Is Andrew Bynum Ready to Be a Franchise Star for Philadelphia 76ers?

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterAugust 30, 2012

He's certainly willing, but the question is whether he's ready. There is danger here, as expectations are rising for this revamped 76er roster. While I share in the excitement, and cannot wait to see Andrew Bynum as a team focal point, I think there may be a bit too much optimism for this squad.

The optimism, in my opinion, is rooted in just how under-appreciated Andre Iguodala was. Throughout his 76ers stay, his contract was held up as some unforgivable albatross. In the background, unloved and unwatched, Iggy was earning those dollars.

The problem for Andre Iguodala is that he's good at that which is ignored—passing and defending. He may be be the best perimeter defender in all of basketball, but fans rarely fixate on that aspect of the game. Last season, Philadelphia finished third in overall league defensive efficiency. Much of that was due to Iguodala's awesome cover skills.

Andrew Bynum's the bigger name, but we aren't quite certain if he's better than Andre Iguodala. Philadelphia had to make the move because it's quite conceivable the 24-year-old Bynum will become the better player down the line. Still, we should temper optimism considering we don't know when the gargantuan center will fulfill that potential.

In the meantime, Philadelphia must adjust. A defense with Andrew Bynum could very well be a good one, but the Sixers will likely take a step back on that end. Bynum is a plodder, and he struggles in high pick-and-roll coverage (see: games against Denver).

Andrew Bynum does have some defensive value near the rim, but the right team can exploit his weaknesses. For the 76ers, the challenge will be to build around his ability to block shots, and away from the model of a smothering, versatile, perimeter-focused D. 

Philadelphia hopes to add points to compensate for whatever they lose on the defensive end. Last year, Andrew Bynum was a better offensive weapon than Andre Iguodala. Herein lies Drew's superstar challenge: Can he continue his tidy Lakers efficiency in a much larger role? He will almost certainly see more double teams, as Philadelphia has few offensive threats apart from him. Cue Mike Brown, describing how Bynum needs to improve in the area.

Bynum has wonderful touch around the rim and he's good at establishing inside position. His lack of court vision, and lack of foot speed, combine to make him susceptible to double teams. 

This will be a forced evolution for Andrew Bynum—the Sixers can't bench him in favor of Pau Gasol. He must learn a way to deal with complex defenses, designed to thwart his path to the rim.

I am personally optimistic about Bynum's chances in Philly. He has slowly improved with each passing year. Despite whatever issues he may have—issues that often get described as "immaturity"—his game has reflected a solid work effort. 

Andrew Bynum will be thrown into the fire next season. If he can stay healthy (the largest concern of all), he should flourish with increased responsibility.