The Best-Case Scenario for Andrew Bynum This Season
To expect the center sidelined with injury for all of last year to make a substantial impact any sooner than that would be a mistake.
The Cavaliers are currently built to compete for a playoff berth without Bynum. By adding the former All-Star in mid-February, at 80 percent of the player he once was, Cleveland will only improve its chances of securing a spot in the postseason.
In order for Bynum to become that missing piece capable of putting his new team over the top, however, he must be brought along slowly. While logging minutes that extend from minimal to managed, Bynum's presence will be first felt on the defensive end.
Eventually, as he plays himself back into basketball shape, Bynum could then contribute offensively as well while potentially offering his peak performance during the last 25-30 games of the regular season.
Specific Timetable for Bynum's Return Remains Unknown
The news reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other outlets regarding Andrew Bynum's potential return from injury during Cavs Media Day on Sept. 30 has remained unchanged since.
The former All-Star has begun basketball activities, but the team is still unsure about whether or not he'll be available for the season opener.
In a separate report, while noting that the Cavs, "have been pleasantly surprised with [Bynum's] work ethic since signing him," Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal included the following quote from the big man.
It’s mentally taxing [not having a firm return date] but at this point I know these people have my best interests at heart. I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going so far. I come here, I show in the morning and I go through my workout. That’s my mission.
When that mission changes to include live-game, regular-season action is anyone's guess at this point.
Predicted Date for Bynum's Return Is Jan. 2
Cavaliers fans should begin the 2013-14 campaign completely engaged with the excitement surrounding Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and other currently healthy players.
The prospects or possibilities of Andrew Bynum should be essentially forgotten for at least the first 30 games.
Based on pure speculation from everything we've heard during training camp, I am expecting Bynum to make his Cavs debut alongside Kyrie Irving no sooner than Jan. 2 at home against the Orlando Magic.
With approximately 50 games remaining by then, Bynum would have a month-and-a-half before the All-Star break on Feb. 16 to begin getting acclimated to live-game action. He would need to be brought along slowly during the month of January to be sure, but should also have had the rehab time and medical attention necessary to properly sustain that initial impact.
Extending Minutes From Minimal to Managed
To maximize Bynum's potential contributions this season, coach Mike Brown will need to systematically build his nightly minutes up to 25 per game heading into the All-Star break.
This might mean that Bynum plays in every other game during the month of January. It could also mean that he plays a series of minutes that begin at 10 before increasing to 15 and then 20 as the month goes on.
During the late-February portion of the Cavaliers schedule, the hope would be that Bynum is then capable of logging 25 minutes per game consistently for the duration of the season.
Despite his potential success during that time, however, those minutes should never extend past that hard cap of 25.
Best-Case Scenario Features Defensive Impact First
Once he is playing 25 minutes per night consistently, Bynum's best-case scenario from a statistical standpoint may only include averages of 13 points and nine rebounds.
Beyond getting himself into basketball shape, and regaining the trust in his knees necessary for success, Bynum will be joining a team led by capable scorers like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao.
While he will be able to make a significant impact by scoring with his back to the basket, along with converting second-chance opportunities inside, Bynum won't be asked to carry the load offensively.
What he will be most capable of providing, however, is a shot-blocking and shot-altering ability that could prove critical for the Cavs down the stretch. The last time he played for Brown, as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, he did things like block 10 shots during a playoff game against the Denver Nuggets, as highlighted above.
Bynum could become that same interior force in Cleveland by season's end, even if it doesn't happen as quickly as some people might hope.
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