Friday, May 24, 2024

USC’s Bronny James, son of Lakers star LeBron James, enters transfer portal and declares for NBA Draft

USC freshman Bronny James, the son of NBA superstar LeBron James, is entering the NBA Draft and the transfer portal, he announced earlier this month on InstagramThe former four-star recruit played in 25 games for the Trojans after making his college debut on Dec. 10 against Long Beach State less than five months after going into cardiac arrest during a summer workout at USC. James made six starts during the 2023-24 season and averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. 

“I’ve had a year with some ups and downs but all added to growth for me as a man, student and athlete,” James wrote. “I’ve made the decision to enter the NBA Draft while maintaining my college eligibility, and will also be entering the NCAA transfer portal. Thank you to USC for an amazing freshman year, and as always thankful for my family, friends, doctors, athletic trainers and fans for their support.”

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 because of the cardiac arrest incident. After his minute restriction was lifted in January, James showcased his potential as both a playmaker and defender in an expanded role. 

James’ future came into question earlier this week when rumors surfaced that the 19-year-old would enter the transfer portal and explore his college options.

“I don’t know where it came from,” LeBron James said after the Lakers beat the Raptors 128-111 in Toronto. “But at the end of the day, Bronny is his own man. He has some tough decisions to make. When he’s ready to make those decisions, he’ll let us all know. But as his family, we’re going to support whatever he does.”

Bronny James’ NBA Draft projection

James’ draft stock is considered a mystery. His 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. 

James has the tools to be a successful player at the next level. He’s a high-motor defender with a playmaking upside. James also has an incredible basketball IQ like his father. Something that James will have to improve on at the next level is his 3-point shooting. James connected on only 26.7% from distance on 2.4 attempts per night.

In the 2024 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings from CBS Sports, James isn’t currently ranked, and he wasn’t in any first-round mocks. James likely will drop to the second round, but he should get an opportunity at the next level no matter what — which could be on a regular contract or a two-way deal.

Entering the NBA Draft while maintaining college eligibility is common among college prospects who aren’t entirely sure about where they project in the draft process. In this case, Bronny projects as a potential second-round pick, so keeping his options open by entering the transfer portal will allow him to go through the draft process, work out for NBA teams, and get feedback before making a final decision. James will have until May 29 — the withdrawal deadline set by the NCAA — to decide to remain in the draft or return for his sophomore season. The NBA has a later withdrawal deadline (June 16) but the NCAA has its own set of rules that states the deadline is 10 days after the NBA Combine ends. The 2024 NBA Draft is June 26-27.

James will need approval from NBA’s Fitness to Play Panel before he can become eligible to participate in team workouts, the draft combine in May or be selected in the draft due to the cardiac arrest, according to ESPN

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. The Lakers own their 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.

Portal possibilities

Days after his father shot down the rumors of him entering the transfer portal, USC poached Arkansas coach Eric Musselman to replace Andy Enfield, who left town to take the vacant job at SMU. Despite Musselman having ties to the James family, he still elected to enter the upcoming draft and the transfer portal. 

The younger James played with Arkansas signee Isaiah Elohim at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, California. Musselman recruited Elohim to Arkansas before he left for the vacant job with the Trojans. However, James decided to enter the portal – the first step for a player who intends to transfer.

Early logical options to land James out of the transfer portal Ohio StateDuquesneOregonUCLA, and SMU. Coming out of high school, James committed to USC over Oregon and Ohio State. Duquesne recently named Dru Joyce III — LeBron’s former high school teammate from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School — its next coach of the program.  

Impact on USC

USC has already lost star wing Kobe Johnson via the transfer portal this offseason to crosstown rival UCLA. Collier is expected to enter the NBA Draft, and four-star guard Trent Perry recently de-committed from the school after the coaching change. 

Musselman is an excellent high school and transfer portal recruiter. While he was at Arkansas, he helped land the No. 2 overall recruiting class behind Duke in the 2022 cycle. Musselman is known to use the transfer portal to attract talent, which will likely be the case as the Trojans transition to the Big Ten. 

Most top high school talent in the 2024 recruiting class already signed their National Letter of Intent to their respective schools. Musselman’s best option to replace James, Collier, and Boogie Ellis in the backcourt is to convince Perry to stay.

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