Bronny James' fit and future with the Lakers — and next to LeBron


Bronny James is a Los Angeles Laker.

With the 55th pick in Thursday’s second round of the NBA draft, the Lakers selected the former USC freshman and son of all-time leading NBA scorer LeBron James.

What is Bronny’s fit in L.A.? What part of his game most needs to improve at the next level? If, as expected, LeBron either opts in to his final year or signs a new deal with the Lakers, in how many games will father and son take the court together in 2024-25?

Our NBA Insiders are breaking down the biggest questions surrounding Bronny’s future in the league, including how the 6-foot-2 guard can carve out a successful NBA career.

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Bronny James’ fit with the Lakers is _____.

Jeff Borzello: By design. In reality, he was never really going to end up anywhere else besides alongside his father with the Lakers. It’s a landing spot that will come with anticipation, expectations and ample pressure — from the outside, at least. But we also have to acknowledge that Bronny himself isn’t going to be walking into Los Angeles expecting to be handed the keys to the offense. He’ll be patient, he’ll buy into the process, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him spend time in the G League after getting some minutes alongside LeBron.

Chris Herring: Something we’ll have to watch. It’s incredibly hard to analyze the fit without knowing what sort of pro Bronny will become, or where he’d even place on the team’s depth chart. (For context: Jalen Hood-Schifino, a guard who got taken in the first round last summer, logged just 109 minutes as a rookie.) And that’s more than OK. I think most of us can look at the pick for what it is: On a base level, this is a chance to see a father and son share the court for the first time in an NBA game. As teammates, no less. If it develops into a greater fit than that, it will be remarkable. But even if it doesn’t, it’s still remarkable in its own way.

Dave McMenamin: Pressure packed. The great thing is, Bronny has realized his goal to make it to the NBA. The complicated part is that he will continue to have to exist under his father’s substantial shadow as he attempts to make a name for himself as a professional. There was bound to be a spotlight on Bronny wherever he ended up if he made it to the league, but there will be an exponentially larger one playing with the Lakers as LeBron closes out his career.

Ohm Youngmisuk: Perhaps the most scrutinized ever for a second-round pick. Ever since LeBron discussed this as a possibility, it seemed inevitable that father and son would find a way to play together. Bronny gets to learn and grow under the tutelage of his father. But on the other end, no second-round pick will ever be scrutinized the way Bronny will be due to who he is, who his father is and the glamorous Lakers franchise. At summer league, his will be the most anticipated and watched Lakers rookie debut since Lonzo Ball’s in 2017.


Bronny was drafted too high, too low or just right at No. 55?

Youngmisuk: NBA teams can do much worse than take a chance on a guard who is smart, wants to defend, has the work ethic to become a better player and shooter and is an unselfish pass-first player. At USC, James was beloved by his teammates. Considering that second-round picks can be a crapshoot, James is a worthy gamble for the Lakers at No. 55.

Herring: For several reasons — his cardiac arrest that shortened his freshman season among them — it’s hard to know where he should have been drafted. He’d long been billed as a late second-rounder or a possible undrafted free agent signing, and those sorts of players are often ones teams are taking fliers on anyway. The fact that he ended up being taken by the Lakers, after agent Rich Paul called around to tell teams not to take him, will merely amplify the questions around him. It’s now up to James to make the most of the chance he’ll get.

McMenamin: Hard to say anything other than just right. Considering his college production was inconclusive at best in proving his NBA potential, the most important thing for Bronny was finding a team to believe in him enough to invest a pick on him. Now that his foot is in the door, Bronny’s work ethic and development will determine if the teams that passed on him will end up looking wise or misguided in the long run.

Borzello: He was worth taking a flier on. Most will say it’s too high based on college production. But we just saw AJ Johnson — who was ranked lower than Bronny coming out of high school — selected in the first round after averaging 2.8 points in Australia and Pacome Dadiet picked at No. 25 after putting up 6.8 points per game in Germany. It’s not unprecedented to see teams take a chance on NBA pedigree and potential in the late second round.


What is one facet Bronny must sharpen at the next level?

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The highlights Bronny James is bringing to the Lakers

Check out the top moments from Bronny James’ time at USC as he joins up with LeBron and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Borzello: Even when Bronny was at his best at the high school level, he didn’t consistently demonstrate an ability to create off the dribble, beating a defender 1-on-1 and making a play for himself or a teammate. He has shown explosiveness in transition when he has a path to the rim, and he has been able to move the ball within the offense, but being a playmaker in the half court is an area for improvement.

Herring: It would be a massive development for him to develop an effective floater. You can see the makings of a good shooter from the perimeter, and he hit better than 40% of his pull-up jumpers at USC. But eventually, if opponents start to close out on his jumpers, he’ll need to be able to punish them by scoring in the paint — something that isn’t the easiest thing to do at his 6-foot-2 height. Adding a reliable floater could be a massive tool for his game.

McMenamin: Engaging his motor more often. Any top-line analysis of Bronny as an NBA prospect points to his elite athleticism on the plus side and his relative lack of size as a minus. Explosive activity — running the court, playing physical and connected wing defense, and making plays above the rim — is one way he can limit his height disadvantage. One talent evaluator who observed Bronny during the pre-draft process told ESPN that the guard’s extensive soccer experience growing up might have caused him to unknowingly pace himself on the court after being accustomed to playing on more expansive soccer pitches. Former NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas, who worked out with Bronny in L.A. in recent years, backed up this observation, saying on the “Gil’s Arena” podcast: “He has the Bugatti engine, but he wants to drive the speed limit.”

