April 24, 2014

Andrew Bynum, a risk worth taking

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers

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.

[Related: Cavaliers need to just walk away from Andrew Bynum]

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

[Photo/Getty Images]

  • http://www.crowdfundinsider.com/ Charles Luzar

    Fun side note: All three of the major Cleveland sports teams have been over .500 in the same year only twice in the last 20 years (94, 07). I’d love to spend 2013/2014 watching competitive sports year-round. A healthy* Bynum would go a long way toward achieving that.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    *Bynum would be a great addition but given he stopped in Cleveland first I agree with others who feel the visit was a strategic one. I also believe Dallas will better the deal. In the end it would have been a great addition the Cavaliers could use another big man especially one who can score but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

    *=if healthy

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    So can we still call those three sports teams “major?” That’s just turrible! Downright pathetic.

  • http://www.crowdfundinsider.com/ Charles Luzar

    Major disappointments. Where’s my bourbon…

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I agree on one hand, but on the other hand I remember there being a lot of talk last year that Bynum liked the idea of playing with the guys on the Cavs. He had his best year under Mike Brown, who he also clashed with, but with 2 years of perspective maybe he can realize that pairing worked out well for him.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m hoping to be shocked in a positive way believe me I just don’t see it happening. I actually think the Cavaliers situation is better then the Mavericks but again we’re talking about Andrew Bynum. I get the distinct impression that he views things in his own way so who knows.

  • mgbode

    the one thing I keep coming back to with Bynum is that he needs a PG (or a guy like Kobe/LeBron) to really excel. none of the other teams pursuing him have it.

  • JNeids

    I literally see this as a no-risk situation. If he doesn’t play a game, that’s no different than us not signing him, other than financially and 1) it’s not my money, and more importantly 2) it’s not like we need to save that money to use elsewhere. And even still, as mentioned, the contract is an asset. I’m still waiting to hear a real downside to this opportunity.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    True dat plus Dallas lost Mayo and probably Collison. No outside game to go with inside.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    If they do get him I’ll have to put a check in the box for Little Napoleon and give Gilbert his due for putting his casino bucks where his mouth is!

  • Mike Kahn

    Not only do I look forward to a healthy Bynum playing for Mike Brown, but just imagine all the great quotes that we’ll read every game!

  • mgbode

    and Atlanta already signed Millsap to go with Horford.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Looks like they did lose Collison to the Clips, yeah, but they signed Calderon.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Calderon likes to pass the ball more than Kyrie, so I can see that being something Bynum would like. Personality-wise, I think he’d rather be around Kyrie and I think there are a lot more opportunities for easy put-backs with Kyrie on the floor though, which would also pad his rebounding stats (I think Andy V would agree).

  • Harv 21

    There’s a diff between no risk and acceptable risk. I don’t think this is no risk.

    I see some parallels to Josh Gordon here. An uber-talent who has done pretty much what he wants with an immature attitude but without significant consequence. So now after sitting a year and refusing to work out for anyone his minimal salary is $12 guaranteed. I don’t buy that if he starts his sideshow it has no affect on Dion or Kyrie or others. There’s supposed to be a new sheriff in town imparting a singular message that will lift the team from the dregs. He can distract the sheriff and the posse. You hope that the incentive of a new multi-year, with some team, will induce him to be a good citizen but wouldn’t bet the house on it – no one has claimed he’s matured in his off year. Like Gordon, he’s a spoiled, entitled guy.

    Is the risk acceptable? Maybe. But it’s not zero. Because this season is the time for this team to take a legit step forward this season. Not waste focus putting out his weekly brush fires.

  • mgbode

    also, PepsiMax has got to be filming a new spot, right? Maybe Kyrie can get Bynum in as Uncle Randolph?

  • mgbode

    I think acceptable risk.

    Bynum was the 2nd best center in the league playing for Mike
    Brown. Had 30 rebounds in a game against Duncan. Dropped 37points on
    Marc Gasol. Had 10 blocks in a game in the playoffs.

    We have to think about LeBron. Because we have to beat him. The
    teams that did the best job limiting him had big, strong, rim protectors
    (not the Ibaka types). Hibbert and Duncan. Bynum is much like those
    guys on defense.

