NBA Injury News: Andrew Bynum's Recovery Date Rekindles Sixers' Playoff Hopes

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2013

Oct 01, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum (33) poses for a photo during media day at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With the imminent return of Andrew Bynum, the Philadelphia 76ers are gearing up for a playoff run.

The team and player are both looking to the All-Star break as his projected return date (h/t ESPN). Bynum has of course failed to play a minute this season with injuries to his knees.

Philadelphia was banking heavily on him this year, and so far it's been a big disappointment. As a result, the 76ers sit four games off the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

When Bynum does come back, the Sixers are going to be a much improved basketball squad. They lack a low-post presence, and it's created one of the biggest weaknesses on the team.

Spencer Hawes isn't a bad player, but he doesn't offer much on the offensive end of the court. Bynum has averaged 11.7 points a game for his career, but he was averaging almost 19 last year.

The 76ers have also been getting killed on the boards in 2012-13. The team's 41.2 rebounds a game rank only 23rd in the league. On average, Philadelphia is getting out-rebounded by almost three boards a game.

Bynum has averaged almost eight rebounds a game over his career and twice has averaged a double-double for a season.

The one problem area that he likely won't help in is on defense. Trading away Andre Iguodala has really hurt the 76ers. Last year, they ranked third in opposition scoring. This year, they are down to 15th.

The injured center wasn't exactly known for his defense, but his contributions in other areas will counteract that.

In Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner, the team has a good core of players. However, the 76ers lack that star player who can take over a game.

Bynum may not be the most consistent player, but when he's on, he shows flashes of the kind of player who can be among the best in the league.

Centers aren't as vital as they once were. You don't see the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish and others anymore.

On the other hand, the few teams that do have a true, dominant center are at a major advantage because they force the opposition to stop that big man.

That's what the 76ers will have if Bynum can come back strong. Few players in the league can truly match up with him.