Busting Brackets

Lebron’s first-round exit with the Lakers could improve Bronny’s draft stock ahead of the NBA Combine

The biggest reason for an NBA team to draft Lebron James Jr. is to have a chance at Lebron James Sr. in free agency and with the Lakers far away from winning an NBA title, Dad might actually be willing to leave LA.
USC Trojans guard Bronny James (6)
USC Trojans guard Bronny James (6) / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

To make the NBA Finals from the Western Conference, it’s been established that you must go through Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, and with a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Minnesota Timberwolves might do just that. The Nuggets are on the ropes now, but in the first round, the defending champs cruised past 39-year-old Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. 

Lebron’s Lakers are now 1-12 in their last 13 games against Denver, dating back to the 2023 Western Conference Finals. Denver may not reclaim its crown, but it’ll still be a well-established roadblock next year, with Lebron a year older and Los Angeles severely limited by the salary cap. So, Lebron, who appeared destined to finish his career as a Laker, could explore his free agency this summer and turn the offseason into a game of chess that could land his oldest son on an NBA roster. 

Bronny James had an even tougher year than his father out in LA. The USC freshman guard began the season late after suffering cardiac arrest in July. Across 25 games he averaged just 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists on 36.6% shooting. After the season, USC replaced head coach Andy Enfield with Eric Musselman, and Bronny declared for the NBA draft and entered the transfer portal. 

Every option is on the table, including the NBA option that wouldn’t have been had his father not publicly expressed how desperately he wants to play with his son in the association before his career comes to an end. Bronny will attend the NBA Draft Combine, beginning on Sunday, May 12 in Chicago and it’s almost a certainty that the teams interested in his services for 2024-25 will coincidentally be the same ones desperate for his father’s. 

Teams will tell themselves that Lebron will come if they just draft Bronny and Lebron won’t do anything to change their minds. The more teams that believe the four-time NBA champion could come to their city, the more teams will consider spending a roster spot on a player wholly unprepared for NBA basketball. 

Lebron James Sr. understands the leverage of his situation and it’s leverage that wouldn’t exist if he was playing on a real championship contender in LA. As much as Lebron would enjoy playing an NBA season with his son, he’d like to close the championship gap between himself and Michael Jordan even more. It’s hard to imagine that Lebron wouldn’t sign a contract extension if the Lakers provided the best opportunity to return to the NBA Finals. However, there are a few teams with the cap flexibility and draft capital needed to add both Sr. and Jr. this summer and are more likely to compete for a title next spring. 

Lebron was the first NBA player to perfect the art of free agency, repeatedly signing short contracts and exploiting the leverage of his expiring deal to facilitate trades and free-agent signings. Not every one of those moves has worked out, just ask Russell Westbrook about that,  but it gives Lebron power. A power he’s ready to wield to jumpstart Bronny’s NBA career, and a power that wouldn’t exist if the rest of the NBA didn’t truly believe he’s willing to chase another championship away from LA. 

So, when Bronny arrives in Chicago for the NBA Combine, the evaluators from Golden State, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and elsewhere around the league, will begin to talk themselves into the 19-year-old 6-foot-4 shooting guard because he’ll give them a shot to land the soon-to-be 40-year-old 6-foot-9 legend of the game.

Next. 10 best college basketball coaching hires. 10 best college basketball coaching hires. dark