The NBA Trade Deadline might be in full swing, but the regularly-scheduled games are still going forward as planned! Tonight, the Milwaukee Bucks continue their western road trip by paying a visit to the Los Angeles Lakers, who crowned a new all-time NBA scoring leader on Tuesday and made some significant roster changes last night.
Where We’re At
Before we get into the Lakers trade, let’s check in with your Bucks. Winners of eight straight games, Milwaukee is on an absolute tear right now, in no small part because a) Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing out of his damn mind, b) most of the rest of the roster is healthy and available (get well soon, Bobby!), and c) Khris Middleton is getting back into the swing of things. Milwaukee is not yet a final product, but you can see the pieces and how they all fit together; with roughly 25 games left before the postseason, there’s just enough time to find the combinations that will work for a deep playoff run. Besides Portis and Serge Ibaka (who might get traded by the time you’re reading this!), Joe Ingles will be out tonight for general load management.
Now we can talk about the Lakers, and talk about LeBron James. At 38,890 points, his argument for Greatest Of All Time is as strong as ever, even if his team isn’t up to par. I had the opportunity to tune in for LeBron’s record-clinching basket – a fadeaway jumper over Kenrich Williams – and it’s tough to be anything but impressed by a dude who has legitimately been a star in the league for two whole decades. If you care about what one-time Milwaukee Buck (and former scoring record holder) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar thinks, go read his own post about the achievement:
Whenever a sports record is broken—including mine—it’s a time for celebration. It means someone has pushed the boundaries of what we thought was possible to a whole new level. And when one person climbs higher than the last person, we all feel like we are capable of being more.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles achieved something special in their own right: they traded Russell Westbrook!
ESPN Sources: The Lakers are finalizing deal to land Minnesota’s D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt in trade including Mike Conley and picks to Timberwolves and Russell Westbrook and a lightly protected 2027 LA first-round pick to Jazz.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 9, 2023
Russ and the Lakers never worked out (there was even a classic blow-up between him and old friend Darvin Ham), and while the media scrutiny was predictably over-the-top, the on-court fit was never there. Instead, with younger talent in D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt (who many teams across the league were hoping to land themselves), Los Angeles is starting to climb out of the pit they dug for themselves. The newcomers aren’t likely to suit up tonight, meaning the Lakers will be short-handed; they might not have any injuries to report, but they also are fairly light on “NBA-level rotation players” until their new arrivals are up to speed.
Player To Watch
Jevon Carter is, at this point, the Bucks backup point guard. George Hill has been load-managed for much of the season, and his name constantly comes up in trade rumors. Should the Bucks part ways with Hill again, or if George is truly just too old at this point (which is possible!) Carter is the only reserve guard on the team who might get postseason minutes. In the current win streak, Carter has consistently played between 10-15 minutes, and he happens to be enjoying a stretch of hot shooting; in 15.2 minutes per game, he’s averaging only 7.6 points but shooting 54.8% from deep. As has often been the case, the three-point accuracy is likely to fall back to earth pretty soon, but Carter is also young enough that he can still use these periods of positive play to establish new baselines for himself. How he performs tonight will be a curious indicator of whether that hypothesis might ring true.
Game 55: Against the Lakers, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)