With all the attention given to the Detroit Pistons' rookie phenom Andre Drummond, it's no surprise that Will Bynum has flown under the radar this season. The career backup isn't a household name, but if he continues his current level of play he might be.
Over the past month Bynum has been an absolute force off the bench, and if that continues he'll have a shot at the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award.
On the season Bynum's numbers don't compare to leading sixth-man award candidates Jamal Crawford or J.R. Smith, but the Pistons were in disarray early in the year. Head coach Lawrence Frank was tinkering with the lineup and every Pistons player started out slowly.
They now appear to be hitting their stride, and it's no coincidence Bynum has played the best basketball of his career during that time.
Since December 21, he averaged 13.7 points and 4.7 assists per game while shooting over .450 from the field. Those numbers are definitely comparable to Crawford's and Smith's.
More importantly, the Pistons were 8-4 during that time. That is playoff-level basketball, but if the they hope to overcome their dreadful start they'll have to continue that torrid pace.
As long as Bynum keeps producing they'll have a good chance.
It's quite a turnaround, though. At this time last year Bynum was buried so far on coach Frank's bench he was asking Vernon Macklin for advice on how to get in the game. What a difference a year makes.
As of late, he's been the guy Frank turns to in crunch time while more heralded players like Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight sit and watch.
His performance has given the coach little choice. He's played at a high level when he's team has needed him the most—with the game on the line.
Until he caught fire the Pistons repeatedly allowed teams to chip away at early-game leads and ultimately lost games in the fourth quarter.
Bynum has been at his best in the second half, and that's why the Pistons' winning percentage has improved.
Take for instance his 25-point, 10-assist performance against the Miami Heat on December 28. He abused Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers and had 13 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Pistons to victory.
It's not just his clutch play, either. He's dramatically improved his shooting from behind the arc and has the same amount of turnovers per game this season as last season despite seeing over three minutes more playing time.
He's also played a big role in Drummond's "arrival." They play extremely well together, and at least once a game the Pistons rookie converts a Bynum lob into a thunderous dunk.
It's quickly becoming a force of nature on par with the Stockton-to-Malone pick-and-roll.
While their chemistry is enjoyable to watch, it's ultimately meaningless if Bynum regresses back to his early-season level of play.
If that happens, his month-long hot streak will be forgotten and his chance at the Sixth Man of the Year award—along with the Pistons' playoff hopes—will likely vanish.