L. James 2.0 for the Heat? LeBron’s son could be available to Heat at NBA draft, but interest seems elsewhere

MIAMI — In an NBA draft without a sure-thing selection, certainly nothing like Victor Wembanyama last year, a case could be made that the Miami Heat will have a shot at the biggest name in the process, even while only holding the Nos. 15 and 43 selections.

Then again, it also could be a case of such a door already having been slammed in their face.

While there is no LeBron James in next week’s draft, there is Bronny James, the 19-year-old son of the former Heat icon, a player with leading-man buzz despite averaging only 4.8 points in 25 games last season at Southern Cal.

Although it has significantly diminished, the initial draft buzz was of LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers considering Bronny with the No. 17 selection, two picks after the Heat’s first-round slot on Wednesday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The Lakers’ next shot for a father-son union would be at No. 55, well after the Heat’s selection in next Thursday’s second round in New York.

When asked about Bronny, Adam Simon, the Heat’s vice president of basketball operations and assistant general manager, who oversees the team’s draft, declined comment, as he does with all specific prospect inquiries, other than to stress the team will have studied all options going into draft night.

For his part, Bronny James said he hopes to be considered solely on his merits, as one of the potential 58 selections over the two rounds.

“My dream just has always been to put my name out, make a name for myself, and, of course, get to the NBA,” the 6-foot-2 guard said during last month’s NBA combine in Chicago.

“My current role is just to fit into a role that a team needs. That’s what’s going to get me drafted – be the best player and excelling in that role.”

In limiting the pre-draft workouts of his client to the Lakers and Phoenix Suns, agent Rich Paul stressed an emphasis on guiding Bronny toward the proper NBA development. The Suns’ personnel department is overseen by former LeBron James Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers championship teammate James Jones. Paul also made it clear in an interview with ESPN that a standard contract is the goal.

The Heat have long been considered one of the NBA’s top developmental programs, taking second-tier prospects and turning them into NBA contributors, but at No. 43 might not be as willing, amid their tax-apron concerns, to offer a standard deal that late in the second round.

“It’s important to understand the context and realize that this has always been the strategy with many of my clients throughout the years, especially those in need of development like Bronny. My stuff is by design,” Paul told ESPN.

“Bronny is the same as my previous clients. I got the word out early to teams that if you plan on bringing Bronny in, here’s what you need to know: If you won’t give him a real deal, there’s nothing to talk about. It’s hard to get real development on a two-way deal. I don’t care about him going to the Lakers, or Phoenix, or about what number he gets picked. It’s about fit.”

Paul told ESPN, that in addition to the Lakers and Suns, the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors have shown interest in Bronny James.

Bronny James was 9 when his father left the Heat to return to the Cavaliers, having ridden on a double-decker bus down Biscayne Boulevard during the Heat’s 2012 championship parade at age 7.

Now he is striking out on his own, his father having downplayed previous talk of playing alongside his son at some point.

“I’ve got a lot of lessons and stuff from my mom and my dad, but also just like putting that Bronny James narrative out there instead of just being LeBron James’ son,” Bronny said at the combine. “I think that’s really important for me.”

Having missed the first eight games this past season at USC while recovering from a medical procedure to treat a congenital heart defect,  the younger James has been cleared to fully chase his own dream, having gone through the required testing at the combine. He is listed as the No. 54 prospect in ESPN’s rankings, No. 58 at The Ringer.

While his father has been effusive in his praise of Erik Spoelstra and the guidance provided by the Heat’s coach during the 2012 and ’13 runs to NBA championships in Miami, a pre-draft machinations would appear to make L. James 2.0 for the Heat unlikely.

“I feel like my competitiveness and willingness to win is a big part of who I am, also just being a great teammate, a great coach’s player,” Bronny said at the combine, where his father watched him scrimmage. “So that will take me a long way.”