LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers' lack of frontcourt depth didn't hurt them on New Year's Day against the visiting Charlotte Bobcats, not after a dominant second half that propelled the home team to a 112-85 flattening. But it has in the past and likely will again as the 2013-14 NBA season unfolds.
And with Blake Griffin knocking down jump shots like he did on Wednesday night, the thought of potentially adding a big body with low-post skills like Andrew Bynum to the mix becomes that much more enticing.
According to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers would thrust themselves into the mix for Bynum's services if the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to waive him before Jan. 7 rather than dump him via trade.
This shouldn't come as Earth-shattering news. After all, the Clips are intimately familiar with Bynum's talents. They watched him grow into an All-Star during his seven seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, and were on the receiving end of an 18-point, six-rebound performance from the 7-footer on Dec. 7.
"He’s a big guy who can do a lot, help out DeAndre [Jordan] as far as relieving him of some minutes defensively," Antawn Jamison told Bleacher Report. "He takes up a lot of space. He’s a guy who’s won a championship, so that definitely factors into what we’re trying to do.
"With his size and the things he’s been through, as far as playing wise, he can definitely help us."
Jamison would surely be among those most affected, perhaps even adversely so, should Bynum return to L.A. somehow. The 37-year-old forward has averaged a career-low 11.5 minutes per game in this, his 16th season as a pro. Most of that time has been spent spelling Griffin and Jordan up front, as opposed to shooting and scoring, which had long been 'Tawn's calling card.
The addition of a player like 'Drew would also push the wiry Ryan Hollins (8.7 minutes per game) even further toward the fringes of the roster. Byron Mullens' pair of threes in garbage time on Wednesday wouldn't likely save his skin, either.
The fact of the matter is, the Clippers are already carrying the league maximum of 15 players on their roster. To bring in another player, Bynum or otherwise, would necessitate cutting ties with someone, be it an incumbent big or a seldom-used third-stringer like Stephen Jackson or Maalik Wayns.
Bynum's contributions, though, could be well worth the sacrifice, even if he doesn't play more than, say, 10 to 15 minutes per game off the bench. He'd be another big body who can grab rebounds, defend opposing pivots and occasionally put his back-to-the-basket game to good use.
Especially now that Griffin is proving to be a threat outside of the paint. He knocked down nine of his 13 jumpers against the Bobcats, including a three-pointer from the wing in the fourth quarter. According to NBA.com, Blake's now shooting a respectable 40 percent between 15 and 24 feet.
Of course, that pales in comparison to his accuracy in the restricted area (68.8 percent), from whence he garners about 60 percent of his attempts. It's not as though Griffin's about to abandon his bread-and-butter (i.e. pick-and-roll, posting up, dunking everything) just so he can let fly from mid-range at his own whim.
But Blake has put in a ton of sweat equity to improve his game in that regard—enough to elicit praise from Chris Paul:
To his credit, Griffin knows full well that he's not yet ready to be a full-time jump shooter. "It's nice to have a little bit of a payoff, I guess, for the work you put in" he said after the game on Wednesday. "But I'm not anywhere near where I want to be."
That place probably being right at the basket.
Still, Griffin's growing proficiency away from the hoop opens up some intriguing doors for L.A. For the time being, it means the Clippers can confidently include him in more pick-and-pops while opening up the lane for cutters like Matt Barnes and penetrators like Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford.
Beyond the immediate, it also means that putting a behemoth like Bynum on the court wouldn't necessarily kill the Clippers' oft-immaculate spacing.
What he could kill, though, is the team's budding chemistry. Moreover, there's no guarantee that Bynum would play—or that he'd want to. According to a recent report from Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Bynum is no longer interested in playing basketball, in part because his chronically ailing knees won't allow him to dominate to the extent that he did in years past.
"The most important thing for him," Jamison added, "is just making sure he’s healthy and he’s able to deal with the rest of this season going into the playoffs. Just his game alone can help out this team."
Whether 'Drew is actually over playing the sport that's made him millions or is simply angling for a way out of Cleveland is another story entirely. The Clippers, for their part, aren't getting caught up in the hoopla of the rumor mill:
Which is just as well. At 22-12, the Clippers have done well enough with their thin frontcourt to solidify their spot atop the Pacific Division standings. And with an upcoming stretch of 10 out of 15 games away from Staples Center, the Clips can ill afford to be distracted from the task at hand.
That being said, L.A. would be hard-pressed to contend in the Western Conference without another sturdy center to sop up minutes behind and provide insurance for Griffin and Jordan. The San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors all boast legitimate size and depth up front—at least more so than do the Clippers.
Adding another guy who can do some of the dirty work down low would change that, especially if that guy happens to be Andrew Bynum.
What do you think of the Bynum-to-the-Clippers chatter? Let me know on Twitter!