Did USC do Bronny James wrong in 2023-24 season by playing him out of position?

One NBA insider reports that NBA scouts feel USC didn't play Bronny James at the right position in his lone season with the program.
USC v Washington
USC v Washington / David Becker/GettyImages

After a mediocre-at-best season from Bronny James at USC in 2023-24, are the excuses starting to pour in from people at the NBA level who want to remain in LeBron James' good graces? Or, is it true that the Trojans did James wrong by playing him out of position?

Thursday, while on the Pat McAfee Show, ESPN's Brian Windhorst said scouts he spoke to felt USC should have played James at point guard instead of on the wing this past season. Not allowing him to be the team's primary ball-handler prevented him from best showcasing his skills, according to Windhorst's report.

As a true freshman, James averaged just 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while appearing in 25 games. What's more, his usage rate (the percentage of offensive plays in which a player either shoots the ball, hands out an assist, or turns the ball over) was just 16.2%

The problem for James, if he wanted to be the point guard, was that USC had a better option to run the show. Fellow true freshman, Isaiah Collier had a stellar season averaging 16.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. He is considered a likely NBA Lottery pick this summer.

Collins was who the Trojans turned to as their catalyst. His usage rate was 29.7%.

So, should James have been playing point guard, rather than wing? Absolutely not. Simply put, he wasn't the better player. Therefore, it would have been madness for Andy Enfield to take the ball out of Collins' hands just to placate the James family.

The simple reality is that James was a disappointment at USC. A 4-star prospect in the class of 2023, he was rated the No. 76 overall player in his class by 247Sports.com.

What's interesting, though, is to notice that 247Sports listed James as the No. 13 shooting guard in the nation, not point guard. That's the position he played for the Trojans, the one that college evaluators and recruiting experts believed he was best suited for.

Of course, it is fair to suggest that NBA Scouts might have a different opinion of Bronny James and where he should have been playing after seeing a year of him at the college level. However, the fact that he even got to see the 19.3 minutes per game that he did was likely based more on his name than on what he deserved.

With Collier averaging 30 minutes per game and proving to be one of the best players in the PAC 12 along the way, Enfield would have been crazy to give James more minutes at point guard. Were James the best point guard on the roster, he would have been able to unseat Collier but that never happened.

Thus, this report about what the NBA scouts are saying feels a lot like excuse-making from people in the association who either have relationships with LeBron James or who want to stay in his good graces. Sure, Windhorst didn't specifically name the scouts so they theoretically could have been critical of Bronny and still remained anonymous but why take the chance of being exposed and getting on the wrong side of one of the NBA's all-time most sensitive superstars? And don't forget that Windhorst is very close to LeBron James and has been for decades so behind the scenes, it wouldn't be a shock for him to tell LeBron which scouts have negative things to say about his son.

The fact is that Bronny James is not an NBA talent yet. He has entered his name into the NBA Draft evaluation process (and the transfer portal) but he needs more development as a player before he's ready to join his father at the next level.

Of course, when Bronny was still in high school, LeBron James said, “My last year will be played with my son. Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”

Whether or not he still feels that way, wouldn't it behoove everyone in the NBA to treat Bronny with kid gloves, even when it comes to evaluating him? Might the prospect of being able to add LeBron to a franchise, even just for one year, be enough to sway the opinions of Bronny?

The comments from Windhorst feel like excuse-making for a player who didn't live up to the unreachable bar that his famous name set for him. USC didn't do Bronny James wrong, his talent and abilities on the court did.