Andrew Bynum will enter the 2013-14 campaign having sat out all of last season with injuries to both knees.
The keys for Bynum to bounce back and make an impact for the Cleveland Cavaliers this year range from his eventual shot selection once he takes the floor to how he continues to approach his rehab work.
These factors for Bynum's success also highlight how expectations and minutes must be managed along with the role his teammates could have on his overall production.
Each of these keys are listed in order of most essential to least critical in determining Bynum's ultimate ability to bounce back this season specifically.
The primary key to Andrew Bynum bouncing back with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013-14 is as obvious as it is necessary. Ultimately, that success will be determined by the health of the former All-Star's knees.
Bynum has been medically cleared for basketball activities after undergoing bilateral arthroscopic surgery on both knees in March.
The Associated Press reported that Bynum began taking part in full-court drills, but a timetable has not been set for his return to full-contact practices. After sitting out all of last season as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, the last time Bynum appeared in an NBA game was May 21, 2012.
According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Cavaliers front office is "privately raving about how hard Bynum has worked." That work will need to continue throughout the year in order for a successful return to materialize this season.
Andrew Bynum must continue to approach his rehab process as if his NBA career depends on it. He cannot afford to take any days off if he hopes to make an impact in 2013-14.
While following the Cavaliers training staff's protocol, Bynum must put forth maximum effort in every session.
From his daily diet to the miles he's asked run on the treadmill and everything else in between, Bynum must execute the game plan off the court to the best of his ability.
If he's content with the dollars he's earned so far, or confident that another opportunity will present itself next summer, he will fail to put himself in the best position possible to succeed.
If Andrew Bynum is eventually able to appear in 50 games for the Cavaliers this season, that should be viewed as a success.
During that stretch, if he is able average 12 points and nine rebounds while making an impact defensively, than Cavs fans should be elated.
Hoping for, or asking Bynum, to regain his All-Star form of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds this season is setting the 25-year-old center up for failure. The overall goal should simply be that Bynum is playing his best basketball on a consistent basis at the end of the year while helping Cleveland secure a playoff berth.
Expecting anything more than that after missing an entire season could do Bynum and the Cavs more harm than good.
Like a young prodigy in baseball who enters the majors on a hard pitch count, Bynum’s minutes must be managed on a hard count this season as well.
Whenever he does return to live action, Bynum shouldn’t be expected to play longer than 20 minutes per night for at least his first month back in the lineup.
Depending on how his body responds, coach Mike Brown could extend those minutes from there. After the All-Star break, maybe those minutes are bumped up to 25 before eventually maxing out around 30.
Expecting the big man to play any longer than that on a nightly basis, however—even after he begins to regain his old form—could result in struggles to stay on the court long term.
The better Cleveland's frontcourt collectively performs during the 2013-14 campaign, the better Bynum’s chances are of having a bounce-back season.
The production from Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Tyler Zeller could work to not only help Bynum make competitive strides in practice, but also to minimize the need for his early return.
How productive Varejao is able to be after returning from missing all but 25 games a year ago with complications from a blood clot will be ultimately critical. It will also be important for the 6’9” Thompson to provide valuable minutes as an undersized center in Bynum's place.
But if this group is able to make a significant impact—which also includes contributions from Zeller and an impressive debut from the rookie Bennett—Bynum will be first aided by having the time he needs to make an effective return.
From there, the talent that could surround him on the floor up front only projects to make Bynum more successful.
The area of Bynum's game where he could make the biggest impact the soonest is on the defensive end of the floor.
Besides Anderson Varejao and Earl Clark, Bynum is the only other player on the Cavaliers roster to have ever been exposed to a Mike Brown system defensively.
While Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and others will need time to learn and execute Brown's philosophies, Bynum should be able to hit the ground running in that respect.
He could immediately provide leadership on the defensive end by understanding rotations and putting himself in the proper position to defend the rim consistently. When help-side defenders funnel shooters in his direction, his seven-foot frame will naturally create an impediment to the goal.
The offensive output Bynum is eventually capable of can come later as his health continues to build.
From an offensive perspective, Bynum's first goal must be to develop a working chemistry with Kyrie Irving in the pick-and-roll.
When he is eventually at full strength, Bynum could pair with Irving to form one of the most deadly pick-and-roll combinations in the league. But this chemistry could begin to develop even while Bynum is sidelined.
During training camp and throughout the preseason, Bynum would be well-served by studying Irving's game up close and understanding how he can help his fellow All-Star be most effective.
Whether it's eventually on a hard roll to the basket or slipping the screen at the top of the key, Bynum could help make defending Irving in that situation an ongoing nightmare for the opposition.
Pairing Andrew Bynum with a power forward willing to do the dirty work in 2013-14 will maximize his on-court production for the Cavaliers.
Fortunately for Cleveland, Tristan Thompson is a young, energetic big who fits this description.
With Thompson assuming the responsibility of diving for loose balls, taking charges and crashing the glass consistently, Bynum won't be required to take as many hits as he might have to otherwise.
Managing the impact and banging that would result will help extend Bynum's minutes throughout the year.
Besides Thompson, Anderson Varejao is another big who has embodied this style of play throughout his career. He also projects to be a quality fit alongside Bynum for this reason, along with the rookie Anthony Bennett as he begins to find his way in the league.
More than ever before, Bynum must capitalize on the trips he makes to the free-throw line this season.
For his career, Bynum has shot a respectable percentage of 68.7 from the line. His career high came during the 2009-10 campaign, when Bynum connected on 73.9 percent of his 261 attempts.
While making his return from injury, defenses will test Bynum by playing him physically inside. In order to make the opposition pay for that decision, he must cash in the free opportunities from the stripe that will result.
If he can shoot a minimum of 75 percent from the free-throw line in 2013-14, Bynum could go a long way toward bouncing back effectively on the offensive end for the Cavs.
That percentage of 73.2 dwarfed the rate that Bynum also shot from three-to-nine feet away from the basket.
While attempting nearly as many shots (5.2) from that range, Bynum only connected on 42.6 percent of those attempts. He also attempted less than one shot from each of the other three areas of the floor, highlighted by HoopData.
As he works his way back from injury, Bynum will need to focus on the little things he can do well before expanding his game. This means eliminating the attempts from three-to-nine feet and replacing as many as possible with the higher-percentage shots at the rim.