April 24, 2014

Acquiring Andrew Bynum Might be Cavaliers’ One Shot at Building a Title Contender

An actual young All-Star could be Kyrie Irving’s teammate for the future.

There’s a story I remember from my childhood. It involves a man who is living in his house on the bank of a river. One day, a storm begins to build up strength and the rains begin to pour down. The newscaster on TV interrupts programming to warn those living on the river to evacuate because of the risk of flood. The man thought to himself, “God will surely deliver me from this flood.”

The rain continued to pour down and the water began to rise. The man had to move to his 2nd floor balcony as the first floor was now completely submerged. A neighbor who happened to have a boat was driving through the area looking for people who were stranded. He saw the man on his balcony and brought the boat over to offer him help escaping. “Thank you, but I don’t need your help,” said the man. “God will surely deliver me from this flood.”

The rain continued to fall and the water continued to rise. By now, the man had moved to his roof as the water had overtaken the 2nd floor of his house. A rescue helicopter was flying over the houses looking for people to rescue. Seeing the man on his roof, the helicopter sent a rescue diver down to get the man. “Thank you for offering, but I don’t need your help,” the man told the diver. “God will surely deliver me from this flood.”

The rain was relentless still, and the water eventually overtook the man’s house completely. To his last breath the man held out hope that God would save him, but the flood water was too much and the man eventually succumbed to the water and died. Upon arriving in heaven, the man saw God and asked him, “God, I had faith that you would save me, but still you let me drown. Why?”

God looked curiously at the man and said, “My child, three times I tried to save you. Once with a warning on the news giving you ample time to escape, once I sent a boat to save you, and once I sent a helicopter to rescue you, but all 3 times you refused my help.”

I always liked that story. It taught me to be careful to not refuse the blessings that come my way in life. By now you may be wondering what this has to do with sports. Well, I think this story might apply to the Cleveland Cavaliers right now.

We can debate until we’re blue in the face as to all the reasons why LeBron James left Cleveland. But I’d like to think we can at least agree that part of the problem was that LeBron never had a real running mate. The Cavaliers were a great team and I believe they were good enough to win a title. But there’s no doubt LeBron shouldered the load alone.

So this time around, with Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers want to rebuild the “right way”. We want the team to stockpile cap space and draft picks so we can eventually get Kyrie the young superstar to pair up with.

What if that moment is now, though. What if Andrew Bynum is the answer to the riddle? I feel like some fans are saying “We don’t want to use our assets to acquire Bynum, we want to save them so we can get a superstar.” It’s like the man in the story refusing rescue because he’s waiting for God to rescue him.

We want to surround Kyrie Irving with other young superstars. Well, Andrew Bynum is a 24 year old superstar. He is a player who has but one peer at his position, and that’s Dwight Howard. The Cavaliers have an opportunity to potentially have a top 5 PG paired with the 2nd best center in the NBA. I’m not sure what more you can ask for as a starting point to rebuilding your team into a title contender.

Lets be real clear about this. If the Cavaliers don’t trade for Bynum, the odds of them later getting a player as good as Bynum or better are extremely slim. Guys this good are not easy to get. Last season Andrew Bynum was 10th in the NBA in efficiency rating, 20th in scoring, 4th in FG%, 3rd in rebounds, 6th in blocks, and 5th in double-doubles. This is an absolute legit, star, elite center.

I get the questions about his health and his maturity. After playing 82 games in the 2006-07 season, Bynum was never healthy until this past season. He followed that 82 game season up with seasons of 35, 50, 65, and 54 games. So yes, injuries are a part of his past. But injuries are part of Kyrie Irving’s past, too.

Kyrie played just 11 of Duke’s 37 games two years ago and 51 of the Cavaliers’ 66 games last year. So in total, in his team’s last 2 seasons, Kyrie has played in 62 of 103 games (60%). Over Bynum’s last two years, he has played in 114 of his team’s 148 games (77%). I don’t think anyone would say they don’t want Kyrie because of injury concerns. Bynum’s recent history shows us he has been mostly healthy and I don’t think injury concerns is a good reason to not go out and get him.

This biggest problem is Bynum’s impending free agency. There’s been a lot of suggestion that the Cavaliers either need or should need an extension from Bynum before they do the trade. I can tell you this much, if a signed contract extension is what the Cavaliers need, we’re all wasting our time here. Bynum is not, and should not, sign a contract extension right now. Why? Because of the way the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement works.

A contract extension is not the same thing as re-signing with your old team as a free agent with Bird Rights. Basically, if either Howard or Bynum were to sign an extension now, they would be limited in the number of years and max raise they can get.

