There’s no high school basketball LeaguePass — yet. Aside from the Bronny James hypebeast machine, the top prospects in the upcoming draft are previewed to the general public through the diligent scouting done by professional analysts or scouts who scour camps, national showcases, and high school gymnasiums for the teenage prospects perfecting their craft outside the national limelight. But who’s watching the NBA Draft watchmen?
On Wednesday, ESPN’s lead NBA Draft analyst, Jonathan Givony vexed the basketball community again by dropping his inaugural mock for the 2024 Draft. Most notably, Givony’s crystal ball ranked James as a future top-10 pick, which is ahead of where the consensus is on King James’ son by a country mile.
Bronny was always expected to be a one-and-done project whether he decides to play in the G League for a year or commits to a blue-blood program. There’s nothing embarrassing about being a 6-foot-3, 4-star prospect. Dwyane Wade couldn’t make that claim at the same age. But the growth spurt that could have propelled him to 5-star status never came. He has the highest NIL valuation of any player in the country because of his famous father, but the marketing aspect doesn’t match his upside. One anonymous coach told The Athletic last month, “The expectation doesn’t match the talent level, or at least not yet.” That was when he was the 45th-ranked player in his high school class.
Givony really believes in Bronny
Strangely, Givony who founded NBA scouting hub, DraftExpress, has been the most optimistic voice in the scouting community for Bronny. A month ago, Givony went out on a limb by awarding Bronny a first-round grade for the 2024 NBA Draft and complimented him as one of the best two-way players in high school basketball. After getting scrutinized for that questionable assumption, Givony doubled down in his 2024 mock and elevated him to top-10 pick status.
There’s no science to this though. Givony’s prediction that the Orlando Magic would be the team to take a chance on Bronny in the lottery, despite their extensive backlog of young point guards including Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, and Markelle Fultz is clickbait or a troll move.
LeBron has vowed to play at least one season wherever his son gets drafted. However, two years ago, on an episode of HBO’s The Shop, LeBron singled out the Magic as a franchise he’d never play for.
Remarkably, Bronny is the only 4-star recruit in Givony’s top 10. The other nine are either five-star prospects or teenage professionals abroad. Here’s a quick rundown of the players he foresees going ahead of Bronny. There aren’t even any college sophomores or juniors in consideration.
A look at some of the projected top picks
Givony’s projected No. 1 overall pick is Matas Buzelis, the New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year, who is a really good player, but not one that leaves teams salivating over the 2024 class unless a front runner emerges from the pack in the next 12 months. Givony’s projected No. 2 pick, Cody Williams is a 6-foot-7 wing who committed to Colorado and has his own famous NBA kinfolk in Oklahoma City Thunder wing Jalen Williams.
D.J. Wagner is considered the number overall prospect in the 2023 prep class, and is projected by Givony to be the seventh overall pick for Washington –which is depressing considering they just gave $250 million to Bradley Beal this offseason and drafted an all-time draft bust at guard less than 12 months ago.
Since his breakthrough on the 2022 Nike EYBL circuit though, Bronny’s play has opened eyes occasionally, but he doesn’t consistently stand out against high school competition and may not be the best player on Sierra Canyon’s roster. Bronny’s game is more cerebral than the gaudy stats you’d see from Wagner or a Mikey Williams-type guard, but a top-10 projection feels like Givony’s going overboard with his evaluations. Or maybe the 2024 draft is that low rate.
Helps to have famous kin
Without the name, Bronny’s trajectory would resemble Laker point guard Scotty Pippen Jr. and his path from a heady 3-star prototypical distributor for Sierra Canyon, to an All-SEC performer at Vanderbilt for three years to a developmental NBA prospect on a 2-way contract.
Givony’s recent proclamation anointing Bronny as a lottery pick from the ESPN mountaintop might accelerate the synchronized group-think that tends to result in prospects getting bumped up. A year ago, Bronny was slipping in most recruiting service rankings after drifting in the background on Sierra Canyon’s star-studded roster.
He has flashed the potential to be a Day 1 starter for a major conference program, but there are 50 guys like that in every class. In a vacuum, he’s only a one-and-done prospect and a future lottery pick if you factor a 39-year-old LeBron’s inclusion into the equation. I could understand Givony finessing his way into honorary Team LeBron member status. Being connected with LeBron helped his boys become moguls. Rich Paul is dating Adele and Bronny will be one of the most coveted amateur hoopers in the world next year. Maybe there really is something to the cliché that LeBron’s unselfishness makes his teammates better.