While LeBron James spent most of his Friday night chat with reporters accusing the media of misconstruing and overanalyzing his remarks over the past week, the one thing he didn’t walk back was that he does indeed want to play the final season of his career with his oldest son, LeBron “Bronny” James Jr., a current high school junior who — under the current NBA collective bargaining agreement — won’t be draft eligible until 2024, and is currently projected as an early second-round pick.
“I see myself being with the purple and gold as long as I can play. But also, I have a goal that if it’s possible, and I don’t even know if it’s possible, but if I can play with my son, I would love to do that,” LeBron said. “That’s like the coolest thing that could possibly happen. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with this franchise.”
LeBron’s goals, however, have led to speculation that more than a few teams may be a tad more eager to reach for Bronny in the draft, if for no other reason than the likely financial windfall that would come with LeBron joining their team on the veteran’s minimum and them getting the likely gargantuan gate receipts from the combination father-son team-up and farewell tour. LeBron has previously been loathe to take less than the max, but he did tell The Athletic last weekend that he would “do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”
During a recent appearance on the “Pardon My Take” podcast, Dallas Mavericks governor Mark Cuban was asked about that possibility, and while he didn’t exactly commit to drafting Bronny, he did call it a “super smart” move by James to get more teams interested in and considering his son earlier in the draft this way:
What will the financial impact be of drafting Bronny Jr. and getting LeBron for his last season in the NBA be?
Cuban: “I don’t even know.”
You know. You know.
Cuban: “I really don’t!”
You have no one who has run the numbers?
Cuban: “No one who’s run the numbers. Because it’s impossible to predict. That’s, I don’t even know, how many years from now? Three? Four? Whatever it is years from now.”
Nice, so you’re pretending to just not know anything about this.
Cuban: “No! So how old is Bronny?”
He’s a junior in high school.
Cuban: “OK, so it could be three years from now, correct? Well, I mean, it wouldn’t suck. Let’s put it that way. It wouldn’t suck. But I’d rather win.”
It’s a great move by LeBron...
Cuban: “Super smart by LeBron, it really was on his part.”
...because someone is probably going to draft him a little bit higher now because you get LeBron for his farewell season.
Cuban: “Or, maybe two, or three, or four!”
Hmm. Interesting. So future Dallas Maverick.
Cuban: (laughs) “Yeah.”
To be clear, Cuban definitely said that last part firmly tongue-in-cheek, and he also said in a different interview on “Sportsgrid” earlier in the week that he wasn’t sure if he would draft Bronny if it wasn’t on his own merits.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. It depends on the circumstances and how good Bronny is. Would I just burn (a second-round pick) just to burn it? Probably not. And again, we’ll have this guy named Luka (Doncic) who is really, really good. And so it would really depend on the team that we have around him.”
We’re going to have to add this to the list of unnecessary public comments — and, possibly, tampering — that our friends over at Mavs Moneyball get so annoyed at Cuban for, but as for the Lakers, they currently don’t own their own second round pick in 2024. They used it to salary dump Marc Gasol’s minimum contract rather than cut him outright to make room for DeAndre Jordan last summer. However, they will get the lesser of Memphis and Washington’s second-rounders that year. They will only own their own first-round pick in the 2024 draft if the New Orleans Pelicans opt to defer the pick L.A. owes them via the Anthony Davis trade to 2025.
Yes, this is all complicated and weird, so check out our updating Lakers draft pick tracker for more details, but suffice to say, it’s not a guarantee the Lakers will have a high enough pick to secure Bronny in the draft if other teams are reaching for him or his stock climbs.
That said, Dave McMenamin of ESPN theorized in a recent story that LeBron’s — and, presumably, Bronny’s — reps at Klutch Sports could help maneuver the younger James the rest of the way to his father’s team (or where they want to go) when the time comes:
While it remains to be seen what the next two years will do for Bronny’s draft prospects, there are plenty of machinations available for the Lakers to position themselves to acquire him. That could include trades or James’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group, communicating to other teams that blocking Bronny from joining his father in Los Angeles by drafting him could make doing business with other Klutch clients more difficult.
Is this all getting a little out ahead of things? Of course. But all of this illustrates that the rest of the NBA is watching and aware of this situation, and that the final season before Bronny is drafted could be a very, very interesting one for the Lakers if his dad is still in purple and gold at that point. And, wherever he is, it’s safe to say the older James may no longer be saying “f--- them picks” at that point.