Friday, February 23, 2024

LeBron James free agency rumors: NBA teams think Lakers star could take pay cut to play with son Bronny | Sporting News India

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Interesting decisions are looming for LeBron James and the Lakers.

While the Lakers are currently working to navigate through the second half of the 2023-24 season, James’ free agency decision is on the horizon. And James’ decision could be directly impacted by the NBA future of his son, according to NBA insider Marc Stein.

Stein recently reported that there are “at least two teams on the NBA map that believe LeBron James would consider signing with them at far less than $51.4 million if Bronny James is on the roster.”

The elder James is on record multiple times saying he has a goal of playing for the same NBA team as his son. In 2022, James told The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd that “my last year will be played with my son. 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.”

Now that Bronny can become draft-eligible the same summer that his father can become a free agent, could the stars align for the NBA to have its first-ever father-son teammate pairing? Here are some important things to know.

MORE: LeBron James sets all-time record for NBA All-Star selections

LeBron James contract, free agency details

James signed a two-year contract extension worth just over $99 million to keep him under contract through at least the 2023-24 season. James’ player option for 2024-25 is worth $51.4 million.

Year Age Salary
2023-24 39 $47,607,350
2024-25 40 $51,415,938 (Player Option)
2025 40 Unrestricted Free Agent

Should James enter free agency and take a significant pay cut, his fixed salary could come from a wide range of figures.

It is worth noting that in 2023-24, the veteran’s minimum for players with 10-plus years of service is around $3.2 million. The mid-level exception (MLE), which allows teams above the cap but below the first luxury tax apron to sign free agents, will be worth over $13 million per season in 2024-25. The MLE could be a useful tool for a competitive team to draft Bronny and sign LeBron.

The concept of signing LeBron to pair with Bronny is completely dependent on Bronny’s draft prospect.

MORE: Why the Lakers didn’t make a trade at the 2024 deadline

Will Bronny James enter the NBA Draft in 2024?

After finishing his freshman year at USC, Bronny James will be eligible to place his name in the 2024 NBA Draft. A decision won’t come until the Trojans’ season comes to an end in March.

During his senior year of high school, James was viewed by many scouts as a surefire first-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft class. His stock soared as high as the top 10 in ESPN’s mock draft released in late February.

James experienced sudden cardiac arrest during an offseason workout ahead of his freshman season at USC, making his health a much larger priority than his basketball career. After missing time to rehab and ramp up conditioning, James made his college debut on Dec. 10, experiencing highs and lows on a Trojans team that has struggled with injuries this season.

Here is what The Sporting News’ NBA Draft expert Kyle Irving had to say of Bronny James ahead of his collegiate debut:

With a 2024 NBA Draft class that has more questions than answers, I still believe James is a first-round talent if he has the opportunity to showcase what he’s capable of this season and decides to declare for the draft. There will be plenty of franchises in the middle to back end of the first round that would be interested in adding a 3-and-D prospect with instinctive playmaking skills like James.

James’ averages of 5.8 points and 2.6 assists per game don’t necessarily jump off the page but he is learning the college game on the fly and showing flashes, like his 15-point performance against conference foe Oregon State.

Notable teams with multiple first-round picks in the upcoming draft are the Thunder (three), Knicks (two) and Hawks (two). The Lakers owe a first-round pick to the Pelicans in either 2024 or 2025. New Orleans could choose to take this year’s pick or defer it to 2025.

On a larger scale, a team with multiple selections could opt to select Bronny if it guarantees an opportunity to sign his father.

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