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Why Bronny James may stay in 2024 NBA Draft after receiving medical clearance

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Bronny James has cleared another milestone in his potential path to the NBA. He has been “medically cleared to be drafted by the NBA’s Fitness to Play Panel,” per ESPN.

James suffered a cardiac arrest while working out during his lone season at USC as a result of a previously unknown congenital heart defect. He was able to return from that ailment to play for the Trojans. He came off the bench and averaged less than 20 minutes per game after being cleared to play at the NCAA level.

Given James’ ability to play in the NCAA, it was expected the NBA would clear him to play as well. Still, his getting clearance to be drafted — and to participate in the 2024 NBA Draft Combine — is significant news. It allows the 19-year-old to more definitively focus on planning his NBA career and may allow him to rise in what is considered an unpredictable draft class. 

Here’s what to know about James’ heart defect and his draft status as the NBA Draft draws nearer and nearer.

IRVING: Where Bronny James lands in full, two-round NBA mock draft

James’ congenital heart defect was discovered after he suffered a cardiac arrest
while working out in late July at USC.

As outlined by the American Heart Association, “a congenital heart defect results when the heart, or blood vessels near the heart, don’t develop normally before birth. Such defects result when a mishap occurs during heart development soon after conception — often before the mother is aware that she is pregnant.”

In other words, James had an undetected heart abnormality with which he had lived since being born. It existed at birth and was the cause of his cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart is not pumping blood adequately
to provide it to the entire body. It differs from a heart attack, which occurs when there is a blockage in one of the blood vessels supplying the heart.

The James family outlined Bronny’s congenital heart defect and cardiac arrest and detailed Bronny’s condition in a statement after the incident. They declined to elaborate on the defect’s exact nature, but he had surgery to correct it.

The defect wasn’t expected to keep James from playing basketball and sure enough, he returned to the court competitively in late December, roughly five months after his surgery. He played just under 20 minutes per game for USC and drew plenty of attention given his remarkable recovery, famous father and potential NBA future.

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James isn’t guaranteed to be selected in the 2024 NBA Draft, but there is belief among some NBA analysts he could be chosen.

The upcoming draft is considered one of the weakest in quite a while. The pecking order among the top prospects is far from solidified, and it’s possible that second-round player selections could be even more volatile than usual.

That will work to James’ benefit. After all, he was a top-20 prospect in the 2023 recruiting class, per ESPN. Some will argue his top billing and status as a McDonald’s All-American was a product of his being LeBron James’ son, but the fact remains many programs were interested in Bronny’s skill set. NBA teams may be as well, and his athletic pedigree helps his cause.

It also helps that the elder James is set to be a free agent and has expressed a desire to play with Bronny in the past. He recently changed his tune regarding that, but a team hoping to get in on the LeBron sweepstakes may draft Bronny to entice the Lakers star to join their organization. The Lakers might even do it to appease the long-time NBA star.

In a stronger draft, teams would be less willing to take this kind of gamble. But in this class, taking Bronny could be justified as he has the raw skills needed to develop at the NBA level.

And if his father does follow him wherever he goes, getting a season or two of LeBron along with Bronny could entice several teams to select the 19-year-old in the draft’s second round.

DeCOURCY: Teams may spend second-round pick on Bronny James, but LeBron should know better 

James played in 25 games for the Trojans with six starts. He averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in that limited action.

However, James played just 19.4 minutes per game and shot just 36.6 percent from the field. That includes a well below-average mark of 26.7 percent from behind the arc.

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