Youngmisuk: James has the form and work ethic to become a better 3-point shooter after hitting just 26.7% from behind the arc at USC. Keep in mind that James was making his way back from suffering cardiac arrest during a summer workout and didn’t have an offseason to prepare. Once back, he had to ramp up on a strict minutes restriction, and those came in short stints in which he had a difficult time finding a rhythm. James will have to shoot with confidence and accuracy at the next level.


Bronny’s success in the NBA will be determined by _____.

Youngmisuk: His ability to defend. James isn’t as quick as many NBA point guards or as tall as NBA shooting guards. But James’ NBA calling card will be as a 3-and-D role player who makes winning plays. He works hard on the defensive end and will have to stay in front of guards and defend at a high level. His basketball IQ stands out. He looks to make the right play and the right pass, almost to a fault. He is an athletic finisher but will need that agility to make plays on defense — like when he produced a highlight chase-down block, reminiscent of his old man.

Herring: How well the Lakers develop him. Obviously Bronny comes from a notable background, and we can imagine he’ll put the work in. But let’s be honest here: How well a player develops has plenty to do with where he’s developing, too — and that’s one aspect of Klutch CEO Rich Paul’s thinking that was always hard to argue with. He was always particular about where Bronny landed, and, as such, he ended up in Los Angeles, where his dad has a powerful voice in the organization. All of that said: It would have been interesting to see him end up with one of the clubs — Miami, San Antonio, Toronto — that are known for excelling in player development.

McMenamin: The player development program in L.A. James already proved his admirable work ethic and unquestioned dedication when he recovered from a serious cardiac incident and joined his USC teammates in game action midseason. But let’s be honest: He still needs a lot more work to reach his goal of being an impact player on the next level and not just someone taking up a roster spot on the end of the bench.

Borzello: Patience and player development. Prior to last summer, Bronny was being projected as a potential first-round pick — but making an immediate impact and contributing from day one in the NBA wasn’t the expectation. And that was before he suffered a cardiac arrest during practice last summer. He didn’t make his college debut until December and was on a minutes restriction for a few weeks; he started just six college games. On the plus side, Bronny isn’t going to be asked to start in the NBA early. It’s going to take time — but his rate of improvement at the high school level paints a picture of someone who will be patient with the development process.


Bronny’s NBA ceiling is _____.

Youngmisuk: James has mentioned Jrue Holiday, Derrick White and Davion Mitchell as players he’d liken his game to. Holiday and White are perfect players for the rookie to emulate, as James wants to impact winning like Holiday and White did for the reigning champs. If James can defend like those three but be able to hit the open 3 and do all the small but impactful things that Holiday and White do on the glass and on defense, he will have a long career.

Herring: Still unknown. He landed with a solid team in the Lakers, who, given his dad’s age, want to win big right now. That’s often not conducive for younger players who are looking for opportunities to develop, particularly second-rounders. Still, I think the hope should be that Bronny can at some point develop more playmaking and shooting ability to where he can become a rotation player. His willingness to compete on the defensive end is an obvious strength. But it’s a massive leap to go from a truncated season at USC to the NBA at his size. Let’s see the guy play first. Either way, he’ll need time to develop, and I genuinely hope he gets that opportunity.

Borzello: I don’t think it’s a stretch to think he can be a rotation player within a few years. His floor is a capable 3-and-D guard with advanced feel for the game who can distribute and run an offense. If he improves off the bounce and as a playmaker, his ceiling gets higher. Bronny has already demonstrated he’s capable of buying into a role and won’t expect to be a go-to guy — or anything even close to it — at the NBA or G League level anytime soon. He committed to USC when it already had No. 1 recruit Isaiah Collier and all-league guard Boogie Ellis in the backcourt; he’s not expecting to walk into a huge role.

McMenamin: Rather than what his ceiling is, let’s talk about what his aspiration should be — a rotation player on a winning team. If he can become that, it will unlock everything he could ask for as a pro in terms of longevity and compensation and the fulfillment of being able to apply what appears to be his most NBA-ready skill in his preternatural basketball IQ. And if he is a contributor on a winner, he’ll be able to carve out his own name apart from his father’s as he announced to the world as his goal during the pre-draft combine in Chicago.


How many games will LeBron and Bronny play together in 2024-25?

Youngmisuk: Ten or fewer. My expectation is Bronny will come in during blowouts initially. How many minutes will he actually play together with his father on the floor? Those instances likely will be rare this season as the Lakers get adjusted to new coach JJ Redick’s system while trying to win now. The focus should be on Bronny developing his game and learning.

Herring: Five or fewer, if only because there generally wouldn’t be any overlap between LeBron’s stints as a starter and Bronny’s as what I imagine will be a clean-up guy later in games that have essentially been decided. (The preseason games would be a fantastic, low-stakes opportunity.) I don’t think you’ll have to work to convince LeBron to play those garbage-time minutes, given the circumstances. But he’ll still be 40 in December, so it could be something of an injury risk to do it for longer stretches.

Borzello: Around five. They won’t play significant minutes together in most games, a couple of minutes toward the end of halves or games at best. But I would imagine there’s a line of thinking to get the two of them on the floor together early in the season a few times and then have Bronny play a lot in the G League.

McMenamin: I’m sure LeBron would tell you he isn’t focused so much on the games played, but all the practices, bus rides, plane trips, dinners on the road and lost time he has given to the game that he’ll be able to get back with his son. They’ll share the court together in game action, of course, but let’s not miss the big picture here.



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