NBA Trade Rumors: Would Andrew Bynum Make Cavaliers Contenders in the East?

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 16, 2012

NBA Trade Rumors: Would Andrew Bynum Make Cavaliers Contenders in the East?

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers haven't been relevant to the NBA title picture ever since LeBron James left his hometown team for the allures of South Beach, but could the potential addition of Andrew Bynum add them back into the mix?

    HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy reported a story that claimed the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers and Cavaliers were involved in discussions about a three-team trade: 

    One scenario would send Howard to Los Angeles, Andrew Bynum to Cleveland and a package of picks and prospects to Orlando, according to sources.

    The Lakers would land Howard, who they have been aggressively pursuing for quite some time.

    The Cavaliers would acquire a second star to put alongside Kyrie Irving, one that they should be able to keep long-term since Cleveland has been mentioned as a team that Bynum will consider signing an extension with.

    Kennedy's report has since been denied by a number of sources, but let's let the hypothetical play out for a number of reasons. 

    Bynum has made it known that Cleveland is one of his preferred destinations in free agency next year, so we may be looking at this same situation a year from now anyway. Plus, as Dwight Howard has taught us, don't rule out any possibility. 

    Even if the original rumor didn't prove to be true, it could still happen. 

    So, if Bynum lands with the Cavs, are they contenders?

     

Elite Point Guard and Center

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    With no disrespect meant to shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards, point guards and centers tend to be thought of as the most crucial positions on championship-contending teams. 

    By now we all know that Bynum is an elite center. He's the second-best in the league, behind Dwight Howard, and the gap is narrowing. 

    What isn't as blindingly obvious is that Kyrie Irving is already an elite point guard after putting together one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory. 

    Irving—when he's not breaking his hand against a padded wall—has proven himself capable of leading a team at the tender young age of 20. 

    During the 51 games he appeared in as a rookie, the former Duke Blue Devil averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. Plus, he had a sensational PER of 21.49, played solid defense and performed exceptionally well when the game was on the line. 

    Irving is already read to lead a team to a title if he's surrounded with enough capable players. 

Lot of Frontcourt Pieces

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    There's no telling exactly who the Cleveland Cavaliers would have to give up in a potential deal for Bynum, but they would still likely be left with a strong frontcourt. 

    Right now, a three-headed monster is holding down the fort at the power forward and center spots. 

    Anderson Varejao is the established player, one of the most underrated big men—or players for that matter—in the entire NBA. With his energy and rebounding skills, he's an invaluable asset to the team's success. 

    Tristan Thompson just finished a somewhat disappointing, somewhat promising rookie season that established him as one of the league's best offensive rebounders. The former lottery pick has a ton of potential, but still needs to work on playing outside of the painted area. 

    Then there's Tyler Zeller, a first-rounder from the 2012 NBA draft who is just about as NBA-ready as they come. The former North Carolina Tar Heel can contribute in all facets of the game. 

    The Cavs would probably have to give up one of these pieces, but the hit would be absorbed by the addition of Bynum. 

Plenty of Developing Players

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    We've already covered Zeller, Irving and Thompson, but the Cleveland Cavaliers still have a number of other developing young players. 

    Dion Waiters, the reigning top pick by the organization, should be an immediate contributor at shooting guard, whether he's starting or coming off the bench as the team's sixth man. The former Syracuse guard is deadly in penetration and has a nice scoring touch. 

    He will require some adjustment, but should have a solid rookie season. 

    Then there's Alonzo Gee, a promising swingman with enough hops to make Superman jealous. 

    That leaves five intriguing young players. If all of them pan out, this team will be unstoppable. 

    Chances are they won't, but the odds dictate that at least a couple will. 

Great Coach

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    The coach is often one of the most overlooked ingredients on a basketball team, but remains a crucial piece to the puzzle. 

    Cleveland has a good one in Byron Scott. 

    Although his win-loss record may not look to shiny, Scott has done well developing players throughout his career, most notably Chris Paul with the New Orleans Hornets

    Scott has worked well with guards, so long as they aren't too stubborn, throughout his career and will greatly aid the developments of Irving, Waiters and Gee, among others on the roster. 

The Verdict

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    Judging by the positive tone of this article, you've probably guessed by now that I do indeed think the Cleveland Cavaliers can compete in the Eastern Conference with Andrew Bynum on the roster, provided that they don't give up too much for him. 

    Bynum is a stud in the paint and adds to a great cast of frontcourt players. Plus, the Cavs have one of the league's better floor generals in Irving and a number of young players who are only going to improve. 

    To top it all off, there's a coach roaming the sidelines who knows what he's doing and can maximize talent. 

    So yes, the Cavs can compete.

    But...

Too Young to Compete Immediately

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    But...the Cleveland Cavaliers won't be competing right away. 

    Adding Bynum isn't going to be an immediate panacea for Cleveland's woes. It will still take time. 

    As the team matures, it will be thrust into the title picture. Right now though, the important pieces are just a little bit too young and inexperience to make too much noise. 

    Just think about it this way: Bynum, at 24 years old, will be one of the older contributors to the Cleveland cause. 

    Down the road, this team can make a run. 

    Just be patient.