The Atlanta Hawks were the subject of an interesting rumor this week when ESPN revealed its way-too-early 2024 NBA mock draft and projected the Hawks to select LeBron James Jr. –yes, Bronny James–with their pick next year, per ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo on June 24.
James is of course the son of NBA legend LeBron James, who has finally shown a few signs of decline, at least athletically, as he approaches year 21 in the NBA but is still very much still amongst the game’s best.
The younger James is an 18-year-old, four-star recruit who is currently ranked number 20 by ESPN in the class of 2023 and will be playing his presumably one year of college basketball at the University of Southern California this winter.
The younger James does not have the enormous frame or superhuman athleticism of his father (who does?), but he is a well-built guard at 6’3″ who has already drawn comparisons to NBA players like Jrue Holiday in terms of what he could potentially bring to the table when he gets to the big leagues.
Perhaps even more intriguing for the Hawks with this projection is that LeBron James himself has stated multiple times throughout his career that his plan is to play at least one season with his son on whatever team he ends up on. If the 19-time All-Star follows through on this promise, in this projection at least, it would mean he would end up wearing the uniform of a team he has victimized several times throughout his storied career.
James is 12-0 all-time in postseason games against Atlanta, with perhaps the most notable of his three sweeps of the franchise coming in 2015 when Atlanta was fresh off of their 60-win regular season. James was without teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in that series and still had no problem dispatching Al Horford and company without a blemish.
Indeed, it would be quite odd to see the future hall-of-famer donning Hawks colors. But that’s obviously a long way down the road, and that’s on the minimal chance that this projection comes to fruition.
Another assumption that this projection makes is that Atlanta will be picking at the 17th spot, which would mean that they would be coming off of yet another mediocre season, something that fans surely don’t want to see.
The Hawks picked at 15th this year, drafting Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin after an extraordinarily frustrating regular season that saw a coaching change and a relatively quick first-round exit at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
If Atlanta is average enough to be picking 17th next year, it would mean that Trae Young, Quin Snyder, and Co. would have failed to revamp this team into the contender it hinted at being in 2021. This would bring on a slew of whole new problems, as the team would be looking at its third straight average season on the heels of 2021’s magical run.
The calls to trade Young, which are laughable and without basis in the present day, might start to gain the slightest ounce of legitimacy. If the Hawks run it back with this same flawed roster and once again produce flawed results, one would have to assume that would be the final straw for John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, and friends (although if Collins’ performance last year wasn’t the final straw, maybe there simply isn’t one).
So indeed, Atlanta Hawks fans must consider the implications of this latest mock draft before jumping for joy at the prospect of drafting an all-time great’s offspring.
Still, in the present slog that is the NBA offseason, it’s always interesting to see the hometown team get thrown around in rumors featuring big names and high drama.