Andrew Bynum Sweepstakes Have Officially Begun After Nerlens Noel Trade
Hey, NBA general managers! Listen up!
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Philadelphia 76ers have traded Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for Nerlens Noel's draft rights, a 2013 second-round pick and a 2014 first-rounder.
You know what that means, right? Aside from the Sixers' 2014 playoff odds plummeting toward diddly-squat territory, that is.
That's right! Andrew Bynum is available, and not just on OkCupid either.
...Don't all jump up at once, fellas.
Chances are, Philly won't want to keep two tonsorially curious bigs with bad knees on the roster at the same time. Bynum appeared to wear out his welcome in the City of Brotherly Love, even without playing a single minute for the Sixers last season.
Or, rather, because he didn't play a single minute for the Sixers last season.
New Philly general manager Sam Hinkie now appears to have his sights set on a full-scale rebuilding project in anticipation of what figures to be a loaded 2014 draft. He's parting ways with an incumbent All-Star at the point—to be replaced by Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th pick in the 2013 draft—and, at this rate, might as well see how the market feels about Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner.
All of which would suggest that the Sixers aren't about to spend beaucoup bucks to retain a center whose health and attitude are both highly questionable.
Not that Bynum wasn't going to have options to begin with. He'll be an unrestricted free agent come July 1. He'll be free to sign with any team eager enough to offer him a contract.
Which might those be?
It'd make sense if the list of potential Bynum suitors began with those squads (other than the Los Angeles Lakers) that are currently slated for the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. That means the Houston Rockets, the Dallas Mavericks and the Atlanta Hawks should be in play.
More specifically, those who inevitably lose out on Howard could look to Bynum as a cheaper fallback option. All three of those aforementioned teams will have ample cap room with which to sign Bynum to a short-term contract worth, say, $10 million or so per season.
The Hawks, though, appear ticketed for a fire sale of their own after years of treading water in the middle of the Eastern Conference. If that's the case, Atlanta probably wouldn't be so keen to sign a player who, when healthy, can be a strong stopgap option on a competitive club.
The Mavs, on the other hand, might be more amenable to such an arrangement. They loaded up on one- and two-year signees last summer after whiffing on Deron Williams and figure to find themselves in a similar position if/when Chris Paul and Dwight Howard turn down Dallas' overtures. Pairing Bynum with Dirk Nowitzki would give the Mavs a formidable frontcourt capable of carrying the team to the fringe of playoff contention.
At the very least, a healthy Bynum would be a noteworthy upgrade over Chris Kaman, whose 10.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season were hardly worth writing home about.
The Rockets could take a similar approach to Bynum if, for whatever reason, Howard doesn't wind up in Space City. Houston already has Omer Asik at center, though the towering Turk's presence wouldn't likely deter Rockets GM Daryl Morey from making a play for more talent at that spot.
So long as the price is right and the long-term risk is low.
Beyond those three, there are a handful of teams that will head into the summer with money to burn and space in the paint to fill. The Cleveland Cavaliers were in the mix to acquire Bynum from the Lakers last summer, but they ultimately opted against such a presumed acceleration of their own rebuilding process.
(Good thing, too, given how things turned out in Philly.)
Thing is, Anderson Varejao still calls Cleveland home, though his season-ending health concerns from 2012-13 could come into play.
If the Portland Trail Blazers part ways with J.J. Hickson, they'll have an opening to fill at center. Then again, Bynum's bad knees and the Blazers' tortured history with injury-prone bigs would seem a match made in some place far from heaven.
Which team would be the best fit for Andrew Bynum?
On the other end of that particular spectrum are the Phoenix Suns, whose training staff has managed to heal many a mangled NBA star. Just ask Steve Nash, Grant Hill and even Jermaine O'Neal, who himself had a bit of a resurgence in the Valley of the Sun in 2012-13.
If a team's immediate prospects for success are of little concern to Bynum, then why not listen to the Charlotte Bobcats? They've got money to burn and a tragic losing trend to turn around.
Except, the 'Cats already have two young frontcourt players in Bismack Biyombo and 2013 draftee Cody Zeller, who will need some of the minutes Bynum would inevitably soak up if they're to eventually develop into solid members of Steve Clifford's rotation.
The Milwaukee Bucks should have no such reservations, with Larry Sanders and John Henson as the only pivots of note on the roster at the moment.
But if there's one team that could sneak into the equation for landing Bynum and shock the NBA along the way, it's the San Antonio Spurs. Tiago Splitter will be a free agent and could command more years and far more money on the open market than the shrewd Spurs would probably prefer to give him. Bynum might cost San Antonio more per annum, but signing him to a shorter deal would minimize the team's long-term risk.
Of course, a head case like Bynum wouldn't seem a strong fit for the straight-laced Spurs. But Gregg Popovich has had success with players of 'Drew's ilk in the past, including Stephen Jackson before his most recent release.
And if the Spurs paired Bynum with a still viable Tim Duncan, they'd sport one of the most potent frontcourts in the NBA, even more so when considering Kawhi Leonard's exponential growth.
Even without Philly as a fit, Bynum will clearly have more than a few teams on his radar, and for good reason. He's still seven feet tall, with an offensive repertoire that ranks among the most effective and diverse at his position. If Bynum's healthy, he's an all-star-caliber talent who can get you 20 points and 10 rebounds on any given night.
Truth be told, the NBA's GMs didn't need any additional alert regarding Andrew Bynum's availability. Those with their eyes on him are well aware of what he is and what he can be.
What are they waiting for, then? Just the official start of free agency, it seems.
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