Should the Hornets Take a Swing and Draft Bronny James?

Should the Hornets Take a Swing and Draft Bronny James?

Bronny James is one of the most fascinating draft prospects of any sport in my lifetime. He is a Powerpuff Girls-like mix of family legacy, underwhelming metrics and production, and a medical red flag. The potential of landing his dad in free agency alone makes him worthy of a first round pick. His measurables and projections have him firmly slotted as a second rounder. His heart problem, while cleared by doctors, may scare teams off completely.

On the court, Bronny is an interesting evaluation. After being listed at 6’4″ by USC, James measured in at 6’1.5″ at the NBA combine earlier this month. He projects as a shooting guard in the NBA due to numerous factors, but his height will mitigate his effectiveness at the two long-term.

The other main mitigating factor in projecting Bronny’s role at the next level is his lack of shooting touch. Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer dove deep into the eldest James boy’s shooting numbers on Synergy and they were disappointing at best. “James shot only 19.6 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s at USC, according to Synergy Sports. He missed 37 of his 46 attempts and sprayed them all over. Front-rim misses. Back of the rim. Clankers off the left and right sides. Usually, the best shooters consistently miss short or long, not to the sides. But shots have never regularly fallen for Bronny, even going back to high school.”

On top of struggling with his jumper, James lacks juice off the dribble as well. His dad, the greatest basketball player of all-time, is a savant with the ball in his hands. LeBron James has never boasted the deepest bag of moves off the bounce, but his supercomputer brain has allowed him to pick out defensive weaknesses to attack at a higher level than anyone in basketball history. LeBron is also an athletic freak who can get to any spot on the floor by sheer willpower. The four time MVP is a freight train with the most brilliant basketball mind the world has ever seen.

Bronny doesn’t have the same gifts as his father. He’s an average passer, though has shown flashes of ambidexterity in both high school and college. It will take serious development for him to ever become a lead ball handler, especially at his size. Undersized guards like Jalen Brunson or even Mark Sears, a draft prospect from Alabama, have an almost innate ability at bending defenses to their will. Those two boast elite spatial awareness and a photographic like memory of where teammates are on the court to hit kick out and skip passes. Also those two have elite jump shooting ability to play off of, James does not.

Bronny James will struggle on the offensive end early on, but his calling card will be on defense. He plays with serious competitive fire on that end of the floor that makes up for his physical weaknesses. O’Connor compares his disruptive abilities to Patrick Beverly, Davion Mitchell, and for some older heads, Norris Cole. James has quick hands and elite reaction timing that show plus potential as both an on-ball and off-ball defender.

He’d be an interesting fit on Charlotte’s senior club. The Hornets have been searching for a long-term backup for LaMelo Ball since they drafted him in 2020. Vasilije Micic and Tre Mann had a half-season audition for the spot, and both played well enough to earn a slot in next season’s rotation. Behind them Nick Smith Jr. and Bryce McGowens fill out the guard rotation for next year’s roster. James would be in a dog fight for minutes, but his competitiveness and work ethic could see him crack the rotation in games that are out of hand.

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