Thunder GM Sam Presti — LeBron’s proclaimed MVP — is more equipped than any team to draft his son, Bronny. Don’t count out OKC in the James family sweepstakes.
It’s no surprise that LeBron James might not be overjoyed with the trajectory of the Los Angeles Lakers right this minute. Currently sitting at 27-31 and ninth in the Western Conference standings, the Lake Show struggled through the first half of the season and departs the All-Star break facing questions about their ability to compete for another championship.
James and Anthony Davis have been hurt for significant stretches. LA’s draft-night trade for Russell Westbrook hasn’t produced the breakthroughs superfans hoped for. And with all that in mind, it was especially interesting when James told The Athletic in an interview published ahead of Sunday’s All-Star Game — in his old stomping grounds of Cleveland, no less — that not only is the door open for him to return to the Cavaliers before his playing career ends, but that he would essentially be willing to go anywhere it meant he could play with his son, LeBron Jr. (a.k.a. Bronny).
Under the terms of his current contract, LeBron will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 season. Unless the one-and-done rule that bars players from being drafted straight out of high school, Bronny won’t be draft-eligible until 2024.
But the elder James wasn’t done making eye-raising comments during All-Star Weekend:
“The MVP over [in Oklahoma City] is Sam Presti,” the four-time champion said of the Thunder GM that’s amassed a boatload of draft assets as part of an ambitious rebuild.
James further backed his opinion by signing the praises of 19-year-old rookie OKC guard Josh Giddey and Presti’s overall eye for talent, reminding everyone that he was responsible for drafting a long list of talents including Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Reggie Jackson.
All things considered, Presti surely appears to be in a great position to land James if he’s truly set on playing with Bronny at all costs. Especially given that Presti and OKC have amassed an insane amount of draft capital, it’s a legitimate possibility on the merits.
Between 2023 and 2026, the Thunder have up to 17 (SEVENTEEN!) first-round picks to go along with 12 second-round picks. This enables Presti to essentially get whoever he wants. And if drafting Bronny means also getting his dad, that’s what Presti can and should do as part of a broader plan to vault the Thunder straight into contention.
While James turns 39 years old at the end of 2024, he’s still averaging 29.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game at age 37 — tied with 23-year-old Hawks star Trae Young for 15th in the NBA in win shares (6.2) despite missing nearly 30% of the Lakers’ games so far.
Pairing him with teenage Aussie phenom Giddey, who leads all rookies with four triple-doubles, and the 23-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who’s averaging 22.7 points and 5.5 dimes per contest, instantly gives OKC its best chance for a championship since Durant, Westbrook, and James Harden lost to King James’ Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals.
Is OKC the most desirable and attractive city for NBA stars? The currently available evidence says no. But if King James was serious when he said he’d go anywhere to play with his son, the Thunder are actually the best position to pair him together with Bronny — and possibly its first championship since relocating from Seattle to Oklahoma in 2008.