How Dwight Howard Decision Will Affect Andrew Bynum's Future

Ciaran GowanContributor IIIJuly 5, 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

Dwight Howard is undoubtedly the biggest name out on the free-agent market, but Andrew Bynum isn't a bad runner-up prize for the teams who've gone out of their way to create space for D12.

After missing every game of the 2012-13 season, Bynum hasn't been getting too much attention in free agency, despite the fact he was playing like an elite center the last time we saw him in action.

Even the Philadelphia 76ers have moved away from the man they traded for a year ago, choosing to go with Nerlens Noel instead, despite all they did to bring Bynum to town.

The lack of attention is certainly understandable considering the injury and attitude questions, but once Howard makes his decision, many of the losing contenders for his signature will likely try to make a move for Bynum.

According to Brett Poirier, the Dallas Mavericks have already been in contact with Bynum, keeping him on their radar in the event that Howard signs elsewhere:

The Mavs are a perfect example of the team that has given up a lot (like, say, the majority of their title-winning team in 2011) for a shot at Howard, and they can't afford to walk out of free agency with nothing to show for it, even if they have to settle for Plan B.

Alex Kennedey reports, however, that they aren't the only team who've shown an interest in Bynum, being joined by fellow Dwight contenders, the Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets:

Atlanta has been playing Al Horford at center for long enough now, and even if they miss out on Howard, they'll be trying to move him to power forward. While he's an injury risk, signing Bynum would certainly afford them that opportunity.

Meanwhile, the Rockets may not feel such a big need to go after Bynum with Omer Asik at center, especially considering how impressive he was in terms of rebounding and defense last season. Giving that up for Howard is one thing, but giving that up for Bynum could end up a huge mistake.

Generally speaking, though, Bynum would not be a terrible alternative to Howard when healthy. He averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 2011-12, and actually made the debate over who the league's best center was pretty interesting. You could certainly argue that he has a better post game.

The Golden State Warriors have started to make a big push in the Dwight Sweepstakes, but like the Rockets, what they already have in place at center could be too good to take a risk on Bynum for.

It sounds crazy (it kinda is), but if the Lakers lose Howard, they could push the rewind button and go after Bynum themselves. It would likely involve using the amnesty provision on Metta World Peace and possibly pulling off a sign-and-trade, but it could work. After all, there was a time when he was considered the future of the franchise.

Another thing worth noting is the asking price for the two players. The teams going after Howard have cleared space for max money, but considering the disaster of a non-season he just had, Bynum surely won't get anything near that.

That will afford the opportunity for a team to pick up Bynum and sign another big contract on top of that, or use the remaining cap space to build a solid supporting cast around him.

Bynum's lower asking price does open him up to other teams, though, so his future won't necessarily be completely dictated by Howard's decision.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have expressed an interest in Bynum, and they have the cap space to offer him a reasonable contract, even if they don't quite have the money to go after D12.

For a team like Cleveland, which isn't necessarily a playoff side but does have a lot of talent, signing Bynum could be pivotal. If it pans out, it could push them over the edge, but if not a long-term deal could cripple a franchise moving forward. It may be a worthwhile risk for the chance to strike gold at the league's shallowest position.

Having decided to join the Charlotte Bobcats, Al Jefferson didn't let Dwight Howard dictate his future, and got a pretty good pay day out of it, which just shows the premium the league puts on big men (although that's not to say Jefferson isn't a great player).

Jefferson's three-year, $41 million contract is definitely nice, but because of the risk, Bynum may have to wait until teams get desperate before he sees that kind of money.

Ultimately, Bynum is more than likely to wait until Howard has made his decision to choose his own fate. It just makes sense on a personal level, because he could cash in on a team with plenty of cap space and little choice but to take a flyer on him.