The Dallas Mavericks were one of a few teams in pursuit of center Dwight Howard, but now that D12 has decided to sign with the Houston Rockets, the Mavs must move on to Plan B. That plan may involve injury-prone center Andrew Bynum, which would be a shrewd maneuver on Dallas' part.
According to SportsCenter, the Mavericks are reportedly pursuing Bynum with caution as they attempt to improve their team after failing to make the playoffs this past season.
There is no denying the 25-year-old big man's talent level, but he would clearly be a huge risk for the Mavericks. Dallas may not have much time left to contend as power forward Dirk Nowitzki is 35 years of age, so the Mavs need to add players who can contribute immediately and elevate the team as a whole.
When Bynum is healthy, he is definitely capable of doing that. He had a career year two seasons ago with the Los Angeles Lakers as he averaged nearly 19 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per game. He put up similar numbers during the postseason as well, so Bynum can play a starring role on the big stage.
The biggest question mark surrounding Bynum has always been his ability to stay on the court. Bynum has only been able to make it through a full season once over the course of his career and he has never done it as a starter. If the Mavericks sign him, they will be banking on him being able to play the vast majority of the games next year and in the future.
This past season was especially tough for Bynum, who didn't appear in a single game. Bynum was part of the four-team deal that sent Howard to the Lakers last offseason. Bynum ended up with the Philadelphia 76ers and was viewed as a potential long-term superstar for the franchise, but his balky knees kept him on the shelf.
It remains to be seen when or if Bynum will be able to return to game action, but he is instantly one of the best centers in basketball when he plays at anything resembling full strength. It can very easily be argued that Bynum is the NBA's No. 2 center behind Howard, so a team like the Mavericks could have a steal on their hands if he works through his injury problems.
A healthy Bynum would be in line for a max contract, but that certainly won't be the case with Bynum in his current state. The Mavericks could conceivably get him at a discounted price, which might ultimately be better for them than investing in Howard would have.
Howard is a much safer commodity than Bynum, but he has had some injury concerns over the past two seasons as well. The fact that he is going to be paid so much for so long makes his injury history even more disconcerting. At least the Mavericks would pretty much know what they're signing up for in Bynum's case.
The Mavericks are now in a position where they essentially need to either roll the dice with Bynum or resign themselves to being an average team at best during the upcoming season and wasting one of Nowitzki's final years. Since owner Mark Cuban fancies having a perennial winner, it seems quite likely that he will go with the former scenario in hopes that Bynum gets healthy and returns to his 2011-12 form.
If that happens, Bynum could possibly revitalize Nowitzki and form one of the best interior combos in the NBA. The Mavs' backcourt is a bit shaky at this point, but Bynum and Dirk would keep them competitive on most nights.
Also, while it's tough to look at the big picture with Bynum's health the way it is, he is only 25 years old. That means he could be a long-term answer for Dallas even after Nowitzki decides to retire. The Mavs seemed to put most of their eggs in the Howard basket, so their options have sudden become very limited.
Gambling on Bynum's knees may ultimately be a losing venture for the Mavericks, but some team is bound to do it and it might as well be them considering the current state of the team.
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