The 2023-24 season could be LeBron James’ last with the Los Angeles Lakers and that is why the team has committed so many resources to winning a championship. If it is LeBron’s last year in LA, he wants to go out with a bang.
LeBron’s future is likely going to be dictated by the 2024 NBA Draft. LeBron has been very transparent about his desire to play with his son, Bronny James, who is eligible to be drafted in 2024. It has long been accepted that LeBron will sign with whatever team drafts Bronny, regardless of if he needs to take a pay cut.
That makes Bronny one of the most compelling prospects in draft history as he is a late-first-round prospect that could be selected anywhere because of his dad. The only way for the Lakers to guarantee that LeBron stays in LA is by taking Bronny and making him a part of the team’s future.
There is one hang-up, though. The New Orleans Pelicans control the Lakers’ fate as they have the right to take the Lakers’ 2024 pick unprotected. That is exactly what Sports Illustrated thinks will happen in its early 2024 mock draft.
Pelicans force LeBron James to leave Lakers in early 2024 mock draft
SI has the Lakers finishing with the 22nd overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft and has the Pelicans taking that selection. With that pick, the Pelicans select Garwey Dual. Four picks later, the Philadelphia 76ers draft Bronny James. Philly has been named as a potential team that may look to steal LeBron away from LA.
There is nothing the Lakers can do in this situation unless the team trades actual NBA assets for a first-round pick in 2024 or if the team trades more future picks to New Orleans in order to get the 2024 pick back. Outside of that, the Lakers’ fate completely lies in the Pelicans’ hands.
That being said, there is some reason to be optimistic, though. The 2024 NBA Draft is regarded as one of the worst drafts in recent memory and the Pelicans may not want a pick in the mid-20s in a historically bad draft.
If New Orleans doesn’t take LA’s 2024 first-round pick the team gets LA’s 2025 first-round pick regardless of where it lands. If the Lakers have a good enough season, the Pelicans may take the risk and roll the pick over to 2025, hoping that things go poorly for the Lake Show and it turns into a lottery pick.
But then again, knowing the LeBron/Bronny situation, New Orleans can also take the pick in 2024 solely to try and use leverage. If so, LA may have no other option than to let LeBron leave in free agency.