Injury-Prone Andrew Bynum Proving He's Not Franchise Star for Philadelphia 76ers

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2012

Oct 17, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum (33) (in street cloths) sits next to center Dan Gadzuric (14) at the end of the bench during the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Wachovia Center. The Sixers defeated the Cavaliers 113-99. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

There's a reason why the Los Angeles Lakers traded Andrew Bynum.

It's easy to assume that it had more to do with acquiring Dwight Howard than anything else, yet that's exactly the point.

Why were the Lakers so keen on sending Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers in order to land Howard's services? Was it the numbers?

To an extent yes, but Bynum and Howard's per-36 minute averages actually stacked up quite nicely last season. Bynum posted 19.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and two blocks per-36, while Howard notched 19.4, 13.7 and two respectively.

So while Howard's numbers were undeniably better, it was not by much. That should have meant even less considering he was recovering from back surgery and Bynum was fresh off his first All-Star season that saw him miss only six games.

But the Lakers traded Bynum anyway, and one team's borderline reject became another franchise's star in Philadelphia.

Except that Bynum isn't a franchise star with the Sixers, for the same reason he wasn't next in line behind Kobe Bryant with the Lakers—he's not durable enough.

Howard's back certainly concerned Los Angeles. However, until 2011-12, Howard had missed just seven regular-season games; and appeared in all 82, five out of the seven years he was in the league.

Bynum could not say the same. Through his first seven years at the NBA level, he had sat out of 138 games, and appeared in all 82 just once. That's hardly durable.

And it's a tell-tale sign of what's to come with Bynum. We've seen how knee injuries, especially reoccurring ones, can derail a career.

Just look at Amar'e Stoudemire. Or take a gander at the path Eric Gordon is currently traveling with the New Orleans Hornets.

The Sixers themselves don't have to look any farther than Elton Brand of the Dallas Mavericks either, whose injuries prevented him from meeting expectations after Philly signed him to a lucrative contract.

Now there's Bynum, who the Sixers—as Brian Windhorst of notes—mortgaged everything on despite knowing full well there was an ample amount of risk involved:

The big decision, though, might not be as much Bynum's as the Sixers'. After trading Iguodala, draft picks and two promising young players -- Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless -- the team is now invested in Bynum. That was not a one-year rental price, nor do the Sixers want a rental. They want a franchise player. So if they don't lock him up long term, the trade will not have made much sense.

But with Bynum's ongoing knee issues, that's not a simple decision -- even if he proves to be the game-changer the Sixers believe they've landed.

The issue was never whether Bynum could match Howard's production. Despite fluctuating career numbers, he had always been a two-way force; he was someone with the potential to be the face of a franchise.

He was someone who could lead a team like the Sixers back to prominence.

When he was healthy.

But barely an entire year went by that he was healthy, rendering Bynum a vat of disappointment.

That's why the Lakers relinquished him in favor of Howard. Not because he was inconsistent and not because it took him seven years to make an All-Star team. 

It was because he wasn't durable enough to carry the franchise once Bryant hung up his kicks. Even though such a reality was up to six years away, Los Angeles knew he wasn't a franchise star and that he would never be healthy enough to be the foundation of a contender. 

And now, after a slew of setbacks and an abundance of uncertainty, Philadelphia knows too.