    All that being said, I wouldn’t offer him more than a 1 year deal
    because of those knees, those personality issues, and the chances things
    just all go wrong. But, he is worth the chance (if he comes back even
    75%, then he’ll be a huge trade chip too if we get the team-option).

    —————–

    oh, and all Philly gave up to attempt to have Bynum on their team
    was $20mil, Iggy, Harkless, Vucevic, and another 1st round pick. We’d
    be giving up $12mil (1/2 of which we have to spend anyway due to the
    salary floor).

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I wasn’t even really regarding Atlanta as an option figured it was between the Cavs and Mavs.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I forgot Dallas got Calderon but most of the AST will be from Dirk.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’m feeling “Cousin Remus”, but I no matter the name, I like it and both Pepsi and Bynum benefit. Bynum gets an international commercial (something I can’t remember him having?), and Pepsi’s guy Kyrie finally plays for a team that people outside of Cleveland want to watch.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Anything that allows Bynum to change his hairstyle would seem to be a draw.

  • Natedawg86

    I was skmming through comments to see if anyone mentioned it. To beat the Heat, you need a solid big. Only caveat is that he would need to get a hairut. Only one set crazy hair per team. Would be fun to see him and V though.

  • Harv 21

    In reverse order:

    - giving up less for him than the Philly fiasco hardly recommends this.

    - If we give him 1 year, when are you talking about beating LeBron? You want this consistently immature head case on a long term contract?

    - don’t disagree could be acceptable risk – I want Kyrie and Dion and Tristan and Bennett to understand the point is to win and that the franchise is willing to support that any given year. Athletes are competitive creatures; you stick them in a losing cage long enough they can lose their hunting ability.

  • mgbode

    I’ll keep your order:

    - the Philly fiasco mention was merely an antecdote to demonstrate how little we would truly be risking (financially) if he busts out. the 76ers were lauded for that trade. Bynum’s talent was considered so great that he was easily worth those pieces.

    - 1 year + 1 year team option. But, having him gives us the chance to compete even next year. Doubtful (still too young overall), but possible. That is how good he was when healthy. 2 year window with the team option. If he proves himself over those 2 years (health and otherwise), then yes, we’d be looking at signing him longer (or using him in a potential sign-n-trade for another star — he’d be a pretty big chip to have next summer).

    - the craziest thing is that Bynum may be better than any of our young players (including Kyrie). again, doubtful (those knees), but possible. How much better will our frontcourt players get having to battle Andrew everyday in practice? How much better does our depth get with Andy+Bennett being our bench-combo in the frontcourt?

    if we sign Bynum, then here is our 2nd unit (potentially):

    Jack
    Karasev
    Gee
    Bennett
    Andy

    A rising tide lifts all boats.

  • mgbode
  • mgbode

    Gibson + Gooden didn’t count as crazy hair? And, that team also had Andy. So, the last time we had that much crazy hair on the team, we made the Finals. Now, if that isn’t concrete evidence that we need to sign Bynum, then I don’t know what to tell you.

  • The_Real_Shamrock
  • The_Real_Shamrock
  • Harv 21

    My last shot: I’m operating under an unspoken assumption different from other commenters here: he’s not going to contribute fully this year because his knees are still bad. It’s July, training camp begins in 2 months, the agent’s commission depends on the contract amount but he thinks it’s in his interest to forbid any work outs. Really doubt Bynum will be ready to play soon enough to help a green team make a run at anything serious this year, just maybe the 8th seed. Remember too that he’s still a year out of game shape once he can start actually playing.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You are really starting to bum me out dude!

  • mgbode

    yes, we are talking about a 75% Bynum for probably 20-25min/game. I think that’s worth $12mil for a 1 year tryout (and an advantage in the team-option and potentially keeping him long-term if things hold up).

    I agree with all your concerns. It’s just that we aren’t getting a better chance at a better talent, so we might as well roll the dice for what amounts to little risk. The “next” best UFA big man might be Elton Brand.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Agreed.

    It’s not my money, for one. Two, no other player out there offers his upside. If the Cavs pass, subsequently spreading the same dollars across several mid-level players, it’s not an improvement. Keep 2014 open and it’s a win. Worst case, he’s hurt and the Cavs are in the lottery again. Not a terrible consolation.