draft and instead projected him to be selected in the 2025 draft.

“The work and results will ultimately do the talking no matter what he decides to do,” LeBron posted on X. “If y’all don’t know he doesn’t care what a mock draft says, he just WORKS! Earned Not Given!”

“And to all the other kids out there striving to be great just keep your head down, blinders on and keep grinding,” LeBron’s post continued. “These Mock Drafts doesn’t matter one bit! I promise you! Only the WORK MATTERS!! Let’s talk REAL BASKETBALL PEOPLE!”

The Athletic previously reported that in an attempt to secure LeBron’s services for the immediate future, the Los Angeles Lakers are “willing to explore the notion of adding Bronny James next season.” LeBron has repeatedly expressed his desire to play with his son before his Hall of Fame career ends.

Bronny, 19, is a freshman at USC, where he’s averaging 5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game through 19 contests this season. He’s started six games for the Trojans (11-16 overall, 5-11 in the Pac-12), who sit second-to-last in the conference.

Bronny — a 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard — returned to the court after experiencing cardiac arrest last summer, when he collapsed during a team workout in July, likely due to a congenital heart defect, according to a James family spokesperson.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie does not list Bronny in his 2024 NBA Mock Draft.

Is Bronny a legitimate NBA Draft prospect?

Down the road, that potential certainly exists. Bronny’s mix of athleticism, length and defensive intensity is a legitimate weapon on the perimeter. He has a chance to be an absolutely terrific perimeter defender down the road.

On top of that, he showed real improvement as a perimeter shooter last year and looks confident taking them at USC right now. He’s only hitting 27 percent of them, which is an issue. But I think his real shooting talent is probably a bit better than that.

But right now, I don’t see Bronny as a draftable prospect in the 2024 NBA Draft based on the merits of his own game. He is an undersized guard who doesn’t have a ton of skill with the ball in his hands right now. I’m a bit skeptical of his 6-foot-4 listing at USC unless he’s grown since I saw him at Hoop Summit in April 2023.

He looked more in the 6-foot-2 ballpark there, which makes him more point guard sized. And throughout this season, he’s really struggled to get any sort of consistent paint touches with the ball. He’s taken only 11 half-court shots at the rim in 19 games this year, per Synergy.

Only six of those shots have been self-created off of his dribble, and he’s only made two of those shots. He’s not overly shifty and doesn’t have a tight enough handle to realistically collapse defenses and create opportunities. Even NBA 3-and-D players of that size need to be able to do that.

The best course of action, in my opinion, for Bronny would be to stay at USC or transfer to a different school depending on his preference, and take a similar path to what Devin Carter has at Providence. Another son of an NBA player — in this case, former long-time backup point guard Anthony Carter — Devin started his career at South Carolina and was a useful defensive wing who took advantage of what the opposition gave him on offense.

He grew into more of a secondary role last season, averaging over 13 points per game as a two-guard and continuing to play elite-level defense while processing the game at a high level. Then this year, Devin blossomed and became one of the best players in college basketball. He’s averaging 19 points, eight rebounds and 3.6 assists. He’s drilling 3s at nearly a 40 percent clip. He’s tough and energetic, and will likely be a first-round pick this year.

Based on the merits of his own game, though, it would be far too difficult a sell for scouts to buy into the bet of that improvement, given that they’d have to develop Bronny for multiple years before he’d be ready to play in the NBA, and even then there would be no guarantee that it would work. — Sam Vecenie, NBA draft writer

Why has Bronny James never been a first-round pick on 2024 mock drafts at The Athletic?

The evaluation of his game above is why. The flaws in Bronny’s game that he’s displayed this year have always been pretty apparent. Honestly, I thought he’d be a bit more impactful offensively than he’s been this year, but undeniably the cardiac arrest he experienced this summer put him behind the eight-ball from a basketball perspective. He deserves a lot of grace for that.

Having said that, while some NBA evaluators did believe Bronny had a chance to be a one-and-done player this season, by and large, the NBA scouting community working for teams did not quite have that type of grade on him entering the year.

In general, teams don’t necessarily make ranked draft boards entering a season, but they do have baseline grades on players in order to prioritize who they have to travel to see early in the year. Most sources on the NBA team side who had evaluated James before this season saw him more in the vein of a multi-year college player with intriguing upside due to his athleticism and shooting ability. — Vecenie

Should he enter the draft even if he’s not a real prospect on his own merits right now?

That’s a family decision for Bronny, LeBron, his mother Savannah, and the folks over at Klutch Sports to decide. If it’s important to them that Bronny plays with LeBron on an NBA court, LeBron has enough sway league-wide to get a team to draft Bronny regardless of his game.

As The Athletic reported recently, the Lakers are willing to explore this notion. If that matters to the family more than Bronny’s overall development as a player, then I understand that decision.

But I’m skeptical Bronny would be able to find the immediate and necessary on-ball reps that he needs to reach his ceiling and improve upon his weaknesses at the professional level next season. It would be easier for him to find a situation that fosters his development better at the college level. — Vecenie

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(Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan / Getty Images)

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