For a better explanation than I could give, lets turn to Sporting News’s Sean Devery who wrote about this last year when Deron Williams was offered an extension by the Nets:

“Deron will not be signing the extension,” Schwartz told the Bergen Record on Thursday. “Based on the new rules it doesn’t make any sense for him to sign the extension. It has nothing to do with how much he likes New Jersey. Because of the rules, he’s going to play the season out and opt out of his deal.”

Now, get your calculators out. Williams is signed through this season, and has a $17.7 million player option next season. If he were to sign an extension with the Nets now, the option for next year would be active, and Williams could add two more years onto his deal with 7.5 percent raises, bringing the total deal to three years, $57 million.

If Williams opts out, though, he could draw a contract worth $100 million over five years by re-signing with the Nets, or $74 million over four years by going elsewhere. In the short term, Williams would actually lose a relatively small amount money by opting out, because the five-year deal would start at $17.4 million (30 percent of the salary cap) rather than the $17.7 million he would make by opting in—it’s a matter of $56.1 million in the first three years instead of $57 million. But, at 27 years old, the security of a five-year max deal is more important to Williams now.

This is why Bynum and Howard won’t sign extensions either. The same situation more or less applies to them. It’s in their own best interests to become free agents and allow their Bird Rights to kick in, maximizing both years and annual raises. So if a signed guarantee is what you need, you’re not going to get it.

But that shouldn’t necessarily stop the Cavaliers from pursuing this trade. Once a framework is agreed upon, the Lakers will allow Chris Grant to talk to Andrew Bynum and his agent. At that point, you try to get a feeler on the situation. Is Bynum open minded to staying in Cleveland long term? Will his agent give Cleveland assurances that if Bynum gels with Kyrie and Coach Byron Scott, that he’ll stay?

That’s the question. I’m optimistic Bynum would stay. The Cavaliers could offer him a better long term running mate than, say, Dallas or Houston could. Cleveland would have his Bird Rights and could offer him more money and years. Cleveland could offer Bynum an opportunity to be either the 1st or 2nd option in the offense. Irving and Bynum, if they can get along, can form a formidable tandem that could be title contenders for years to come if the supporting pieces fall into place in future years. And you know Dan Gilbert is going to be committed to that cause.

No, it’s not a sure thing Bynum would come back. There’s risk. It’s a gamble. I get that. But do we want to live our lives just hoping to eventually have another star fall into our laps? Or do we want to be aggressive and take advantage of this incredible opportunity that is sitting right in front of us?

If the Cavaliers don’t do this deal, I’m fine with that. I think the long term building plan is fine and has a decent enough chance of working. It’s just that my personal preference would be to go out and do this. Make our own luck. I think this is the Cavaliers’ one chance to acquire a sure fire young superstar to pair with Irving. Sure, it might happen later. But I don’t want to be stuck watching the boats and helicopters go by as we slowly drown.

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Image Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

  • Harv 21

    again, nobody’s drowning. The Cavs were in 2009, not in 2004. Survival rates increase when you maximize the odds in your favor, not by a knee-jerk succumbing to your PTSD.

  • Tim K.

    I’m not saying it would weigh on him, but I know I wouldn’t want to be the 2nd guy to burn the city of Cleveland and its fans by leaving via Free Agency after everyone was counting on me to re-sign…

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Your assumption is based on the fact that you have this unwavering belief that your way of thinking is correct, in contrast to what the vast majority of other commenters on this site think. So your appeal to them will probably fall on deaf ears. You’re asking everyone to admit to 2 bad drafts when the players in the draft have hardly had any time to prove otherwise. Give them 3 years to develop, then let’s see how bad the front office did. Bare in mind, our team was never going to go from bad to great in one or two years. I see no evidence at this point to believe that the players won’t develop into a championship team in 3 more years.

  • mgbode

    I think you are maximizing the odds in your favor by getting a potential top10 NBA player to pair with your other potential top10 player.

    the Cavs should be “too good” to find another such player in the draft moving forward unless they get lucky. so, use the assets obtained to get one through a trade is a smart move.

  • floydrubino

    So you wanna wait and monday morning quarterback your posts. I don’t need time to wait. When you look at Dion Waiters you know what you are going to get. A decent player that will improve our position because we had Anthony Parker who was one of the worst players I have ever seen. That’s where we are going to differ because I can already tell what these players ceiling are. And after reading a lot of opinions on this site I’m glad I’m in the minority. If you can’t see some of these players ceilings already and devote time and effort developing players that are average then this is why Dan Gilbert gets away with these pathetic decisions and has no consequence for it.

