NBA Teams in Danger of an Andrew Bynum Scenario
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When it comes to Andrew Bynum, the Philadelphia 76ers have been found guilty of putting all of their eggs into one basket.
In fact, they serve as the perfect precautionary tale for GMs around the league: Don’t bank your franchise’s success entirely on one player.
It wasn’t supposed to go down this way.
After receiving Bynum and Jason Richardson in a four-team deal, the 76ers were considered one of the winners of a deal that shook up the entire landscape of the NBA.
Although the price tag was certainly high—giving up Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and a future first-round pick—the Philadelphia front office believed it was receiving one of the top two centers in the league with Bynum.
Seven months later, the 25-year-old is still yet to suit up for the 76ers. Something that won’t happen anytime this season, or likely at all, after it was announced that Bynum will undergo season-ending surgery. (via CBS Sports’ Ken Berger)
With Bynum set to become a free agent over the summer, it’s safe to say that Philadelphia’s gamble was a bust.
However, there’s no harm in having one player who single-handedly makes his team better. Heck, pretty much all 30 teams in the league have such a player.
But if that team’s success relies solely on that specific player, that’s when a problem arises.
That’s where the 76ers went wrong.
Surprisingly, they aren't alone in their offense.
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose
Without Rose, Chicago is a middle-of-the-pack team at best.
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Last season, the Chicago Bulls entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They were tied for the best record in the league at 50-16 and had a clear road to the conference finals and a possible showdown with the Miami Heat.
Six games later, they were sent packing by the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
The cause? Derrick Rose tearing his ACL during the closing minutes of Game 1.
However, given the Bulls’ performance throughout the regular season, it should not have come as much of a surprise.
In the 1,375 minutes Rose was on the court, Chicago shot 46.8 percent from the floor and averaged 100.4 points per game. The team also registered an offensive rating of 107.6 and a pace of 93.2.
In the 1,813 minutes Rose was off the court, the Bulls shot just 43.9 percent from the field and averaged only 92.2 points per game. They also posted an offensive rating of 102.1 and a pace of 90.7.
There’s a reason the 24-year-old was named the league MVP during the 2010-11 season.
While averaging 21.8 points, 7.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game, Rose made Chicago a better team with him on the court last season. His dribble drive and crossover demanded the attention of more than one defender, often opening up teammates for easy baskets. Not to mention, no one else in the NBA spaces the floor quite as well as Rose.
So it comes as no surprise that the Bulls' offensive drop-off has continued throughout this season as well.
Through 66 games, Chicago has struggled tremendously on offense, shooting just 43.5 percent from the floor and 33.9 percent from beyond the arc. The team also averages 92.4 points per game—the lowest total in the league.
According to ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell, Rose is still unsure about when he will return, leaving the Bulls in a bind.
As Chicago native Kanye West put it, “No one man should have all that power.”
The Bulls better take note.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving
Irving is single-handedly carrying the Cavaliers back to relevance.
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Pepsi Max’s marketing campaign would be nothing without the services of Kyrie Irving.
Likewise, without Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers would surely be battling the Charlotte Bobcats for the worst record in the league.
And to think, we’re talking about a 20-year-old here.
Through 49 games this season, Irving has more than lived up to the hype. He’s averaging 23 points, 5.7 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals over 35.1 minutes per game. Irving is also shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from three-point range.
He’s done it all, and the Cavaliers have lived and died by the youngster.
In the 1,721 minutes Irving has been on the court, Cleveland is shooting 44.3 percent from the floor while averaging 100.4 points per game. It also has an offensive rating of 103.2 and a pace of 96.9.
In the 1,457 minutes Irving has been off the court, the Cavaliers are shooting 42.5 percent from the field while averaging just 93.7 points per game. They also posted an offensive rating of 100.1 and a pace of 92.8.
Not to mention, Cleveland is 5-12 without Irving this season and 9-23 over the past two years.
Irving gives the Cavaliers a chance to win against every opponent, regardless of record. In fact, the team has already posted 10 victories over plus-.500 teams this season—the first time Cleveland has accomplished the feat since 2009-10.
Slowly but surely, Irving is helping the Cavaliers faithful forget LeBron James.
Ironically enough, he might even be the key to drawing James back to Cleveland in 2014.
But that’s a subject for another time.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Love
Minnesota has plummeted to obscurity without Love in the lineup.
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After 29 games, the Minnesota Timberwolves were a surprising 15-14.
Although marred with injuries—including those to Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio—the Timberwolves still found ways to win games. It left fans wondering just how good the squad could be with both players on the court consistently. Some even dared to fantasize about the team’s first playoff appearance since 2004.
