NBA: Combine

USC freshman Bronny James, the son of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, is participating in the NBA Draft Combine this week in Chicago, looking to raise his draft stock. On Day 2 of the combine, James spoke publicly for the first time since his season debut against Long Beach State on Dec. 10. 

"I would be happy about getting to the league instead of me thinking about playing with my dad," Bronny said. "But, that's not my mindset at all. I'm just trying to put in the work and see where it takes me."

James participated in a scrimmage Tuesday and finished with four points, four rebounds, two steals and three turnovers. 

On Wednesday, LeBron showed up at WinTrust Arena to watch Bronny participate in a scrimmage at the combine.

While James isn't projected as a first-round pick in the latest mock draft by CBS Sports, he helped his draft stock with a standout performance on the first day of the combine. James knocked down 19 of 25 3-pointers Monday in the 3-point star shooting drill, including 12 consecutive shots from behind the arc, after recording a 40.5-inch max vertical earlier in the day. 

The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that James is expected to remain in the draft after the NBA's Fitness to Play Panel reportedly medically cleared James from a cardiac arrest incident last summer. 

James will participate in all predraft activities, including this week's NBA Draft Combine where he will receive a ton of attention. He is one of 78 players who were invited to participate in the NBA Draft Combine.

James announced last month that he was entering the NBA Draft and the transfer portal, but it appears his college career is over after just one season.

James had until May 29 — the withdrawal deadline set by the NCAA — to decide to remain in the draft or return for his sophomore season, but elected to make the decision early The NBA has a later withdrawal deadline (June 16) but the NCAA has its own set of rules that states the deadline is 10 days after the NBA Draft Combine ends. The 2024 NBA Draft is June 26-27. 

The Athletic reported last month that the Lakers are "open to the prospect" of drafting Bronny. The Lakers will have the 17th overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, which could be conveyed to the Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis trade in 2019. Los Angeles holds its own second-round pick in this summer's draft.

Bronny James' NBA Draft projection

James' NBA Draft stock is considered a mystery. His overall stats weren't great this season, but that might not prevent a respective team from drafting him. The 2024 NBA Draft class is one of the weaker draft classes at the top in nearly a decade. That could ultimately benefit James and convince him to declare for the draft if a team wants to take a swing on a prospect with upside. 

James has the tools to be a successful player at the next level. He's a high-motor defender with a playmaking upside. James also has an incredible basketball IQ like his father. Something that James will have to improve on at the next level is his 3-point shooting. James connected on only 26.7% from distance on 2.4 attempts per night.

In the 2024 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings from CBS Sports, James isn't currently ranked, and he hasn't been in the first round of any CBS Sports first-round mock drafts. James likely will drop to the second round, but he should get an opportunity at the next level no matter what — which could be on a regular contract or a two-way deal.

Entering the NBA Draft while maintaining college eligibility is common among college prospects who aren't entirely sure about where they project in the draft process.

LeBron has a player option for the 2024-25 NBA season that he could hypothetically decline, which can create an easier path for the two to pair up next season. The Lakers own their second-round pick for the 2024 NBA Draft. The New Orleans Pelicans own the Lakers first-round pick and have the right to receive their 2025 first-round pick instead.

One and done at USC

The former four-star recruit played in 25 games for the Trojans after making his college debut on Dec. 10 against Long Beach State less than five months after going into cardiac arrest during a summer workout at USC. James made six starts during the 2023-24 season and averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. 

"I've had a year with some ups and downs but all added to growth for me as a man, student and athlete," James wrote on Instagram. "I've made the decision to enter the NBA Draft while maintaining my college eligibility, and will also be entering the NCAA transfer portal. Thank you to USC for an amazing freshman year, and as always thankful for my family, friends, doctors, athletic trainers and fans for their support."

James missed USC's overseas trip to Greece and Croatia for a three-game summer tour and was absent from the start of fall workouts because of the cardiac arrest incident. After his minute restriction was lifted in January, James showcased his potential as both a playmaker and defender in an expanded role. 

James' future came into question last month when rumors surfaced that the 19-year-old would enter the transfer portal and explore his college options.

"I don't know where it came from," LeBron James said after the Lakers beat the Raptors 128-111 in Toronto. "But at the end of the day, Bronny is his own man. He has some tough decisions to make. When he's ready to make those decisions, he'll let us all know. But as his family, we're going to support whatever he does."

Impact on USC

USC has already lost star wing Kobe Johnson via the transfer portal this offseason to crosstown rival UCLA. Collier entered the NBA Draft, and four-star guard Trent Perry recently de-committed from the school and signed with UCLA after the coaching change. 

Musselman is an excellent high school and transfer portal recruiter. While he was at Arkansas, he helped land the No. 2 overall recruiting class behind Duke in the 2022 cycle. Musselman is known to use the transfer portal to attract talent, which will likely be the case as the Trojans transition to the Big Ten.