  • floydrubino

    So where is the article on what could of been if they weren’t idiots in the front office. We were given the golden egg opportunity by landing Kyrie and Gilbert will do the same thing he did with Lebron and surround him with average role type players. We need all stars not role players. They should go ahead and go after Bynum whether he signs a long term deal or not because they would screw up next years draft pick anyway if we didn’t use it on Bynum anyway .

  • TobaccoRoad

    Fortune favors the bold

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    How do they have 0% chance of signing him after the season? The Lakers would be the only team to offer him more, and Kyrie Irving and Byron Scott will still be here.

  • Jared in LA

    Damn, there is a lot of Andrew Bynum love here, which seems odd to me. I’ve lived in LA for 7 years and every year they want to give up on this guy b/c of his health or attitude. The guy can play, when he’s healthy. He may be the 2nd or 3rd best center in the league, this is not a center driven league, so he’s probably in the top 20 players, but by no means a superstar. His attitude seems to be attrocious. Dude is young and still needs to “grow up” in sense. I’m not going to say he’s overrated, but he’s not a phenom. He’s a great player, when healthy…and when not acting like a fool on and off the court. With that said, I’d love to have him and hope he stays healthy.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    This is an absurd statement… you just really need to know this, floyd. You in no way can tell what a player’s ceiling is right now. The problem is that you leave no room for a player to develop… everyone is now as they will be 3 years from now as they will be 7 years from now. Waiters can add a consistent jump shot to his game and become an offensive juggernaut. Zeller can add 10 pounds of muscle and make himself a better post defender. Thompson can keep adding offensive moves in the post. Irving can work on being a better defender. Gee can keep improving his jumper. Some of these things will happen and some of them won’t… it’s absurd to claim to already know which ones are going to happen.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Also, since this is an article on Bynum, I would point out that you would have given up on Bynum after year one because he was really bad his first year. He didn’t make the leap to be a double-double guy until year 3.

  • siK wIt It

    My favorite article regarding this entire issue. Money will talk in the end. It was just our luck that we had the ONE guy in the world to whom a max contract meant nothing based on his endorsements before he even entered the league (LeBron). Offer Bynum 5 yrs 108 mil and dare him to take 4 yrs 70 mil elsewhere. Dare him. If he leaves then so be it. But nobody will fault us for not trying and Dan Gilbert will win a lot of points with Kyrie Irving and the fanbase. For once we wouldn’t have an owner who just sat around and played what-if.

  • floydrubino

    I’m really not that impressed with Bynum. I said in a post the comment that the centers in the league in the nba right now aren’t that good. I don’t think the Lakers would let him go if he was really that good and they had him for 6 or 7 years. I would do exactly what the lakers are doing and use him to get a piece that is worth getting by dumping him off to someone who overvalues him. He has been in the league for 6 or 7 years so he isn’t going to get better.

  • floydrubino

    I’m so happy that you are listing what ifs to make a player good. I wonder if it’s better to value players on things that they do have instead of getting players that could develop into something only if they could do this. So your whole talent assessment is pipe dreams. I’m not stupid and think I will be right on every situation but I’m right a lot more than I’m wrong. It’s actually absurd for you to think players are all of a sudden going to be able to do something that they can’t already do against people in the nba. The people who do well are the people that already have this ability and just need a couple years for the game to slow down for them a little so they can be calm and comfortable enough to play their best. Don’t assume that someone has the ability to do things that you can’t. Waiters will be a decent player and Zeller will be pretty solid. They will not be all stars.

  • Rizzle

    Contract money is a MAJOR factor here.. Bynum doesnt get endorsement money like the Lebrons and Kobe’s of the world. It would be a lot harder for him to walk away from that money than most superstars. Also he isnt from LA, he just plays there. Ive read in multiple places he isnt a big city guy Cleveland could be a good fit with a great young PG to play with.

  • Jaker

    God should start writing for WFNY

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Sorry, that’s entirely wrong. It happens quite often. Both Michael Jordan and Kobe both learned to shoot the fade-away jumper once they were already in the NBA. Olajuwon didn’t come into the NBA with the Dream Shake. Nobody saw Westbrook turning into an all-star. Let this one go, floyd… you can’t win :)

  • Josh

    I agree. We will have 2 first round picks this year, and I believe 3 first rounders if the Kings make the playoffs. I would think 2 first rounders when paired with Andy and the openness to taking on several bad contracts would outweigh the 3 first rounders the Nets offered.

  • awesome username

    i think you should write that article

  • JohnnySmoke

    Wow, that Crystal ball of yours really works…don’t sell it!