Bronny James’ NBA Draft decision: Son of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James could return to USC or turn pro

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Bronny James’ freshman season at USC came to a close on Thursday with a 70-49 loss to Arizona in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament quarterfinals. The son of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James appeared in 25 games during the 2023-24 season after missing the first eight games of his college career due to a scary health incident that saw him go into cardiac arrest during a summer workout.

With USC’s season in the books, a looming question hovers over Bronny. Will the 19-year-old declare for the 2024 NBA Draft or will he return for the 2024-25 season to help lead USC into its transition as a Big Ten program?


“It’s up to him,” LeBron said on Bronny’s draft status during NBA All-Star Game Weekend last month. “It’s up to the kid. Obviously we gonna go through the whole process. He’s still in season now, has the Pac-12 tournament coming up. … We gonna weigh our options, and we gonna let the kid make the decision.”

Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, who represents both Lebron and Bronny, said earlier this month that he doesn’t “value a young player getting into the lottery as much as I do getting him on the right team in the right developmental situation.”

Outside of LeBron making public comments about his son, Bronny himself hasn’t given much indication of what he will do. Bronny spoke publicly only once this season and that came after his collegiate debut against Long Beach State on Dec. 10.

After losing to LBSU, he appeared at the podium for less than a minute to give a statement thanking doctors, trainers, and the support system that helped him return to play. The Pac-12 Tournament allows for open locker rooms for media, but James did not speak.

“I just want to say I’m thankful for everything,” Bronny said after the LBSU game. “The Mayo Clinic, everything they helped me with. My parents, siblings for supporting me through this hard time in my life. I just want to give appreciation to everyone who’s helped me through this.”


Here are five things you need to know about Bronny’s potential decision

1. Bronny’s season was limited

It’s easy to forget that Bronny’s freshman season was cut short because of the scary incident from over the summer. James missed USC’s overseas trip to Greece and Croatia for a three-game summer tour and was absent from the start of fall workouts before returning to the court in early December. If James didn’t miss time this past offseason, it’s possible he would’ve worked himself into a larger role from Day 1. Bronny did have a chance to make a few starts this season when fellow freshman star Isaiah Collier went down with a hand injury. With Collier returning last month, Bronny’s minutes have decreased. The best news of all is that Bronny is now healthy. His return to the court should be celebrated and not overlooked because of his last name.

2. LeBron’s influence on Bronny


It’s no secret that LeBron desires to play with his son in the NBA. He’s been public about it for years.

“I need to be on the floor with my boy,” LeBron told ESPN in Jan. 2023. “I got to be on the floor with Bronny. Either in the same uniform or a matchup against him…I don’t mean like guarding one another all game – because he’s a point guard and I’m a – at this point now I’m playing center or whatever the team needs from me. But I would love to do the whole Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. thing. That would be ideal for sure.”

LeBron has a player option for the 2024-25 NBA season that he could hypothetically decline, which can create an easier path for the two to pair up next season in the league. The Lakers own their own second-round pick for the 2024 NBA Draft. The New Orleans Pelicans own the Lakers first-round pick and have the right to receive their 2025 first-round pick instead.

You can’t blame LeBron for wanting to play at the highest level with his son. With LeBron being one of the most influential athletes in sports, it shouldn’t be surprising that if anyone can pull it off, it’s him. After all, Bronny has to declare for the upcoming NBA Draft first.


3. What is Bronny’s draft stock?

Bronny’s overall stats weren’t great this season, but that won’t prevent a respective team from drafting him.
The 2024 NBA Draft class is a mystery because it’s one of the weaker draft classes at the top in nearly a decade. That could ultimately benefit James and convince him to declare for the draft if a team wants to take a swing on a prospect with upside.

Bronny’s projections will be all over the place if he declares. Bronny’s 3-point percentage has been a surprise disappointment because of what he showed at the high school/AAU level. The younger James has a high basketball IQ like his father. Two of his greatest strengths are facilitating and playing defense — both of which can translate to the next level.

If Bronny proves during workouts that he can knock down the long ball at a much more respectable clip, his draft stock will go up. James hasn’t been included as a first-round pick in any of the recent mock drafts by CBS Sports.

4. What happens if he returns to USC?

If James elects to return to school this fall, it would be a massive boost for USC. James could help usher in a new era of Trojans basketball in their first season as a member of the Big Ten. He would also become a focal point on both ends of the floor and would become a prime candidate to start in his sophomore season.

Boogie Ellis, Kobe Johnson and Collier are all expected to declare for the NBA Draft this summer. That means if Bronny does return, he will be one of the more experienced players on the roster. The Trojans are bringing in four-star guard Trent Perry, three-star forward Brody Kozlowski and three-star guard Liam Campbell in their 2024 recruiting class to replace production they’re likely to lose to the next level.

Returning to school would allow Bronny to go through a full offseason. While returning to school appears to be less likely than declaring for the draft, it could be a viable option to improve his draft stock for the 2025 NBA Draft.

5. Why the NBA is the most likely option

Declaring for the 2024 NBA Draft appears to be the most likely option for Bronny for many reasons.

The most obvious is LeBron won’t be in the league forever. Declaring for the draft this year would allow the maximum amount of time to play out as a father-son duo in the NBA. Another reason: Bronny will get an opportunity in the NBA no matter what. That could be as someone on a regular contract or as a two-way player. It would seem logical for the Lakers to do everything to keep LeBron happy.

This draft class isn’t filled with blue-chip talent as it has been in recent years. That’s not to say Bronny will be a first-round pick if he does declare, but the chances of him getting drafted higher are much more likely.

Regardless of his last name, Bronny is a talented player. There’s a reason why he was a four-star prospect, McDonald’s All-American and one of the highest-ranked recruits in USC history. Bronny’s decision will be one to watch in the coming days and weeks.

His decision — no matter what  — will have a seismic impact on USC, the NBA Draft, or the hope of seeing Bronny and LeBron play together at the next level.


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