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Bronny James will be most scrutinized 2024 NBA Draft prospect

There are plenty of questions going into this week’s NBA draft.

The question is who will be No. 1, whether it will be Frenchman Alex Sarr or Zachary Lisacher or a mystery player.

Questions about the overall strength of the draft, i.e. whether it is really as weak as some experts have stated.

The most obvious, without a shadow of a doubt, is the prospect who has generated the most controversy and will be under the most scrutiny going forward: LeBron James’ son, Bronny.

Bronny James will attend the 2024 NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena. David Banks – USA TODAY Sports
Bronny James will attend the 2024 NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena. David Banks – USA TODAY Sports

It’s likely Bronny’s name won’t be called until later in the second round — if it will be called at all.

Although he had opportunities with other teams, he only participated in individual workouts with two teams: the Lakers and the Suns.

His agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, said he wouldn’t consider two-way offers, an unheard-of position for a player in Bronny’s projected draft range, who stands 6-foot-2.

“This is nothing new,” Paul told ESPN. “The goal is to find a team that values ​​your player and push him to get there. It’s important to understand the situation and realize this has been a strategy for many of my clients over the years, especially those who need development like Bronny. Mine is by design.”

Bronny, 19, was ranked 28th in his class by 247Sports.com coming out of high school.

He was named a McDonald’s All-American, though that was in doubt at the time.

He appeared in 25 games for USC last season, averaging just 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting just 36.6 percent from the field, a disappointing performance for a team that finished 15-18.

Bronny James (6) carries the ball up the court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Washington in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. AP

“If his name was Joe Thomas, we wouldn’t be talking about him,” said an NBA executive. “He’s an undersized combo guard who won’t develop much, but he knows how to play the game very well. He’s not a great ball-handler, but he’s a shaky shooter, he’s a strong vertical player and he’s a decent defender right now.”

The scout was more diplomatic in describing Bronny as “fundamentally sound, plays the right game, has improved technique and is willing to play defensively.”

The second scout said it was unfortunate that Bronny was even being discussed as a draft candidate given his limited collegiate performance, and that he would rather discuss players who deserved to have their name called.

The first scout also said he wished Bronny had stayed in school and that he could have been a great college player.

Bronny’s lone season at USC was affected when the guard went into cardiac arrest on July 24 due to a congenital heart defect.

He didn’t return to practice until late November and made his collegiate debut on December 10th.

Bronny had a great showing at the NBA Draft Combine.

He recorded the sixth-highest vertical jump at 40.5 inches and was second among all participants in the 3-Point Star Shooting Drill.

“He’s a very versatile player. Offensively, he can play with and without the ball. He’s improved his shooting,” said SMU and former USC coach Andy Enfield, who praised Bronny as a man of no-fuss, hard work and no celebrity ego. “He’s a very smart offensive basketball player. He’s a good passer. Defensively, he has a natural feel for where he needs to be, whether he’s on the help side or with the ball, and he’s a very good athlete and very quick in transition.”

“Our coaching staff has always believed that Bronny has the talent to be in the NBA and will be an even better basketball player in the next few years. … I think Bronny will be a great NBA player. It’s just a matter of time.”

Another is how Bronny’s choices will impact LeBron.

The superstar has made no secret of his desire to play alongside his son before ending his illustrious career.

Recently, James and Paul have done their best to quiet those rumors, with Bronny telling reporters at the combine that he’s more focused on making it into the NBA than getting into the NBA with his father.

LeBron James and wife Savannah Brinson watch Bronny James participate in the 2024 NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena. David Banks – USA TODAY Sports

Paul said if the Lakers were to select Bronny with the 55th overall pick in the second round, there’s no guarantee the free agent would re-sign with the Lakers.

He also shot down the idea that LeBron would agree to a minimum contract if the Suns acquired his son.

“Young guys are going to decide what they want to do and how they want to proceed in their careers,” LeBron said after the Lakers’ first-round playoff loss.

Obviously, without his father’s status, Bronny wouldn’t be in this position heading to the NBA without the college track record or the potential that teams covet.

But he’ll get this opportunity to prove he belongs here, whether he deserves it or not.

“I just want people to know my name is Bronny James and I don’t want to just be known as LeBron James’ son,” Bronny said at the combine.

—Additional reporting by Stephen Bondy