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What NBA scouts have to say about Bronny James as a draft prospect

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What NBA scouts have to say about Bronny James as a draft prospect

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Bronny James has declared for the NBA draft while entering the transfer portal, giving him multiple options for the next step in his basketball career.

He could go through the predraft process and return to college armed with an evaluation from NBA personnel folks. Or he could decide that after one season at USC, he’s ready to become a professional.

The latter option, should you simply look at his stats — averages of 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game — might seem ridiculous. But one year after he was named a McDonald’s All-American, there still are plenty of Bronny James fans among scouts.

Three NBA executives and scouts who specialize in college evaluations gave their thoughts, on James’ prospects as an NBA player. What they said could surprise you. The executives and scouts were granted anonymity because they are expected to keep their evaluations confidential and protect the interests of their teams.

The elephant in the room

Invariably when you talk to people about James, you start to have conversations about his father, LeBron, and what drafting the 19-year-old could do for an organization.

“It’s a bad draft and teams might think they can lure LeBron,” one Western Conference scout said. “So owners might take the chance in the second round because it will make them tons of money financially and they’ll sell out arenas.”

Other executives, though, believe the connection to be overblown. While LeBron James can opt out of his contract with the Lakers this summer and become an unrestricted free agent, he’d be leaving more than $51 million on the table.

James, as recently as last postseason, clarified that his “dream” of playing with Bronny in the NBA won’t outweigh what’s best for his son’s growth as a player.

“I’ve done what I’ve had to do in this league and my son is going to take his journey,” James said then. “And whatever his journey, however his journey lays out, he’s going to do what’s best for him. And as his dad, and his mom, Savannah, and his brother and sister, we’re going to support him in whatever he decides to do. So, just because that’s my aspiration or my goal, doesn’t mean it’s his. And I’m absolutely OK with that.”

Scouting the player (not the name)

“If his name wasn’t Bronny James, I would say I thought he’s a late second-rounder who is a draftable two-way [contract],” one Western Conference executive said.

So how could a player who averaged only 4.8 points be considered a real draft prospect? A lot comes down to strengths and what NBA teams value.

“The things he does well help really good teams,” the executive said.

Those things include displaying good athleticism in transition, a high basketball IQ, strong character and a willingness to be an on-ball defender.

“[He’s got an] NBA body and is a solid athlete,” another Western Conference executive said. “Smart player, solid on-ball defender and can maybe become a solid perimeter shooter.”

“Mentality wise, he’s a glue guy,” the other executive said.

James shot only 26.7% from three-point range at USC, but considering his late start after suffering cardiac arrest last July, and the improvement he’s made in his shooting since early in high school, there’s optimism in that part of his game.

“Two years ago, I didn’t think he could play,” one of the executives said. “He was a hard-playing, physical kid. But he couldn’t shoot. He was like a college-player De’Anthony Melton. … But starting with the summer before he got to USC, he really improved his shot.”

The other executive also mentioned Melton when asked for James’ NBA comparison.

There are concerns about James’ size and the type of athlete he is. One executive labeled him as a small shooting guard and guessed he’d measure around 6 feet 2 at the draft combine (USC listed him as 6-4). That executive also thinks James needs a “runway” to fully show his athleticism, whereas some players have more “wiggle” and can showcase their athleticism quicker and in tighter spots.

“I’m thrilled with the improvement he’s made, but I worry he’s always going to be a small shooting guard who can’t get to his spots,” one of the executives said.

The verdict

James, according the evaluators, likely would hear his name somewhere in the middle of the second round and have a real chance to develop into a contributing player.

Some think he’d be targeted for a two-way contract so he could develop in the G League.

“He needs and fits with better players around him where he plays a smaller role,” one scout said. “More of a combo guard right now. The best thing he does offensively is shoot the ball. Willing passer, not a creator, but he moves the ball and makes extra passes within the offense.”

One executive said he didn’t think James would “turn around a program” or franchise, but that his skills pair really well with other high-level players.

His reputation is of a kid who works really hard and doesn’t play with ego or an attitude (some would like to see him be even more aggressive). The numbers might not show it, but James appears to be a draftable prospect.

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