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Monday, May 20, 2024

Bronny James Reportedly Staying in Draft After Medical Clearance

  • James will participate in the NBA draft combine in Chicago this week. 
  • LeBron James is expected to be a free agent this summer, making Bronny a potential recruiting chip.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Bronny James appears to be staying in the NBA draft. 

The son of Lakers star LeBron James has been medically cleared to play in the league after one year at USC. Last summer, doctors discovered a congenital heart defect after Bronny went into cardiac arrest. The NBA’s Fitness to Play panel ultimately cleared him, and James is expected to participate in all predraft activities starting with the draft combine this week in Chicago. The news of Bronny being cleared was first reported by ESPN, while the belief he will stay in the draft was reported by The Athletic

By staying in the draft, the younger James becomes perhaps the most compelling story in what is considered a weak draft class. His father has long expressed interest in playing with both Bronny and Bryce, his youngest son who is 16, but has walked back the comments in recent years. 

Despite being a five-star recruit out of high school, Bronny struggled in his freshman season at USC. He averaged just 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game on 37% shooting and played in just 25 games after his cardiac arrest episode. He will have a chance to boost his draft stock by participating in the combine, including five-on-five scrimmages, giving league executives a chance to see him up close. 

James is currently not appearing on any respected mock draft, but The Athletic has reported the Lakers are open to taking him. Los Angeles has the 17th and 55th picks in the draft, but the Pelicans have the chance to take the 17th pick from the Lakers or defer it to 2025 as part of the Anthony Davis trade from ’19.

But would a team take Bronny purely for the chance to pursue his father? LeBron James is expected to decline his $51 million player option this summer to become a free agent. The Sixers are a team with plenty of cap space and two stars in Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Could they consider taking Bronny to try to sign his father and chase a title in the weaker Eastern Conference? Could another team take the same approach? 

The NBA is dividing the draft into two nights for the first time next month, with the first and second rounds taking place over two days. The second round has produced multiple stars over the years, including three-time MVP Nikola Jokić and Knicks star Jalen Brunson. Bronny’s cloudy draft stock and potential storylines surrounding him could help boost ratings for a draft that is considered to lack the star power of prior years. 

Should he defy reports and go back to school, Bronny James has until May 29 to decide whether to stay in the draft or go back to college. He declared for the draft while maintaining his college eligibility and also entered the transfer portal so if he does play a sophomore season, it likely won’t be at USC.

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