Lakers Rumors: Is Andrew Bynum the Right Guy to Build Future of Franchise Around

Matt Shetler@@buccos12Correspondent IJuly 9, 2012

DENVER, CO - MAY 06:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers is wrapped up by JaVale McGee #34 of the Denver Nuggets for a jump ball in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 6, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

With the Dwight Howard rumors heating up and the Los Angeles Lakers still in the running to land the superstar big man, there's one question both the Lakers and Orlando Magic need to ask: Is Andrew Bynum the right guy to build the future of their franchises around?

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak may be onto something, willing to include Bynum in a deal for Howard.

The 24-year-old had a fantastic 2012 season, averaging 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. But realistically, that could be as good as it gets for the seven-year pro.

After watching his first seven seasons in a Lakers uniform, it's difficult to say for sure that Bynum has the drive in him to keep getting better, or even offer up a repeat performance of 2012.

You have to be careful giving the keys to the car to a guy coming off a career year. Often, that's all it turns out to be.

But if the Lakers don't pull the trigger on a deal to acquire Howard, this will likely be Bynum's team in the future.

Is he capable of handling it?

The long list of off-the-court antics would suggest no. But he's only 24 and it's possible that it could take Bynum a little longer to grow up than most.

While he's the most attractive trade chip out there for the Magic, they have to proceed with caution as well.

Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Bynum has offered up no indication that he would be willing to sign an extension with the Magic if traded.

Bynum has shown no inclination to agree to an immediate extension if sent to Orlando as part of a Dwight Howard package, sources tell Y!

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 8, 2012

That's no real surprise, though, as it would be more beneficial to Bynum not to sign an extension right away as he could get more money by opting out of his deal rather than extending it.

But without a guarantee from Bynum, it's a big risk for the Magic, especially given the fact that there's no certainty that he's a guy you can build a franchise around. 

Looking back through his career, Bynum could easily become a problem like Lamar Odom was for the Dallas Mavericks in 2012 as easily as he could become the top big man in the game.

Then there's Wojnarowski, who wrote on Twitter about Bynum’s interest in the Mavericks, Cavaliers and Rockets as the Lakers center looks forward to free agency next summer.

Dallas and Cleveland are among teams with cap space that would interest Bynum in 2013 as a free agent, sources tell Y!

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 8, 2012

Is that something that the Lakers want to hear after picking up Bynum's option and before he plays out the last season of his contract?

Bynum is a fantastic talent, but it is always one thing after another that suggests he will never be a leader.

He's a perfect complimentary piece to this Lakers team, but as the focal point of the Lakers franchise in a couple of years or the immediate future of the Magic, well, there's a lot more questions than answers surrounding Bynum.

We don't know whether or not Bynum will take the next step forward as a player or take a step backward, but one thing is for certain: Bynum is too risky of a player to build the future of a franchise around.