However, all good dreams must come to an end.
On January 3, Love re-fractured his shooting hand and was in need of surgery. He was expected to miss an additional eight to 10 weeks of playing time. (via Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears)
Since then, the Timberwolves have won just eight of 35 games.
The fact that Love, who was in the midst of one of his worst statistical seasons, could have such a negative effect on the team was surprising.
In 18 games, Love averaged 18.3 points and 14 rebounds over 34.3 minutes per game. However, he was shooting just 35.2 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from distance—both career lows.
Regardless, Love’s absence has clearly been tough on the team.
In the 618 minutes he’s been on the court, Minnesota has averaged 97.6 points, 49.3 rebounds, 18.4 second-chance points and 47.1 points in the paint per game. It also registered an offensive rating of 100.1 and a defensive rating of 101.8.
In the 2,464 minutes Love has been off the court, the Timberwolves have averaged 93.5 points, 40.7 rebounds, 13.9 second-chance points and 39.1 points in the paint per game. They have also posted an offensive rating of 99.2 and a defensive rating of 103.4.
Even though Love’s injury has caused him to misfire on the offensive end of the court, his rebounding prowess has remained intact. He ranked second in the league in this category before his injury.
Unfortunately, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda, Love has hinted that there is a possibility he might miss the remainder of the season.
It does not help that Minnesota has dealt with injuries all season long. At times, it got so bad that the team could only dress eight or nine players despite having a full 15-man roster. The Timberwolves were granted an NBA hardship exception for a 16th roster spot not once, but twice this season.
If only Minnesota had taken the wait-and-see approach with his injury the first time around. Then, just maybe, Love could help the team weather the storm that has slowly picked them apart one by one.
Oh, well. There’s always next season.
Houston Rockets: James Harden
Harden's improvement on both offense and defense has helped propel the Rockets into the playoff picture.
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In just one season, James Harden has gone from NBA Sixth Man of the Year to MVP candidate.
The last player to have such a surprising rise to success is actually his current Houston Rockets teammate Jeremy Lin.
Over his first three seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden averaged 12.9 points per game. In 65 games with the Rockets, he’s raised his average to 26.3 points a night. It’s a mark that has Harden ranked fifth in the league.
While he was a key piece of the team during his tenure with the Thunder, Harden is the glue that’s holding everything together in Houston.
Luckily, with Harden averaging 38.5 minutes per game, the Rockets don’t need to worry about spending too much time without their All-Star guard.
In 2,503 minutes with Harden on the court, Houston has shot 46.6 percent from the floor while averaging 107.3 points per game. The team has also posted an offensive rating of 107.6 and a pace of 99.4.
In 728 minutes without Harden on the court, the Rockets have shot 45.2 percent from the field while averaging 101.3 points per game. They have also registered an offensive rating of 105.2 and a pace of 96.7.
Backed by Harden’s firepower, Houston has averaged 106.5 points per game—the second-highest mark in the league.
But his scoring is not his only improvement. On the season, Harden has averaged 1.9 steals per game. It’s a big reason the Rockets average 19.5 fast-break points per game with him in the lineup compared to the 14.4 per game they average when he’s not.
The two games Harden missed this year, Houston lost both times.
Who knows where the team would be had it been more than that?
Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul
Without Paul, the Clippers might still be living in the shadow of the Lakers in Los Angeles.
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Is there another team that has been featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays countdown more than the Los Angeles Clippers?
Whether it’s Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers have made the alley-oop seem more routine than a bounce pass. It’s also earned them the nickname “Lob City.”
But what would Lob City be without Chris Paul—the man responsible for the majority of those lobs?
According to the numbers, not much of anything.
In 1,815 minutes with Paul on the court, Los Angeles has shot 48.8 percent from the floor while averaging 105.7 points and 25.6 assists per game. The team has also posted an offensive rating of 111.7.
In 1,406 minutes without Paul on the court, the Clippers have shot 46.1 percent from the floor while averaging just 94 points and 21.1 assists per game. They have also registered an offensive rating of 100.7.
That’s a significant drop-off in the numbers between the two circumstances.
But it’s to be expected when you consider a player of Paul’s talents and abilities.
Through 55 games this season, the 27-year-old is averaging 16.6 points, 9.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals over 33 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 48.3 percent from the floor. Paul leads the league in both assists and steals.
When you think of a floor general, Paul is the first player that comes to mind. He helps space the floor and makes all of his teammates better.
But most of all, he’s been the spark plug behind the excitement that has made Los Angeles one of the most fun teams to watch.
Without him, the Clippers would still be good.
But an NBA title contender? Not a chance.
All stats used in this article are from NBA.com’s Media Central