Just two short years ago, Andrew Bynum was an All-Star starter, having the best year of his young career under then coach Mike Brown. The 7-footer averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 and just under two blocks, creating buzz around the league that Bynum not Dwight Howard, who was on his way to Hollywood, was the best center in the NBA.
Unless you had money on the Grizzlies/Lakers game in the winter of 2012 you’ve probably forgotten how Bynum dominated NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol to the tune of 37 points. Or what about his 30 rebounds that April in San Antonio, or even his NBA playoff record 10 blocks as part of a triple double against Denver to kick off the 2012 post season?
All have become a distant memory to sideshow that is Andrew Bynum.
Now, when Bynum’s name comes to mind we’re stuck thinking of Andrew Bynum, the guy with knee problems, attitude problems, and most of all hair problems.
We’ve forgotten the player Kobe once described as someone who “developed into the player that I prayed about having on my team for years.”
And instead remember the player who reacted to Mike Brown’s benching for shooting an errant three-pointer by telling reporters “I’m going to take some more.”
With every big free agent signing there is inherent risk, and with 7-footers who come with a history of knee and attitude issues, that risk is as large as the hole Bynum’s forearm left in J.J. Barea’s ribs during the 2011 playoffs. Any potential buyer must beware.
However, most of that risk lies in a multi-year deal with the former Laker and sort of 76er big man. At the moment the Cavs have reportedly offered Bynum a two-year deal worth $24 million with Cleveland seeking a team option for the second year.
The Cavs have the cap room, are in desperate need of a center, and would still be in a position to leave themselves flexible for the summer of 2014 if they did land Bynum’s services.
If he does sign and the worst case scenario is realized, Bynum is a huge bust, never plays a game, and we’re left in the same position we are right now with a Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller, Anthony Bennett, and Earl Clark front court and the hands are clean of the Bynum mess come next summer.
With a healthy Bynum, the Cavs are a playoff team. There’s no doubt about that. Even with a mediocre Bynum, they’re still in better shape than they are right now, and have the ball in their court when it comes to his contract the following season.
If things go well, and the Cavs believe Bynum can be a building block for the long haul, they pick up the second year option. If not, the big fella gets sent packing. Not to mention, the addition of Bynum would be just another extremely valuable trade asset for Chris Grant. We all know Grant loves to leave no stone unturned, and just imagine the stones other GM’s would be throwing his way if Bynum shows he can still play.
And boy, would it be fun if he can still play. Bynum’s camp says he’s healthy, but yet he refuses to work out for any teams. Surely no contract will be signed unless the Cavs’ doctors believe his knee is fully healthy, and recovered from the setback suffered while bowling late last fall. A healthy Bynum gives the Cavs one of the best rim protectors in the league, an extremely efficient scorer in the post, and a big, big body on the boards. Bynum made a killing in L.A. off of easy buckets thanks to the opponent’s defense gearing all rotations towards Kobe. The same would be expected if the big fella is paired with Kyrie. Penetration causes the defense to rotate, leaving the big man open for a lob to the rim, or the defense to collapse on Bynum, leaving an open shooter out wide. A dominant big man that draws attention from the defense makes everyone else on the court better.
Undoubtedly this is all best case scenario. Who knows how Bynum’s body, how his head, or even his hair will hold up? — Which is why the team option for the second year is so critical for the Cavs. It’s only July 2013 and we’ve already beaten to death the LeBron 2014 talk, but it’s a possibility the Cavaliers MUST keep open, which means staying out of poison pill contracts.
The allure of pairing Uncle Drew with a dominant big man is sexy, but not worth the risk of a long term deal.
For every 30-point scoring night, and five-block game there are still quotes like Bynum explaining his absence from the team huddle, “I don’t take part in the huddle…I’m resting … getting my Zen on” and “I was out there kind of loafing and having a good time” following a loss.”
Bynum’s had a whole season to sit back, heal his body , and most of all get his mind right. The Cavs have an opportunity to be aggressive, and to take a swing on this one. If they connect, they could knock it out of the park, and if they miss they’re no worse off than they were before.
Follow Ryan Jones on Twitter @CzarJonesey7