5 NBA Teams That Must Gamble on Andrew Bynum's Health in 2013 Offseason
With Bynum suffering yet another setback in his road (cross-country journey?) to recovery, concern regarding his future in the league is mounting.
Upon being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, it was assumed that Bynum, an unrestricted free agent this summer, would re-sign with Philly. A smattering of other offers would roll in during free agency, but the Sixers could and would offer him one year and tens of millions of dollars more than anyone else.
Irony has since reared its ugly head and the Sixers have been left with a supposed superstar who hasn't seen a second of court time this season, at the expense of three key assets (Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic), no less.
As if that wasn't enough, Philadelphia is now tasked with making a potentially lucrative financial decision on a player who may not even play at all this year. Do the Sixers gamble on Bynum yet again and re-sign him, or do they let him walk, take the cap space his departure provides and run? And if they do that, will any other teams be waiting in line, checkbooks open, ready to take the plunge that is getting in bed with Bynum?
At 25 going on 26, standing seven feet tall and with the remnants of his first All-Star selection still attached to his hip, it's safe to assume more than one faction will pursue Bynum.
But which ones can? And which ones subsequently should?
Financial ventures have never been more perilous than they are now, but there are still plenty of convocations with the means, motive and justification behind gambling on Bynum.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82Games.com unless otherwise noted
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
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The Cleveland Cavaliers are already linked to two injury-ridden bigs in Anderson Varejao and Greg Oden, and adding another one isn't going to hurt—especially if Andrew Bynum isn't.
Cleveland has just $32.5 million on the books after this season, leaving the team with more than enough room to sign the big man to a max-sized deal.
Kyrie Irving and company currently rank 25th in rebounds (40.8) and points allowed (101.1) per game, and genuinely need the defensive post presence that Bynum is capable of providing.
Admittedly, running an aggregate that consists of both he and Varejao is a bit redundant. That said, Varejao—provided he is able to play next season—is a talent that would be easy to move. Like really easy.
Why take the risk?
Well, could you imagine a healthy Bynum and Irving on the same team? LeBron James' return to Cleveland would be a mere formality. Alright, "formality" is a bit strong, but Cleveland would no doubt be a more enticing destination.
Of course, this plan could backfire and the Cavs could wind up housing an unfit-for-duty Bynum. And that risk alone, with lofty expectations in 2014, makes this a long shot.
It does not, however, make it any less intriguing.
4. Houston Rockets
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Andrew Bynum to the Houston Rockets isn't as farfetched a scenario as some would postulate.
Per Howard Eskin of Fox 29 TV in Philadelphia, the Rockets are among the teams that are prepared to offer Bynum a contract this summer.
Houston's pursuit depends on any number of things ranging from Dwight Howard's free-agency plans to its use of Omer Asik (bench or trade?). With just $38 million in payroll next season, however, the Rockets do have the means to gamble on Bynum if they so choose.
Why would they choose?
Not only would Bynum be a valued commodity for a team that relinquishes the second most points per game of any team in the NBA (103.7), but he would also compress defenses the way Asik just doesn't.
Though Asik's touch around the rim has improved, Bynum is an actual back-to-the-basket threat. He forces double-teams and would open the perimeter up for shooters like James Harden and Chandler Parsons, and lanes for penetrators like Lin (and Harden).
A healthy Bynum would also open things up for Thomas Robinson. He would become but an afterthought in the paint.
Like the Cavaliers, I see this one as a long shot. Asik has proved to be a double-double machine and the Rockets may be best served going after a stretch 4-like post presence such as Paul Millsap or Josh Smith, who would do much of the same.
Still, if Philly folds on Bynum, the Rockets—any trepidation be damned—are a legitimate candidate to pick him up.
3. Charlotte Bobcats
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Because hey, how much worse could it really get?
If you're Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats, you're steamed that Bismack Biyombo hasn't panned out the way you thought he would. You're infuriated that you missed out on Anthony Davis. And you're exasperated that Nerlens Noel's potential is now shrouded in (at least a little bit) of ambivalence.
You should also be intrigued at the prospect of adding Andrew Bynum.
Charlotte has just $40 million on the books heading into 2013-14, giving the Jordan-owned 'Cats more than enough room to make a pitch to Bynum.
Much of Charlotte's pursuit would hinge on Bynum's willingness to join a bottom-feeder, but if the market is stale (unlikely) or the Bobcats are willing to pay him more (maybe), they could become a major player.
It's not just that the Bobcats are 28th in points allowed (102.7), 27th in points allowed in the paint (44.6) and 26th in rebounds (40.8). It's that they need a star to build around because Kemba Walker just isn't going to cut it.
Bynum (when healthy) gives them an dominant center. As the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers, among others, know only too well, a demonstrative big man can go a long way. To the playoffs (finals?), even.
So, with the Bobcats, they're one of those teams where there isn't even a question. They're not headed anywhere special right now and adding Bynum to complement Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would give them a balanced attack on both ends of the floor.
Far more balanced than the one they're running now, anyway.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
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Jrue Holiday hasn't made Andrew Bynum expendable, but he has emerged as a building block the Sixers thought they had in the big man.
I won't chide Philly for re-signing Bynum if it chooses. I totally get it. Can the Sixers really live with knowing they let Andre Iguodala and Nikola "Dwight Howard who, Orlando?" Vucevic go for nothing?
Maybe not. But maybe they could.
If the Sixers let Bynum walk, they'll have just $46 million in salary commitments heading into next season. That gives them (depending on the salary cap) between $12 and $14 million to make something happen.
A few won't think this is possible, but the Sixers are already seventh in points allowed per game (95.8), so one could make the case that they need offense more than anything. Plus, having extra money is always better than spending large sums of it on players who don't, you know, play.
With that in mind, it would be difficult for Philadelphia to recover moving forward. The Sixers mortgaged both their immediate well-being and future livelihood on Bynum, and letting him walk away for nothing would add further insult to a badly assaulted situation.
Philly saw something in Bynum—Doug Collins included; otherwise the trigger on that deal wouldn't have been pulled.
If the Sixers truly thought that highly of Bynum to begin with, gambling on him one more time may prove to be a necessity.
1. Dallas Mavericks
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I'm. Not. Kidding.
If the Dallas Mavericks wish to make the most of Dirk Nowitzki's last few years while preserving (instilling?) hope for the future, they need someone to build around.
Paging Andrew Bynum.
Dallas has $48 million slated in payroll next season, so some cap-maneuvering is needed, but Mark Cuban has the ability (and cahunas) necessary to put the Mavericks in play.
Bynum would prove to be an expensive risk, but he would instantly help rejuvenate a defensive attack that is allowing the 27th-most points (102) in the league. He would also give them the post presence that Chris Kaman just isn't, and would compress defenses to the point that Dirk and company should get a lot of open looks on the perimeter.
Should Cuban's plan become one that consists of unloading Nowitzki and rebuilding from scratch (it won't), then pursuing a talent of Bynum's caliber (both tumultuous and prolific) isn't as imperative.
Knowing that the Mavericks are hoping to pair Dirk with another star, though, Bynum's name needs to be tossed around. He will prove to be a much more realistic get than Dwight Howard.
And if all goes well, he'll prove just as valuable to their future as Howard would, too.