Are Philadelphia 76ers Committing to Andrew Bynum as Franchise Star Too Early?

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2012

DENVER, CO - MAY 10:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers walks off the court during halftime against the Denver Nuggets in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 10, 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 Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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After Andrew Bynum's first few days as a Philadelphia 76er, you couldn't help but share in the feeling that it was just meant to be.

The 24-year-old himself sounds perfectly smitten (via AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston):

''My first experiences here have been so great,'' Bynum said, ''I'm really leaning toward making this my home."

Was it love at first sight or the ruminations of a dejected superstar still on the rebound? More importantly, how do the Philadelphia 76ers feel about their long-term prospects with the All-Star center?'s Tom Moore reports that while the two sides have yet to discuss a contract extension, it's likely only a matter of time before they begin working something out:

“His agent said he wants to come to the surroundings and see the team, see the atmosphere,” [76ers GM Tony] DiLeo said. “He’s been very, very happy. His agent said he hasn’t seen him this happy in a long time.

“I think everything will work out. I think we’ll like Andrew and Andrew will like it here. At the appropriate time, we’ll do the negotiations.”

And what's not to like? Bynum gives Philly the closest thing it's had to a superstar in his prime since Allen Iverson, and Philly gives Bynum an opportunity to thrive and contend on a young team headed in the right direction.

But the 76ers' decision isn't quite as clear-cut as you might think.

For one thing, there is some business to attend to. Philadelphia can either lock Bynum up for three years by extending him in February (the earliest at which it can do so on account of his acquisition via trade), or it can wait until this summer and offer him a five-year deal in free agency.

Both scenarios come with their shares of risks and rewards.

Bynum would obviously cost less over the long term if he agrees to an extension prior to the offseason. Philadelphia would also avoid the most catastrophic outcome: being weighed down by an injury-riddled flop for five years.

On the other hand, waiting would give the organization a season's worth of time to observe Bynum, ensuring that he's a good fit with the roster and watching for any signs of knee problems that would seriously complicate an otherwise budding relationship.

There's an all-too-disturbing precedent for those knee problems, one that stunted Bynum's development in Los Angeles and could still threaten to derail a promising career.

It's enough of a concern that the seven-footer recently traveled to Germany for a procedure designed to reduce inflammation in his knees (a treatment similar to the one Kobe Bryant famously received in 2011).

The 76ers' front office may not be worried just yet, but that could change in a heartbeat.

Caution notwithstanding, Philadelphia really has no choice but to seal the deal with Bynum. Though it's not quite a matter of "settling," there's a compelling argument to be made that the franchise won't find another big man this good for a long time to come.

He scores, he rebounds, he defends—he's everything you'd want to build a roster around, so long as he's healthy of course. He's also one of the rare big men who's actually skilled and capable of getting his baskets via a wide array of post moves.

No, you don't pass up an opportunity like this one. There may be some red flags, but no important investment comes without the potential for disaster.

Let the finger-crossing begin.