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Should Sixers draft Bronny James to bait LeBron James away from Lakers in NBA free agency?

Daryl Morey on finding fit to play with Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, Sixers' offseason plans
Daryl Morey on finding fit to play with Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, Sixers' offseason plans 31:40

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Bronny James, the son of LeBron James, has been the talk of the 2024 NBA draft. Despite being a projected second-round pick, where the 19-year-old will be drafted has dominated the news cycle.

In the past, LeBron James has expressed interest in playing with his oldest son in the NBA.

With Bronny James likely going in the second round, should the Philadelphia 76ers draft the University of Southern California product to increase their chances to sign LeBron James in free agency?

LeBron James on playing in the NBA with Bronny

In 2022, LeBron James told The Athletic, "Wherever Bronny is at, that's where I'll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It's not about the money at that point."

But James has since changed his tune. A year later, he told ESPN he didn't need to be his son's teammate.

"Either in the same uniform or a matchup against him. I don't mean like [guarding one another all game] — because he's a point guard and I'm a, at this point now I'm playing center or whatever the team needs from me," James told ESPN in 2023. "But I would love to do the whole Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. thing. That would be ideal for sure."

2023 McDonald's All American Game
HOUSTON, TEXAS - MARCH 28: Bronny James #6 of the West team talks to Lebron James of the Los Angeles Lakers after the 2023 McDonald's High School Boys All-American Game at Toyota Center on March 28, 2023 in Houston. Getty Images

In that same story, James said he and his son "do not actively discuss" the future of playing together.

Rich Paul, James' agent, recently told ESPN the two playing together is "no longer a priority."

Where is Bronny James projected to go in the 2024 NBA draft? 

CBS Sports has Bronny James ranked as the 56th-best prospect, which would make him a second-round pick.

Bronny James is coming off a roller-coaster year at USC after he experienced cardiac arrest during practice, leading to months of recovery. He was later found to have a congenital heart defect.

In 24 games at USC, James averaged 5 points and 3 rebounds. His highest-scoring performance came against Oregon State University on Dec. 30, 2023, when he scored 15 points.

James helped his draft stock at the NBA Draft Combine in May. He made 19 of 25 3-pointers during a drill, including 12 straight, and recorded a 40.5-inch max vertical.

USC v Arizona
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 14: Bronny James #6 of the USC Trojans looks on in the second half of a quarterfinal game against the Arizona Wildcats during the Pac-12 Conference basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 14, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildcats defeated the Trojans 70-49. / Getty Images

He measured in at 6-foot-1 without shoes and 210 pounds at the combine.

According to The Athletic, James has at least 10 workout invites from NBA teams but will only visit a couple of those teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.

The Suns have the No. 22 overall pick, while the Lakers have the 55th pick.

Sixers "threat" but not "serious threat" to sign LeBron James

Entering the NBA draft and free agency, the Sixers are strapped with assets and cap space and have been linked to plenty of other top players on the market, including Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George and Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler.

Earlier this week, ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on "Get Up" that the Sixers are a "threat" but not a "serious threat" to sign LeBron James.

"When you look at the options, I think the Lakers are still in a very, very strong position, I would be surprised if he's not a Laker," Windforst said. "But it is fair to point out that Daryl Morey has been trying to sign LeBron for a decade now — multiple different opportunities. Of the teams that have a chance to win a championship, the only team with cap space that can offer LeBron a max contract is the 76ers. Other teams can do sign-and-trades, but the Lakers wouldn't have to cooperate. The 76ers are a threat, I don't think they're a serious threat. But certainly, in the NBA, you never rule anything out."

The Sixers can create up to $65 million in cap space this offseason and could offer James a lofty contract if he declines his $51.4 million player option and bolts from Los Angeles.

Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 15: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles past the defense of Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half of a game at Arena on Jan. 15, 2023 in Los Angeles. Getty Images

James is set to play with Joel Embiid in the 2024 Summer Olympics, and he has a relationship with Tyrese Maxey because the rising Sixers guard is a Klutch Sports client.

James leaving Los Angeles is a big if, but it would not be the first time the Sixers try to sign him in free agency.

The Sixers met with Paul in 2018 hoping to sign the superstar, but James wasn't in attendance. James ended up signing with the Lakers, leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second time.

Why it makes sense for the Sixers to draft Bronny James

Morey said after the season the Sixers will be star-hunting this offseason for a player to play alongside Embiid and Maxey to help get the team back to the NBA Finals, where they haven't been since 2001.

Morey is about increasing his team's title odds, so if drafting Bronny James in the second round at No. 41 overall increases his chances to sign LeBron James — even if it's miniscule percentage points — he likely won't think twice about it.

In his career as an NBA executive, Morey has been all about acquiring stars and building the most talented team possible, especially throughout his time with the Houston Rockets. Morey paired James Harden with numerous players like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and other role players.

Detroit Pistons v Philadelphia 76ers
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has never been shy about trying to add superstars during his time as an NBA executive.  Getty Images

After Ben Simmons asked out of Philadelphia, Morey waited patiently and dealt him for Harden, but that didn't end on a good note.

According to ESPN, Morey tried to trade for LeBron James and Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant ahead of the NBA trade deadline this past season. That didn't work either.

At the moment, it doesn't seem like Bronny James will work out for the Sixers before the draft, but things can change between now and June 26 and 27.

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