Now that the hour has officially come, with LeBron James able to sign a two-year extension to stay on with the Lakers, we have some better insights on how, exactly, this all might play out. James can sign a deal worth $97 million over the two seasons, which would cover 2023-24 and 2024-25, and Thursday marked the day on which the team could officially make the offer.
Around the NBA, it’s expected that James will not be in a hurry to sign the deal. But, according to a report from NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin, the consensus around the league is that James will sign on for a two-year deal with a player option on the second year, effectively allowing himself to become a free agent again in 2024—which so happens to be the year that his son, Bronny James, will be eligible for the NBA draft.
In other words, expect James to keep his options open, with an eye on a possible Lakers exit.
As Helin wrote: “LeBron has made it clear he wants to play a season with his son. It is the one thing everyone believes he would leave Los Angeles to do. Maybe the Lakers would use their 2024 first-round pick to select Bronny and keep the family working out at their practice facility, except the Lakers don’t control that pick. The Pelicans do from the Anthony Davis trade.”
The Pelicans have the option of using the Lakers’ first-round pick in 2024 or delaying it until 2025.
LeBron-Bronny James Connection Looms
It is not expected that James will re-sign with the Lakers at a discount, so the team can expect him to take the full max money he can be offered. The only question is, how will James angle to land on the same roster with his son? The Lakers could draft him in 2024, if they can keep their own pick, but there’s a chance someone could draft him earlier in hopes of also landing James.
Most scouts consider Bronny James to have decent NBA talent, but more worthy of a second-round pick. Would teams use first-rounders on him in hopes of landing LeBron James, too? Would the Lakers do that in order to keep James in place? That remains an unknown.
Also unknown: Would Bronny James be a one-and-done player, or might he spend two years in college? And, when LeBron James said he wanted to play with Bronny before he retires, most assume that means in 2024-25, Bronny’s rookie year. But James might not be ready to quit at that point.
Lakers Want James’ Signature
That’s all part of the long-term thinking on this. In the short-term, with the upheaval the Lakers have had since they won the 2020 NBA championship in the Orlando bubble—and with the two very disappointing seasons the team has had since—the organization would be happy just to get James’ signature on a contract of any kind.
Don’t expect James to hurry, though.
“There are a lot of moving parts to the stuff with LeBron,” one NBA executive told Heavy Sports. “He can do the extension this week and just put everybody at ease. He is where he wants to be, he has the entertainment company, he wants to be in Los Angeles, everybody knows it has been his plan to finish out his career in L.A. so he can also work on the entertainment stuff. His kids are in school and all of that, so quality of life says he stays in L.A.
“But he does not have to re-sign now. There’s no real reason for him to go out and sign an extension other than to send the message, ‘I’m here, I want to be here, let’s go.’”