Best Place for an Andrew Bynum Revival: Cleveland, Dallas or Atlanta?
Andrew Bynum needs to do everything possible to convince the world his middle name is Lazarus.
He doesn't actually have a middle name, which makes the process easier, although rebounding from a missed season could still be quite difficult.
The talented seven-footer dominated during his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers, but then he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and spent a grand total of zero seconds on the floor in 2012-13.
Recurring knee injuries kept him in suits all season, cultivating his hairstyles rather than his talent on the basketball court.
Now Bynum is an unrestricted free agent hoping to revive his career, which some might consider dead.
He's a risky signing, one that delivers a lot of upside while fraught with quite a bit of risk. For that reason, teams are unlikely to give him anything more than a one- or two-year contract.
Three primary suitors have emerged in the race for Bynum's services. After all, he's the premier center in the free-agent pool after Dwight Howard agreed to sign with the Houston Rockets for a four-year max contract.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cleveland Cavaliers have offered Bynum a two-year deal worth $24 million, but it's filled with conditions:
Cleveland wants a team option on a second contract year to protect it against losing Bynum to 2014 free agency should his damaged knees heal enough to allow him to make a resurgence this season. The incentives of a possible Bynum contract could include minimal hurdles of completing training camp and reaching minutes and games-played plateaus in the regular season, league sources said.
ESPN's Marc Stein also reports that the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks, the other leading contenders for Bynum's services, are still meeting with the big man:
Andrew Bynum, to this point, has not canceled his other recruiting visits (ATL & DAL) scheduled for this week despite Cavs' serious interest— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 9, 2013
Let's break these three teams down in terms of which present Bynum with the best chance for a career revival.
3. Atlanta Hawks
None of these three teams present the seven-footer with a bad option, but one squad has to finish in last place.
Signing the big man would allow Atlanta to upgrade the frontcourt rather significantly, but it would make for a remarkably crowded rotation.
Al Horford has performed better at center than power forward throughout his career, and Paul Millsap has struggled at the 3. Bynum can only play the true center position, so he'd be forcing his two new teammates into less beneficial roles.
Take a look at their player efficiency ratings and PERs allowed at each position during their last healthy season (2011-12 for Bynum, 2012-13 for Horford and Millsap), courtesy of 82games.com:
|SF PER||SF PER against||PF PER||PF PER agains||C PER||C PER against|
You can throw out the Millsap numbers at center as a fluke created by small sample size. He played less than 1 percent of the available minutes at the 5 for the Jazz, and he's already undersized as a power forward.
But look at the rest of the numbers.
Millsap is better both offensively and defensively as a power forward than a small forward. Horford was actually a negative player when lining up at the 4, but he dominated at the 5. Bynum only played center.
Those positions simply aren't compatible with each other, as all three players need minutes starting.
That's something that the Hawks can't offer each of the standout big men, and Bynum will be the one to suffer here.
The Hawks would quickly realize that lineups using Bynum, Horford and Millsap together wouldn't work, especially on the defensive end, and Horford would have a major advantage over Bynum in the rotation.
He'd end up being the first big off the bench, playing around 20 to 25 minutes per game.
This might not be a bad thing for Bynum's knees, but it's not what he needs to showcase his talent in the hope of making his next contract a bigger one.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
At best, Bynum would become the No. 3 offensive option for the Cavs, trailing both Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters in the pecking order.
He's an upgrade over both Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao on the more glamorous end of the court, but that doesn't guarantee anything for a team that figures to get most of its scoring from the backcourt.
According to Hoopsstats.com, the Cavs backcourt scored 44.9 points per game, the eighth most in the Association during the 2012-13 season. And that was with Irving missing a large chunk of time and Waiters adjusting to the rigors of professional basketball.
That number will only trend upward next season, which would come at the expense of Bynum.
Just as was the case with the Hawks, minutes would be an issue as well.
The Cavs currently boast four frontcourt players who need minutes at either at power forward or center: Thompson, Varejao, Anthony Bennett and Tyler Zeller.
Zeller is the lowest priority of the bunch, but the rest will be almost guaranteed to have large roles.
Thompson improved dramatically during his second season in the NBA, particularly on offense while continuing to show off his offensive rebounding skills. Varejao is one of the more underrated bigs in the league, held back mostly by injuries. And Bennett, seeing as he was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft, needs to play.
Where exactly does Bynum fit in?
He's talented enough that he would earn a spot in the rotation, but only if he stayed healthy and kept a positive attitude that was conducive to winning basketball. Even then, it couldn't be too big. The only thing pushing the Cavs ahead of the Hawks is that, given the current makeup of the rosters, Cleveland looks to be more competitive.
There's one panacea in professional basketball: winning.
1. Dallas Mavericks
In order to have the most individual success, the big man who last played with the Los Angeles Lakers needs to be given consistent playing time, line up next to a power forward who can space the court to give him time to operate on the blocks and have a point guard capable of making plays for him.
The Mavs present him with check marks for all three criteria.
Right now, there's a gaping void at center in Dallas. Brandan Wright, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand all hit the open market this summer, leaving the Mavericks with Bernard James currently set up to be the starting center.
The 28-year-old big man was a capable backup during his rookie season, looking good in limited action, but he gave few signs of having elite upside.
Bynum would immediately be able to steal as many minutes as he could handle, and that's the first key to success.
As for a power forward who can space the court, how many players are better at doing so than Dirk Nowitzki? Even as Father Time continues his assault on Dirk's effectiveness, his one-legged flamingo fadeaway remains one of the most deadly shots in the NBA.
Defenses can't afford to leave Dirk open on the perimeter, which would inevitably free up space for Bynum as he goes to work with his back to the basket.
Finally, Jose Calderon's presence in the Dallas backcourt gives the franchise a point guard capable of making plays for everyone on the court.
The Spaniard may not play with the same glamorous style employed by other great distributors like Rajon Rondo or Ricky Rubio, but his vision is nearly unmatched.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Calderon finished fifth in assist percentage during the 2012-13 season, including both his time with the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors. His mark of 39.8 percent left him trailing only Chris Paul, Greivis Vasquez, John Wall and Tony Parker.
Where should Andrew Bynum sign?
Everything is set up for Bynum to thrive in Dallas, but there are a number of other factors that will directly impact his level of success.
Will Bynum's knees hold up? Is his mental game strong enough for a full career revival? Is he mature enough to thrive in a new location? Will he retain the skills he had before his injury?
Questions still abound, but they're of the universal variety. They don't disappear if he chooses one location over the other.
Signing on with the Mavericks gives him the best chance to answer them all in positive fashion.
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