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Bronny James reportedly will focus on NBA Draft over transfer portal

USC v Arizona

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 14: Bronny James #6 of the USC Trojans looks onin the second half of a quarterfinal game against the Arizona Wildcats during the Pac-12 Conference basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 14, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildcats defeated the Trojans 70-49. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

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Bronny James is expected to focus on the 2024 NBA Draft and use the NCAA transfer portal as a fallback, which seems the logical approach from his perspective and is an idea echoed in a new report.

James declared for the NBA Draft last week but left open the possibility of entering the transfer portal, keeping his options open. Finding where he would stand in the draft and if there is a fit — with a team or draft range — is next, reported The Athletic’s fantastic Sam Vecenie in a story and scouting report breaking down Bronny’s game from an NBA perspective.

At this point, James is expected to devote his energy to the NBA Draft process in hopes of securing a selection he and his father’s agency, Klutch Sports, would find desirable, multiple league sources tell The Athletic. It is unclear if they have a range of picks in mind or a specific team. But the plan is for James to see what happens over the next couple months before the May 29 withdrawal deadline.

To enter the NBA Draft, James would need to be cleared by an NBA Fitness-to-Play Panel, which is part of the CBA for players entering the draft with known medical conditions. James’ cardiac arrest last summer qualifies. He was cleared to play at USC and likely would be for the draft, but it’s a hurdle.

Vecenie is honest in his assessment of James in a way scouts NBC Sports has spoken to are when off the record — if his father was not one of the greatest players of all time and still an All-NBA player who can be a free agent this summer, Bronny James would be seen as a guy who should spend at least another year in college. Make no mistake, Bronny is an NBA prospect in his own right, he defends very well, has a high basketball IQ, and has an NBA body and athleticism, scouts told NBC. However, coming off that cardiac arrest last summer and an underwhelming freshman season at USC, he would very likely go undrafted.

The younger James is listed as 6'4" (scouts see that as generous by an inch or two), and his offensive game is not at an NBA level right now. He averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game, mostly coming off the bench for a 15-18 USC team that did not make the NCAA Tournament. His handle and shot need work for his game to reach the next level, he’s seen as a project right now.

The question heading into the draft is whether a team — and everyone is looking at the Lakers — will draft him and see him as a guy to develop, maybe a two-way player, while making his father happy. The Lakers likely will end up with their own first-round pick in June, which is currently 13th (New Orleans has the option of taking it but is expected to defer to the deeper draft of 2025). However, the back end of the lottery would be too high to take James (plus the Lakers may want to use that pick in a trade to upgrade their roster). The Lakers also own the Clippers’ No. 55 second-round pick, which they could use, but other teams that might be willing to take a risk would have a chance to poach him first. The Lakers could buy another second-round pick to land James. Vecenie reports the other team mentioned as maybe drafting James on a flier is Philadelphia — the 76ers have max cap space this summer and could try to lure LeBron to play with Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and his son. It’s a long shot, but Daryl Morey is a risk-taker.

What is the priority for James and his family? Is it which team he lands with, and can Klutch steer that through the draft (getting teams it doesn’t want to take him to back off)? Or, is what matters his draft range — if what is important is being a first-round pick James likely needs to return to college for a year or two.

James is expected to meet and work out for “targeted” teams and get a sense of where he would land and what his NBA future would look like. Then he will make the call in consultation with his family and Klutch’s representatives — this is a big life decision for a young man and needs to be well thought out. What is best for Bronny has to be the priority, and those are never easy conversations. If that is a return to college, the option is there. He’s an elite recruit and pretty much any program in America would welcome him with open arms, the question would become what school is best for him and his development as a player and person?

Bronny is not the only player going through this decision process, but he’s doing it in a very bright spotlight.