What's next for Bronny James after NBA draft, transfer announcement

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Friday, April 5, 2024

Bronny James announced Friday morning he plans to enter the NBA draft and the transfer portal, leaving open both options for next season.

In some ways, Friday's announcement was expected -- especially after LeBron James said Tuesday night that his son has "some tough decisions to make, and when he's ready to make those decisions, he'll let us all know."

Since arriving at USC as a top-20 recruit and potential first-round NBA draft pick, the plan appeared to be for James to spend one year in college before going pro and joining his father in the NBA, perhaps even on the same team. That plan was upended when James suffered cardiac arrest at a July workout and spent the next four months on the sideline.

He wasn't cleared to play until late November, and was then eased back in with a consistent role in the Trojans' rotation. USC dealt with myriad injuries throughout the campaign and didn't reach the NCAA tournament, with James averaging 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25 games, starting six of them.

Following the season, Andy Enfield left USC for SMU and was replaced on Thursday by Eric Musselman, who had spent the past five seasons at Arkansas.

What's next for James, and where might he end up if he doesn't go to the NBA? -- Jeff Borzello

How did we get here?

Myron Medcalf: It probably starts with Bronny's recruitment in high school. Although he was the son of one of the greatest players in NBA history, the bluebloods weren't chasing him. They could see the flaws and the development his game would demand at this level. But Andy Enfield recruited him as a basketball player, one he valued for his defensive potential, on-court instincts and physical maturity. His family respected Enfield's approach. Enfield thought he could be an immediate contributor.

He has been through a lot with his cardiac arrest in July. Being at USC allowed him to be near his family in Los Angeles during that experience. Enfield had been there throughout the entire ordeal as well, and the James family values loyalty. With Enfield gone, Bronny decided to explore his options. But he's not a typical prospect. Despite his challenges his freshman year, he'll gain NBA interest because his father could join him. And he'll draw a spotlight wherever he goes if he stays in college, too. He has always had these options. He's just choosing to consider them now with Enfield gone.

What are some of James' transferring options?

Jeff Borzello: LeBron's former high school teammate and longtime friend, Dru Joyce, was just promoted to head coach at Duquesne. For two seasons, Joyce had been an assistant under Keith Dambrot, LeBron's high school coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary (Ohio), before Dambrot retired after this season. LeBron consistently posted his support during Duquesne's run to the NCAA tournament and also broke the news of Joyce's promotion on X, formerly known as Twitter. Duquesne wouldn't quite have the glitz and glam of USC and Los Angeles, but it would allow James to get his college career back on track away from the spotlight.

Other potential options could include some of the schools that recruited him before he committed to USC. Oregon was involved during his recruitment, and it's logical that Dana Altman would have renewed interest -- and the heavy Nike affiliation doesn't hurt the Ducks. Could Ohio State be an option again? James and LeBron took a visit to the Buckeyes' campus in the fall of 2022, and LeBron's affinity for the school isn't a secret. Chris Holtmann is no longer the coach in Columbus, but Jake Diebler was on staff when the Buckeyes recruited James, and Diebler is now in charge.

Does this decision make sense, all things considered?

Medcalf: It does make sense. Every player with an NBA dream should consider entering the draft, even if it's only for research purposes. Through those evaluations, Bronny will learn more about the way league execs and scouts see his future at this level. That's a valuable process. But his options probably involve a transfer to another school, perhaps a place where he can continue to grow. Either way, Bronny has to get better. He didn't show anything as a freshman at USC to suggest he has a professional future -- not consistently, at least -- so this is a clean slate. He's a year removed from his cardiac arrest. Regardless of the option he selects, even if it's a return to USC, he'll have an opportunity to start fresh. He can get better with a new regime at USC. He can transfer to a place that will encourage his development at another school. Or he can take his chances and turn pro. It will be interesting to see which path he selects.

Borzello: It keeps James' options open. He can enter the NBA draft, he can go to a different school or he could return to USC -- although his statement didn't make that last option seem too likely. It doesn't hurt for James to test the NBA draft waters; he can get legitimate feedback from NBA teams, he can go through workouts. And if going the pro route doesn't work out, a transfer wouldn't be unusual for a typical freshman under these circumstances. Following a coaching change, plenty of players opt to hit the portal. James and his family don't have much of a relationship with Musselman and his staff, and James can work on finding the best fit for his sophomore season. It's an incredibly important season for James' development after a freshman campaign that barely got off the ground, and he can now take his time and figure out the best situation.

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