Why didn’t Lakers make a trade at 2024 deadline? Buyout market, offseason star-chasing plans impact LA’s strategy

The 2024 NBA trade deadline has come and gone. And while many deals were executed, the Lakers were noticeably idle.

In the days and weeks leading up to the deadline, Los Angeles was linked to several players and it seemed inevitable that the team would look to upgrade its roster by negotiating a deal with another team. Ultimately, that wouldn’t be the case as the Lakers decided to stand pat.

Considering the rumors that ran rampant, LA’s lack of deals came as a surprise to many, but it appears that the franchise’s inaction was strategic.

Here’s why the Lakers didn’t make a trade at this year’s deadline.

MORE: The biggest winners and losers from the trade deadline

Why didn’t Lakers make a trade at 2024 deadline? 

The Lakers did not make a trade at the 2024 deadline to maintain flexibility in the upcoming offseason while reaffirming belief in their current roster. The decision can best be outlined in three parts.

Push for the 2024 NBA Playoffs

Los Angeles “determined any feasible trade would be a marginal upgrade, at too steep a cost,” according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. Both McMenamin and Brad Turner of the LA Times provided insight into the Lakers’ deadline strategy, which also includes a heavy dose of optimism for the remainder of the season.

At the time of the trade deadline, the Lakers are firmly in the West’s Play-In Tournament picture with a 27-25 record. LA is on a three-game win streak which includes impressive statement victories over the Celtics and Knicks on the road.

With both LeBron James and Anthony Davis performing at an All-NBA level, the Lakers are expressing confidence in their supporting cast, a group that includes guards Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell, who has taken his play to another level as of late.

In addition to Reaves and Russell, the Lakers are also reaffirming their belief in healthy returns of Jarred Vanderbilt and Gabe Vincent.

Vanderbilt, who plays a key role as a versatile defender for LA, is likely out for the remainder of February with a foot sprain.

Vincent, who the Lakers signed last offseason, has yet to make his presence felt due to a troublesome knee injury that’s limited him to five games. If healthy, Vincent would bolster LA’s backcourt rotation.

The team hopes Vincent can return in early March, according to Yahoo’s Jake Fischer.

MORE: Analysis and grades for every trade deadline deal

Pursuing the buyout market

McMenamin also outlined LA’s competitive advantage in the buyout market, which could be fairly robust after the deadline.

Because the Lakers did not give Vincent the full mid-level exception (MLE) during free agency, the team can offer more money to players who are bought out or waived.

Among players who are expected to soon become available are Spencer Dinwiddie, Danuel House Jr., Kyle Lowry and Marcus Morris. That list of names could soon grow.

The Lakers currently have 14 players on standard contracts, which means the team has one open roster spot to add another player. Given the monetary advantage and the opportunity to play alongside two stars in James and Davis, the Lakers are a major player to watch on the buyout market.

Potential trade in the 2024 offseason

Both McMenamin and CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter alluded to the fact that LA will have more flexibility to make a big swing during the upcoming offseason.

By standing pat during the 2024 trade deadline, the Lakers now look forward to the summer, when they’ll be able to package three first-round picks beginning on the day of the 2024 NBA Draft. 

According to a report from McMenamin, the Lakers are eyeing Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell and Hawks guard Trae Young as two potential “bona fide stars” that they could acquire in exchange for a package involving players and three future first-round picks.

Mitchell and the Cavaliers are currently the league’s hottest teams, but things have not been as fruitful for Young and the Hawks, who are currently fighting to stay in the East’s Play-In Tournament picture.

In deciding not to part ways with their 2029 first-round pick (the only first-rounder they’re currently permitted to trade) or valuable players, the Lakers have at least positioned themselves to make the best possible offer for a star this offseason.

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