The time has come for guard Bronny James, son of four-time NBA champion LeBron James, to begin his professional career.

The 19-year-old prospect won't have to look far for mentorship.

James was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the No. 55 overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday, ushering in the next chapter of the years-long saga between the USC prospect and his future Hall of Fame father.

James has become a somewhat controversial prospect because his family ties appear to have as much influence over his NBA future as his on-court production.

The elder James said in January 2023 that it was a goal of his to play in the NBA with his son.

“I need to be on the floor with my boy,” he told ESPN. “I got to be on the floor with Bronny.”

In more recent interviews, James loosened his stance and opted for a more supportive and open-minded approach.

“Whatever his journey, however his journey lays out, he’s going to do what’s best for him,” LeBron said last May. “We’re going to support him in whatever he decides to do. So just because that’s my aspiration or my goal doesn’t mean it’s his. And I’m absolutely OK with that.”

Bronny’s NBA prospects became hazy on July 24, 2023, when he went into cardiac arrest during an offseason workout with the Trojans.

James was treated for a congenital heart defect in Los Angeles and New Jersey before being cleared to make his collegiate debut last December.

James, who was listed as 6-foot-4 at USC but measured 6-foot-1 ½ in socks at the NBA’s scouting combine, had an inconsistent freshman season with the 15-18 Trojans.

James averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25 games while shooting 36.6 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point range.

Despite lacklustre shooting numbers in college, James displayed a confident shooting stroke during combine workouts, and his 40.5-inch vertical leap illustrated some impressive explosiveness.

As a small guard with an inconsistent shooting touch, James’ contributions early in his career will mainly be on the defensive end of the floor. Throughout his season at USC, James showed the athleticism, toughness and intelligence to project as a good defender at the next level.

James has good length for his size, with a wingspan over 6-foot-7, and he carries plenty of muscle on his 210-pound frame – two features that should help him on the defensive end immediately.

“Size is really the only issue for him on defence,” an NBA general manager told The Ringer in April. “If he was actually 6-foot-4 or even a bit bigger, he’d have really excellent potential.”

The NBA community appears understandably torn on James’ future.

On one hand, small guards who struggle to shoot rarely get chances at the next level, and it’s even rarer that they make an impact. Without James’ strong family ties, he likely would have been advised to return to college to show improvement as a sophomore.

James is not without upside, however, and he has shown rare explosiveness and defensive prowess that give some scouts hope he can be a long-time NBA contributor.