The Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James to a contract extension this past summer to keep him from being a free agent after the 2022-23 season. The extension was for two years worth $97 million, keeping him in LA through the 2024-25 season if he chose to stay in LA.
James has a player option for the 2024-25 season that was very intentionally put in. LeBron has long spoken about his desire to play with his son, Bronny James, who is eligible to be drafted in the 2024 NBA Draft.
Bronny was not viewed as a top-tier prospect for most of his high school career so there was a possibility that the Lakers could draft him with a late first or second-round pick to keep LeBron in LA. However, that is no longer the case as Bronny James has shot up the draft boards as a high school senior and is now projected to be a top-10 selection.
The Lakers should start preparing goodbyes for LeBron James now.
There is absolutely no way that the Los Angeles Lakers could keep James in town if Bronny has this kind of projection for the 2024 NBA Draft. Sure, Bronny could fall back down the big board if he struggles in college, but he won’t fall far enough for the Lakers to be an option.
Bronny is the most unique prospect in NBA history as a team would not only be drafting him but would be guaranteeing that they get the all-time leading scorer for at least one season. That is enough to raise his value even more. If Bronny is the 16th-best prospect in the draft there will be a team that takes him 10th still.
Los Angeles is not going to have the means to take Bronny as the New Orleans Pelicans have the right to take their first-round selection in 2024. New Orleans gets either the Lakers’ 2024 or 2025 pick (they have to decide in 2024) and if the Lakers are bad enough to draft Bronny then New Orleans will obviously take the pick.
It is not a pick-swap, either. Even if the Pelicans are also bad the Lakers will end up without a first-round pick. The only pick they are guaranteed to have in 2024 is the Clippers’ second-round pick. That is obviously not enough.
That means that fans can pencil in one more season with LeBron James. The 2023-24 season will undoubtedly be his last season in Los Angeles and it will be interesting to see how the team approaches that fact.
If the team is struggling at the deadline, will they pivot and trade LeBron (and potentially Anthony Davis) for whatever assets they can get? It is certainly more possible with Bronny’s status growing as a prospect.