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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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The Lakers Drafted Bronny James. Now What?

  • LeBron and Bronny James would be the first father-son duo to play together in the NBA.
  • LeBron has to decide by Saturday whether to exercise his player option or become a free agent.
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Bronny James is one step closer to being teammates with his dad.

The Lakers selected the 6-foot-2 guard out of Southern California and oldest son of LeBron James with the 55th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. 

Bronny still needs to sign a contract with the Lakers, and his father could opt out of his $51.4 million player option and become a free agent as early as Saturday.

Bronny’s destination became clear as the second round played out Thursday afternoon. On ESPN, former Warriors GM Bob Myers said that Rich Paul—the agent for both LeBron and Bronny—was calling other teams and telling them not to select Bronny, or he would go to Australia.

In 2022, LeBron told The Athletic he wanted to play in the NBA with his son, but he has since walked the comments back over the years. The initial wish seems to have come true.

What comes next?

Bronny walks into an organization and a city he has plenty of familiarity with. He has been in the Los Angeles area for years, attending Sierra Canyon for high school and USC for college. His dad has spent the past six seasons with the Lakers; JJ Redick, the team’s new coach, cohosted a podcast with LeBron. Redick was hired to maximize the final years of James’s career and lead the Lakers into the post-LeBron era. Given Bronny’s profile in the draft, it seems unlikely he’ll be an immediate contributor. 

If LeBron elects to be a free agent, he could re-sign with the Lakers and make history playing with his son in the twilight of his career, or he can go elsewhere, putting Bronny in an awkward position off the bat. The elder James will play for Team USA in the upcoming Paris Olympics, which means it could be a while before there’s any clarity on his situation. 

Regardless, given his parentage, Bronny is going to be one of the most scrutinized players the NBA has ever seen. Player development was part of the reason the Lakers hired Redick, despite his lack of coaching experience. His ability to manage the circus that could come with the first father-son duo on the same roster while developing Bronny will be one of his biggest and immediate tests as a coach even as winning is the priority. 

The younger James was a McDonald’s All-American out of high school and considered a future NBA prospect, though not immediately. Bronny went into cardiac arrest during a summer workout in 2023 and eventually returned to the court, but with subpar statistics. Despite that, Bronny was still a merchandise machine as his USC shirseys sold out before basketball season started.

Second-round picks aren’t tethered to the guaranteed contracts first-round picks are, making Bronny’s situation unique. His agent, Paul, has already said he doesn’t want his client to sign a two-way contract. Coincidentally, Pacers guard Isaiah Wong, who was the 55th overall pick in the 2023 draft, did just that. Perhaps the closest contract comparison for Bronny could be Trayce Jackson-Davis, who the Warriors signed to a four-year deal worth $7.6 million with $3 million guaranteed after being taken 57th overall last year. 

LeBron could re-sign with the Lakers on a three-year, $164 million max contract, but he has traditionally signed one-plus-ones, which are one-year deals with a player option for the second year, which he’s currently on with Saturday’s trigger date for the player option. Aside from LeBron, the Lakers also have Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura under contract to form a core alongside James, and have two first-round picks plus Dalton Knecht, who the team selected 17th overall Wednesday night, to use in a trade to further upgrade the roster. 

It seems inevitable Bronny will spend time in the G League next season, which would make him one of the most well-known players to ever play in the NBA’s minor league system. Some G League teams are money-makers, albeit small ones, while most either break even or operate in the red. Bronny’s name recognition is stronger than most players, despite having never played a minute in the league. His 7.7 million Instagram followers would put him in the top 20 of all NBA players, and he’s even starred in commercials for Beats by Dre and Fast X. It will be interesting to see whether his G League stints generate any additional revenue or attention for the minor league or if fans flock more toward his NBA games and merchandise. 

For now, Bronny is a pro. Beyond that, the ball is largely in his father’s court.

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