Earlier this week, the Atlanta Hawks were the subject of an eyebrow-raising 2024 mock draft by ESPN that projected the team to select Bronny James, son of NBA legend LeBron James, with the 17th pick next year.
The elder James added (perhaps playful) fuel to the fire by shouting out the city of Atlanta on Instagram in response to a graphic centered around the potential draft selection, seemingly referencing the fact that he has stated multiple times throughout his career that he plans to play with his son on whichever team selects him, which of course would be Atlanta in this hypothetical.
A lot will have changed by this time next year
Of course, a full NBA season will have passed by the time Bronny James will have his first opportunity to enter the draft after playing his collegiate basketball at the University of Southern California this upcoming winter.
And by the time LeBron James himself would join Atlanta in this hypothetical (and it is very, very hypothetical at this point), the 19-time all-star would be entering his 22nd NBA season and approaching the age of 40, joining a list of only 31 players all-time who have played into that age bracket.
In the present day, James’ on-court play is showing minimal signs of slowing down. Atlanta fans saw up close and personal what a force of nature the Kid from Akron is when he dropped 45 points in State Farm Arena on his 38th birthday last December.
Despite playing on a bad ankle, James helped propel his Los Angeles Lakers to the Western Conference Finals this postseason, including scoring 40 points in the Lakers’ season-ending defeat to the eventual champion Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of that series.
The only real area where the newly-minted all-time leading scorer is showing signs of decline is his athleticism, which is still very good even for an NBA player but is not quite at the superhuman level we saw in his first-stint Cleveland and Miami days.
Still, even if James’ athleticism continues to drop over the next year, there is ample reason to believe that he will still be among the game’s best in 2024 when his son will presumably enter the league.
Despite his size, agility, and otherworldly explosiveness, James’s number one tool has always been his basketball IQ. Arguably the smartest player to ever step onto the hardwood, James sees plays before they happen and is impossible to speed up or slow down from his preferred pace of play. This savant-like ability to control the game has not and will not diminish with age, which would very much benefit a Hawks team that has played some shockingly unintelligent basketball for the past couple of seasons.
And of course, this is still a 6’8″, 260-pound human being who will be a reliable post-scoring threat for as long as he plays, even if he may not be as quick as he once was on the perimeter.
How James would play alongside Young would certainly be an experiment to behold, although Young’s tweet would suggest that he certainly isn’t deterred by the idea of playing alongside another ball-dominant floor general.
Of course, it’s important to remember that all of this is purely hypothetical and is likely more the product of NBA offseason boredom than any substantial news leak or rumor. Still, for a franchise that has historically been disrespected by the NBA media and has been an afterthought for marquee free agents, it’s always a jolt to the senses when a player the magnitude of James indicates an interest in the team.
Even if it may be more in a joking tone than anything else at the current moment.