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Does Andrew Bynum Have a Long-Term Future with Cleveland Cavaliers?

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Does Andrew Bynum Have a Long-Term Future with Cleveland Cavaliers?
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

One of the best stories this NBA season no one seems to be talking about is the return of Andrew Bynum.

As most know, Bynum missed the entire 2012-13 season following surgery on both knees while with the Philadelphia 76ers.

After Bynum signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers this past summer, no one really knew what to expect from him. It surprised nearly everyone when the Cavs activated him the very first game of the season against the Brooklyn Nets.

Bynum has played in 21 out of a possible 25 games for Cleveland thus far, starting 16 of them. He's slowly regaining his mobility, although he admitted to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that his explosiveness may never completely return following multiple knee surgeries.

For the season, Bynum is averaging 8.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 19.7 minutes a game.

While the Cavs will almost assuredly keep Bynum past his January 7 waiver deadline, what will the future hold for the All-Star center in Cleveland?

 

The Case to Keep Bynum

Cleveland's first real decision surrounding Bynum will have to be made this summer. If the Cavs haven't waived or traded him by July 11, his $12.54 million salary becomes fully guaranteed.

Right now, there's a lot to be said for keeping Bynum.

First and foremost, he's done an incredible job of working hard in his return to the court. Few thought Bynum would be active on opening night or miss just four of the first 25 games.

Freed from earlier restrictions, Bynum can now play back-to-back nights and has registered as many as 30 minutes in a game.

Even after his best night, a 20-10 game in a November 30 win over the Chicago Bulls, Bynum came to work out at the team facility on a scheduled day off.

All the major red flags surrounding Bynum coming in—the knees, work ethic, passion for the game—have been non-issues thus far.

David Liam Kyle/Getty Images
Bynum has worked hard in his return to the court.

For someone who was supposed to come in extremely rusty, Bynum has been pretty productive in his time on the court.

His stats, stretched out over 36 minutes, would be the equivalent of 15.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. Bynum's free-throw shooting of 77.5 percent is the best mark of his career. His PER of 16.5 is third on the team behind Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao.

Bynum is also Cleveland's best low-post scorer and its only reliable big man offensively. Given enough time with the starting group, Bynum should get a better feel for his teammates on the court when the inevitable double-teams come.

He also turned 26 in October, so Bynum still fits into Cleveland's rebuilding plans.

 

The Case to Drop Bynum

Despite his impressive stats, the Cavs aren't seeing a lot of positives come from Bynum's time on the court.

For one, Cleveland has to completely change its offense when Bynum is in the game. He's usually a good three paces behind everyone else running the floor, which slows the Cavs' offense down to a grinding halt. The Cavs then spend a good amount of time waiting for Bynum to post up his man, something he's struggled to do.

When he does get the ball, Bynum is connecting on a very low percentage of his shots (42.5 percent from the field).

Take a look at the Cavs' numbers as a team with Bynum on and off the court.

82games.com

According to 82games.com, Cleveland is scoring more points and giving up fewer when Bynum is out of the game. Naturally, part of this has to do with the level of competition between the starters and reserves, but these numbers are still a bit alarming.

Having Bynum clog the lane may be a blessing on defense, but it's hurting players like Irving and Dion Waiters on offense.

Both guards excel at driving the lane and either finishing at the basket or drawing enough contact to get to the line. With the 7-foot, 290-pound Bynum perched down low, driving lanes are certainly much smaller.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Irving has been more productive on the court without Bynum.

Irving has an on-court plus/minus rating of plus-0.4 per game when Bynum sits. With Bynum in, Irving's production drops to minus-5.2 points, per NBA.com.

The same holds true with Waiters.

The second-year shooting guard is plus-1.1 when on the court without Bynum. In just the 5.7 minutes a night he averages with Bynum, however, Waiters' production drops to minus-3.9.

Bynum himself only has a positive plus/minus rating in nine of his 21 games and is averaging minus-4.7 per game.

If Bynum is a good player, why are the Cavaliers worse when he's on the court?

 

Result: Give It Time

General manager Chris Grant doesn't have to make up his mind until July if he wants to re-sign Bynum, and it may take that long to decide.

Does Bynum fit in with the Cavs' future plans?

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Right now, it's just too early to see if Bynum fits in with the Cavaliers long-term.

Bynum didn't get to participate in training camp, practices or even any preseason games. Young guards like Irving and Waiters have never played with a big man like Bynum before, and it may take months for them to completely sync their games.

The signing of Bynum has been like handing a tank over to a 16-year-old just learning how to drive. The potential for fun and destruction is there, but right now they have no idea how to operate it.

Cleveland would be wise to keep Bynum in the starting lineup, slowly increase his minutes, and work on complementing his game with players like Irving and Waiters.

Picking up the rest of his contract for this season is a must, even if we don't know what the future holds for Bynum and the Cavaliers just yet.

 

-GS

 

All stats via NBA.com/stats unless otherwise noted.

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