Breaking Down How Andrew Bynum Can Thrive as Primary Offensive Option in Philly
After jumping between being the second and third option on the Lakers for most of last season, people assume Bynum will now be given the freedom to establish his dominance as a big man and put up incredible numbers.
I’m a bit concerned about him taking on this role though.
There are three things we know about Andrew Bynum’s game:
1. He’s an unfathomably large human being.
2. He has a great game around the basket.
3. He handles double-teams like the Maloofs handle picking up the check at dinner.
Only 37 players in the NBA last year took more shot attempts than Andrew Bynum. When you think about the fact that he was playing on a team with Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, that’s kind of incredible. Of the 796 shots he took on the floor, 668 came within eight feet of the basket.
While there seems to be this notion that he can step out and shoot a jumper as an offensive weapon (and no, I don’t mean three-pointers), it’s really one of the worst ideas he can have. He shot 30 percent from the field outside of the paint last season. The year before that, he made just 25 percent of his shots outside of the paint.
If Bynum isn’t around the basket, he isn’t winning you any offensive possessions.
So how does Philadelphia keep him around the basket and find ways for him to lead the offense?
Give Bynum room to operate
Andrew Bynum really can’t operate very well posting up if he’s being swarmed on offense with double- and triple-teams. Of his 168 turnovers last year (counting playoffs), 94 of them came when he was posting up, according to mySynergySports.
One reason for this is that Bynum is surprisingly unaware that a defender might “pull the chair” against him. That could be something easily ironed out as he becomes more and more comfortable in the post.
The main reason is he just doesn’t know what to do when he’s double-teamed with the ball. Bynum seems to forget that he can protect the ball by keeping it high and turning slightly away from the defensive trap. He seems to decide he needs to pivot his way out of it, instead of just making a quick decision to get rid of the ball.
When he starts to panic, his team usually loses the ball.
As the league trends more toward freakishly tall wing players that have condor-esque wingspans, double-teaming the post has become an extremely effective tool against guys that struggle with it. As we see in the clip against the Nuggets, if you can get Bynum to panic on the baseline, that’s essentially throwing three defenders at him.
His vision and anticipation aren’t good enough to make you pay for it with a quick decision.
In this clip, you see Bynum trying to get away from the double-team as it comes from the top of the defense. But it causes him to rush into getting a shot up and he loses the ball out of bounds. If anything, you’d love for him to be able to calmly remember he’s bigger than everybody on the court and then rise up for a quick hook shot.
This is a good example once again of him knowing the double-team is coming back to him after he resets his post-up. It seems as if his concentration on making the next movement in his post-up isn’t there, as he dribbles the ball off his foot with the second defender approaching him.
So how do you avoid that?
Getting him the ball in space seems to be the best idea. Bynum is so good at rooting himself into the post position, and he may even get away with a three-second violation or 100 from time to time. Once he establishes his position and seals off his defender, a quick entry pass can allow him to make his move before the double team gets there.
As you see here against the Thunder, James Harden is going to drop down from the top of the key to harass Bynum. But Bynum recognizes this early and is able to drop-step calmly to the baseline. He finishes over Perkins because once he turns his elbows across your body, you have absolutely no way to stop him from getting a scoring opportunity.
This is another great example of Bynum locking in his position in the deep post. His butt is too big to get around him and he turns his hips perfectly to clear out the space needed to go up for the strong finish. And with Bynum’s strength, he can finish through a lot of fouls. He had the ninth-most in the NBA last year.
Even though Bynum struggles against double teams, he still ranked highly in points per possession on post-ups. He was 50th in the NBA with 0.89 points per possession on post-up plays, and shot 46.2 percent. These are all solid numbers, but it isn’t crazy to think his efficiency might go down without Pau and Kobe on the floor.
Get Bynum moving quickly
The next best way to get Bynum the ball is to find a way to get him involved in pick-and-roll plays. Bynum was ranked 27th in the NBA in points per possession as the roller on a pick-and-roll and he converted a ridiculous 57.1 percent of those shots.
The weird thing is Bynum only had 43 of these possessions, according to mySynergySports. With him being so efficient, you’d think they’d run that type of play more often, even with a second or third option. This could largely be because they didn’t have a point guard who could walk and chew gum at the same time until Ramon Sessions joined the team.
If Philly can get any kind of chemistry going with Jrue Holiday or Evan Turner and Bynum, they could have a field day with this.
The thing with Bynum rolling to the basket is that he’s great at keeping passes high when he catches them, and you often just have to throw it at the rim for him to finish the play. Once he gets behind his man hedging the screen, he’s too big to bother him on the lob.
And as clumsy as Bynum can seem when he’s being double-teamed or having the chair pulled out from under him, he has very nimble feet on offense and spins away from defenders while keeping track of the incoming lob extremely well.
A big plus for Philadelphia here is Jrue Holiday was one of the better scorers in the NBA when he was running the pick-and-roll. He ranked 74th in points per possession on these plays, so the threat of him scoring on these plays will be something the defense has to track.
Other ways you can get Bynum easy baskets is to catch him as a cutter to the basket. Bynum is devastating cutting to the rim for dunks and layups. He was fifth in the NBA last year on possessions in which he cut to the basket, scoring a preposterous 1.53 points per possession. He also shot 77.9 percent on these plays.
The reasons he’s so good on these plays are because he doesn’t need much space to go up and dunk the ball and he has great hands. Give him a little dribble penetration to bring his man away from where he’s standing and he’ll move well without the ball to get buckets.
Because of his ability to move without the ball, it makes him a big threat at the end of games when the defense might be focused on perimeter-oriented attacks (which most teams in the NBA seem to do at the end of games anyway). The play here where Pau finds him cutting through the lane is actually something Philly should be able to take advantage of.
Find a big man that can set him up
Last year, Andrew Bynum was assisted on 67.6 percent of his baskets. Of the 300 made baskets he was assisted on, Pau Gasol had the assist on 60 of them. Bynum benefits greatly from a big man on his team that can distribute.
You can say a lot of things about Spencer Hawes and his game, but one thing you have to take note of is how well he passes the ball. Hawes might be one of the better passing big men in all of basketball because there isn’t a pass he can’t throw.
He’s good at lobbing the ball and he’s really skilled at dropping bounce passes to players.
Against the Celtics, they ran a simple pick-and-pop against the best pick-and-whatever defense in the league. Because Hawes is capable of knocking down jumpers (45.3 percent from “midrange,” according to NBA.com/stats), the defense has to respect his shot.
The result is Hawes being able to hit the big man rotating down low with a bounce pass for a relatively easy score.
On this play, they’ve once again run a play with Hawes setting the pick and this time rolling to the basket. If you can create a 2-on-1 inside with Hawes handling the ball and Bynum waiting to drop the hammer down, Spencer should do a great job of setting up his fellow big man.
Overall, the idea of Bynum as a No. 1 option still worries me for Philadelphia because he is so bad against double-teams. Maybe with some time under his belt, he can get more comfortable against them and figure out a way to make the defense pay.
As of right now, there are creative ways to feature Bynum in the offense without just pounding it inside and waiting for him to do something. Doug Collins has options and the current personnel of his team with Holiday, Turner and Hawes can definitely complement what Bynum is good at.
It wouldn’t hurt to add a couple more shooters to space the floor for their new abnormally large teammate.
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