Los Angeles Lakers: Andrew Bynum's Future with the Lakers Is Up in the Air

Natalie Saar@NatalieSaarContributor IIIMay 27, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on in the second half while taking on the Denver Nuggets in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center 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)
Harry How/Getty Images

Last year was one of highs and lows for the Lakers' young center Andrew Bynum. Sometimes he felt the need to take threes, and other times he went off and grabbed 30 rebounds.

He is definitely one of the top-two big men in the league, if not the best, when he decides to play. While Bynum's numbers are great, averaging 18.7 points and 11.7 rebounds, there is still much to be desired.

Bynum often seems to be disengaged from the game. Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post wrote:

“In one [playoff] game, Bynum was minus-16, in another he was minus-24. He never scored more than 20 points. He shot 2-for-13 in Game 3 — and that was the game L.A. won.”

Is it the gray hair? Is Bynum too comfortable? Or maybe he wants to be “the man” but knows he won't as long as Kobe is around. No matter what's going on with the young star, the Lakers obviously need to address this situation when rebuilding the team.

Mitch Kupchak said as far back as March that they would pick up the team's $16.1 million option on Bynum's contract. This means he will be a Laker next season.

"He's the starting center on the West All-Star team," Kupchak said back in March, "Why wouldn't we do everything we could to keep him here? We're ecstatic to have him on the team."

So does this mean that the team plans to use him as the Lakers' center next season, or is it simply to gain a pawn in Kupchak's offseason chess game?

Bynum is the West All-Star center and All-NBA second-team center. These are both firsts in his six-year NBA career. He's clearly skilled enough to be the Lakers' center. While Dwight Howard may get better numbers, Andrew Bynum is much bigger, and when he chooses to impose his will, not even Howard can stop him.

However, Bynum showed in the last few games of the playoffs that he doesn't seem to care about winning. While he was heavily guarded, he was also heavy-footed, not moving to the ball, but rather waiting around to see if something would happen.

Kobe Bryant doesn't have a ton of years left, and he may be playing out his last contract, so the Lakers don't have time for Bynum to mature. He has to make a choice if he wants to win or not.

If the Lakers were to trade Bynum, they can get a ton of value back. His contract is big, but not so big that a team won't consider taking him. The downside to trading Bynum is that he does only have one year left on the contract and he may choose to leave whatever team he's traded to.

It's tough to say what to do with the young center. Maybe give him a chance and trade him if he's still lackluster once the season starts. If they can trade him for pieces the Lakers need, like an athletic JaVale McGee and an able point guard in a possible three-team trade, that might be their best move.

One thing is for sure, you can never underestimate Mitch Kupchak, who will be known as "The Man Who Was Able to Trade Luke Walton."

The Lakers also can refuse to pick up his option. Just because they said they will doesn't mean they have to. Although it would make much more sense for them to keep Bynum or use him in a trade, than to let him explore free agency.