NBA Playoffs 2012: Why Andrew Bynum Is the Most Valuable Postseason Player

Richard ScheuermannCorrespondent IMay 2, 2012

Bynum finds his endless potential humorous
Bynum finds his endless potential humorousHarry How/Getty Images

We've been waiting for it. It seemed only a matter of time, in fact.

Andrew Bynum was bound to be recognized as one of the best centers in the NBA, and it just so happens that he's owning that status just in time for the 2012 playoffs.

Admittedly, there were times when it looked like Bynum might never live up to his potential. Plagued by injury problems and what appeared to be a lack of desire at times, it looked like Bynum might have hit his ceiling a couple of years ago. Heck, Bynum was even offered up as trade bait in a deal attempting to land Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic.

For a lot of players, that would be an enormous shot to their confidence, but for Bynum it seemed to have the opposite effect. Maybe it was a wake-up call for the 24-year-old veteran (sounds like an oxymoron, I know). Whether it was the trade threats early in the season, filling in offensively for the loss of Lamar Odom, or even just being consistently healthy for once, Bynum has definitely turned a corner this year.

So here he is, kicking off his first postseason game of 2012 with a triple-double, the first Laker to record one in the playoffs since Magic in 1991. The triple-double was quite impressive, but the most impressive Bynum stat of the night? His 10 blocked shots, which, incidentally, tied an NBA playoff record. Bynum followed that up by dropping 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting in Game 2, further proving his offensive prowess.

Yet it's the position Bynum plays that is so crucial to LA's success. The Lakers haven't had a dominant defensive big man since, you guessed it, Shaq "Diesel." Though Bynum may never be as colossal a force as O'Neal, he still stands 7'1" and 285 pounds and is an excellent shot blocker and rebounder.

He provides the Lakers a facet to their game that no other playoff team has this year: a great center. His huge frame, strong defense, along with offensive finesse have evolved the Lakers center into an elite player who will cause matchup nightmares deep into the playoffs.

The thing that really stands out as we progress into the postseason is Bynum's confidence. It seems he's finally become aware of his ability to bully players in the paint, both offensively and defensively. If Bynum can keep it up alongside the always-consistent Bryant and Gasol, the Lakers could easily be posting their 17th NBA championship banner in the Staples Center rafters.