Just a few short months after what was easily the best season of his young career, All-Star center Andrew Bynum has been shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the titanic four-team Dwight Howard deal.
Although Howard is obviously the main prize in this blockbuster trade, the Sixers may have found a new franchise player if Bynum can carry the momentum he gained from last season into his tenure with this up-and-coming Philadelphia squad.
Last season, Bynum averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.9 blocks per contest while shooting 55.8 percent from the field. The knee issues that had plagued him for the lion’s share of his career did not seem to hamper him, and he was able to cut down on fouls and played a career-high 35.2 minutes a night.
Bynum was an absolute monster in the paint, dominated the offensive and defensive glass and with his size and strength was nearly impossible to contain in one-on-one coverage.
For this Philadelphia team that was looking at beginning next season with a patchwork frontcourt of Kwame Brown, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, the addition of Bynum gives some much needed size that could have helped the Sixers in last year’s surprising run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Sixers have a number of dynamic wing players, but lacked the dominant interior presence that would put them among the league’s elite teams. They often had difficulty attacking the basket and getting shots at the rim.
Bynum alone took 6.5 shots at the rim per game and another 5.2 shots from three to nine feet. Though he isn’t much of a pick-and-pop threat he has an improved post game and can bully his way to the basket seemingly at will.
Often last season, teams did not have to protect the paint against Philadelphia and could key in the perimeter, but with Bynum they will be forced to pay attention to the block, opening up jump shots and driving lanes.
Bynum should also be able to mesh well with the young, athletic players already on the Sixers’ roster. He’ll make a nice point guard-big man pair with the improving Jrue Holiday, can run the floor in transition alongside Evan Turner and with Hawes and Young being able to shoot from midrange they will draw opposing bigs away from the basket and open up room to work for Bynum.
One thing that Philadelphia has that the Lakers lacked over the last few seasons is a number of good shooters. Holiday, Nick Young, Dorell Wright and the newly-acquired Jason Richardson are all excellent shooters capable of playing multiple positions that can stretch a defense consistently.
Because Los Angeles lacked consistent shooters, defenses were able to simply pack the paint and throw more double-teams at Bynum, which they will be less likely to do on a 76ers team with shooters at every position.
Beyond just what he can do during the game, Bynum brings a championship pedigree that Philadelphia has been lacking in the last few years. Despite being just 24 years old, he will be a leader on this team that is looking to build off the momentum of last season’s surprising postseason run.
Though the club has a number of offensive weapons, Bynum could very well be the first option on offense. He only attempted 13.3 shots and 5.6 free throws per game last season sharing the ball with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, but on this team he will likely be given the opportunity to work more out of the post and could shoot as many as 20 times per contest regularly.
He also brings a much needed inside presence to a Philadelphia team that lacked consistent rim protection and shot-blocking. The Sixers were tied for 12th in the league last season in blocks per game at 5.2, but could easily rocket into the top-five with Bynum on the roster.
Though he had been prone to mental lapses and bouts of immaturity, Bynum was far more level-headed and even tempered last season, and he must continue to grow both on-and-off the court when he suits up in the red, white and blue of his new team.
Still, being on the 76ers is a perfect situation for Bynum to become the franchise-changing center he has the talent to be and he has the potential to be the superstar the team has lacked since the Allen Iverson era.
Obviously the Lakers received the biggest name, but in time Philadelphia could prove to be the real winners of this mammoth deal.