Why Andrew Bynum Is More Valuable to Kobe Bryant Than Shaquille O'Neal Ever Was

Matt Shetler@@buccos12Correspondent IMay 4, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers falls to the floor after his shot against the Denver Nuggets during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Looking at the beginning of the 2012 NBA playoffs, one could make the case that Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum is the early MVP of the postseason.

Bynum has averaged a solid 18.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG and six BPG with a crazy efficiency rating of 30.08 throughout two games. 

His play sort of reminds you of another former Lakers big man in Shaquille O'Neal.

While there is no comparing Bynum's career to date to that of O'Neal's, you can make the case that he's more valuable to Kobe Bryant right now than the legendary Shaq ever was.

The scary part about Bynum's game is that he's capable of doing even more.  

He followed up his triple-double in Game 1 with a dominating 27 points, nine rebounds and zero turnovers despite a chaotic Nuggets defense that was scrambling and double-teaming. Even more important, Bynum more than doubled the offensive output of all three of the Nuggets' capable centers, who combined for 13 points in 47 minutes of play.

Denver's had no answer for him at the defensive end and they've tried to avoid him when they have the ball. Bynum has completely controlled the area within three feet of the rim and that is the story of this series thus far .

He compliments Bryant perfectly and as good as Shaq and Kobe were together, that wasn't necessarily the case. Sure they produced positive results, but both guys needed the ball and while that worked for them together, it's something that doesn't necessarily work often in the NBA.

Then there was the friction between the two. Sure the Lakers have had to deal with their share of drama this season, but that's minor compared to the Shaq and Kobe feud.

The great thing about Bynum is that he doesn't have to be a big part of the offense.

Sure the Lakers are better when they play inside-out, but Bynum will impact the game no matter how many touches he gets per night.

PHOENIX - FEBRUARY 15:  Co-MVPs Shaquille O'Neal #32 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Western Conference are interviewed by TNT's Ernie Johnson after the Western Conference defeated the Eastern Conference in the 58th NBA All-Star Game, part of 2009 NBA All-Star
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If Bynum is committed to being a monster on the boards and blocking shots, then he's doing his job. Offensively, Bryant needs the ball in his hands, but he knows he has a beast down low that can bail him out when he gets in trouble.

Both O'Neal and Bynum attracted opposing defenses which makes Kobe's job easier, but having the guy who will do all the little things and take his touches when he gets them proves more valuable.

Shaq, on average, needed about 20 touches per game. Bynum attempted 13 shots per game during the regular season.

That helps keep everyone else in a Lakers uniform a little more involved and that's good in the long run. Also, Bynum, while not great, is a better free-throw shooter (.692) than Shaq, making him less of a liability down the stretch of games.

He might not have the production of Shaq in his prime, but Bynum does exactly what the Lakers need him to do and he does it very well. Plus the lack of friction between Bynum and Bryant is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Is Bynum a better player than Shaq? Not a chance

Is he a better fit right now? Quite possibly.