Could Bucks, Lakers regret their quiet trade deadline?

The NBA wrapped up one of the more frenzied trade deadlines in recent league history Thursday. Two mega-trades, along with several other deals involving bit players, seemingly re-shaped half the league’s rosters. Even teams that didn’t make moves seem more interesting. Here are three major questions (and answers) now that the smoke has cleared:

What do quiet deadlines from Bucks, Lakers mean for their title chances?

The lack of action at the deadline by the Bucks (45-7), who hold a 6.5-game lead in the West, was probably smart. (The team’s only move was signing forward Marvin Williams, who was bought out by the Hornets.) Entering Monday’s games, Milwaukee has a point differential of +12.5. No team this decade has finished the season with a point differential higher than +10.8. That group? The 2015-16 Golden State Warriors, who won 73 games. That’s some pretty good company.

The Lakers (39-12), who have a three-game lead over the Clippers and Nuggets for the West’s top spot, have needs. They sorely could have used the defense and play-making of veteran Andre Iguodala, whom the Heat acquired at the deadline from Memphis. (He was training on the West Coast during his absence from the Grizzlies.) But Los Angeles was simply hamstrung by a lack of trade assets and made no moves. The Lakers could be haunted by their situation in the postseason.

Los Angeles is almost ridiculously dependent on LeBron James — it is 15 points per 48 minutes worse when he’s not playing — and L.A.’s defense has conceded just a shade under four more points per 100 possessions since 2020 began (though L.A. remains fifth overall in defensive efficiency for the season). Neither of these issues probably could have been fixed with a deadline trade.

Aside from 24-year-old Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers don’t have much in the way of young talent to offer for an upgrade. And besides, he’s an important rotation piece (he averages 25 minutes per game) and key part of a post-James future. 

Los Angeles also lacks draft capital. Depending on where they finish in the coming seasons, the Lakers must send two more first-rounders to New Orleans as part of the Anthony Davis trade. Plus, L.A. no longer has 2020-22 second-round picks thanks to other deals.

The other veterans dotting the Lakers’ roster don’t have much value unless attached to juicy assets — like the first-round picks L.A. is light on. For better or worse, L.A. was probably always going to be a finished product after filling out its roster around Davis in the summer. 

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