Bronny James leaves NBA draft combine as potential second-round pick – in some eyes

Bronny James leaves NBA draft combine as potential second-round pick – in some eyes



That’s the operative word describing Bronny James coming out of the NBA’s draft combine which concluded Sunday in Chicago.

It’s doesn’t mean James will be selected in the 2024 June draft but it means he’s a legitimate prospect – a potential second-round pick.

Are there scouts and executives who don’t believe he is a second-round pick? Yes. Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape read harsh scouting reports of James on the network’s NBA Today program.

Are there scouts and executives who left Chicago believing James, who played his freshman season in 2023-24 at Southern California, is draftable? Yes.

“My dream has always just been to put my name out, make a name for myself, and of course, you know, get to the NBA,” Bronny told reporters in Chicago as the idea of the father playing alongside the son has been tempered.

“I never thought about just playing with my dad, but of course he’s, he’s brought it up a couple times. But yeah, I don’t think about it.”

No scout and executive bats 1.000 or Darko Milicic wouldn’t have been selected ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, and Nikola Jokic wouldn’t have been drafted in the second round.

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The toughest question for those involved in the draft process? What would be Bronny’s prospects if he weren’t LeBron’s son, and ultimately, it’s too difficult to make that distinction. You can’t separate Bronny James and LeBron James. The younger James, who sustained a sudden cardiac arrest last summer, has navigated the uncontrollable with poise, focusing on his goal to play in the NBA and not getting too caught up in what others are saying.

Bronny fared well at the combine, and ESPN planned to make James a late second-round pick in its post-combine mock draft. Five NBA front-office executives who either make draft picks or have considerable input told USA TODAY Sports that they believe a team will draft James. They were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about draft prospects.

James started the week measuring 6 feet, 1½ inches, which is shorter than the 6-4 USC listed him, giving teams another fact to consider. However, James had the sixth-best vertical leap (40½ inches), just off the top mark of 42 inches. James wasn’t among the fastest in agility, shuttle and sprint drills but also wasn’t near the bottom. He excelled in the “on-the-move” shooting drill, making 19-of-25 shots and finishing second overall and first among shooting guards – ahead of UConn’s Stephon Castle and Providence’s Devin Carter who are projected first-round picks.

He was up-and-down in scrimmages, making 2-of-8 shots for four points in his first scrimmage and connecting on 4-for-10 shots for 13 points while showing a knack for engaging defensively in his second. James showed he has the physical tools and skillset to play among the 78 players invited to the combine.

“It’s coming around again,” USC guard and projected lottery pick Isaiah Collier told reporters. “It’s taking a little bit of time, but Bronny’s going to be real good. Y’all gone see real soon.”

Bronny’s basketball future is measured against the backdrop of what happened last summer. During his senior season of high school and into the summer, James had improved so much that ESPN and other outlets listed James as a first-round pick in mock drafts.

But James sustained a life-threatening sudden cardiac arrest in July while working out on the USC campus. He was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and cleared to return to full basketball activities in late November. He averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists and shot 36.6% from the field and 26.7% on 3-pointers in 25 games for the Trojans.

He admitted the incident is “still lingering” and he thinks about “everything that could happen.” That’s heavy life-and-death matters for a 19-year-old who was also cleared to play by the NBA’s Fitness to Play Panel.

James hasn’t decided if he will keep his name in the draft or return to college for his sophomore season. His name is also in the NCAA transfer portal and he has until May 29 to decide if he wants to keep his name in the draft. James also plans to work out Wednesday at Klutch Sports’ pro day at the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, California.

“Wherever I’m happy, I feel like that’s the best opportunity and situation that I want to be myself in,” James told reporters. “Just wherever my heart wants me to (be), I feel like that’s where I should be.”

Follow NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt on social media @JeffZillgitt

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