The once-optimistic project of integrating Andrew Bynum fell short for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and now the team is looking for suitors. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls (despite the latter being reportedly uninterested) are the front-runners, but the Boston Celtics must be a dark horse to receive Bynum.
The Celtics entered a full-scale rebuild in the offseason, but the composition of the team leaves them with a lack of direction. They're not bad enough to be tanking for the lottery, with a core of veteran players keeping Boston competitive.
That's not entirely a bad thing, as a rebuilding project doesn't necessarily have to be done through the lottery (see the 2010-11 Miami Heat). Acquiring Bynum doesn't really compare to the aforesaid example, but the fact remains the Celtics would be receiving a proven All-Star big man.
Without being hasty, Bynum's well-documented temperamental attitude can be an issue as evidenced by his suspension from the Cavs, per The Plain Dealer's Mary Boyer. Yet in a situation like this, it's something that can be remedied based on Bynum's level of comfort and support from those around him.
Bynum is averaging 8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks this season, all in 20 minutes per game. He is shooting just 41.9 percent, but (without being dismissive of the issue) it's potentially due to Cleveland's offense rather than Bynum himself.
Adding him down low would be beneficial for Boston, as the Celtics don't have a true center on the roster aside from Vitor Faverani. Even when Rajon Rondo does return, having Bynum as a low-post presence (both offensively and defensively) would give the Celtics a duo of All-Star players.
Bynum's numbers this season might not reflect that, but given his lessened role at 20 minutes per game makes a case he could do more with more playing time. For example, his season high of 30 minutes came against the Bulls. Bynum put up 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, all the while shooting 57.1 percent and committing just one foul.
It's hard to predict just how Bynum's knees would react to consistent and extensive playing time, but games like that present evidence that is hard to ignore.
As mentioned before, the Celtics have a plethora of veteran players who could be moved in exchange for Bynum.
Scenario 1: Boston swaps Kris Humphries for Bynum
Humphries hasn't been an integral piece for Boston thus far, playing 16.1 minutes off the bench. His 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds in that time are great production, but other players are taking up minutes ahead of him in the rotation.
His $12 million for this season almost matches Bynum's $12.2 million, hence the deal would work seamlessly. Humphries' deal is in its last year, so it gives Cleveland an expiring contract to clear up space for next season.
The Cavaliers could seemingly have the same outcome by merely waiving Bynum before January 7 (before his contract becomes guaranteed), but moving him for Humphries gives them a fantastic role player in the frontcourt.
Cleveland has enough young assets to make a playoff run, and adding Humphries would provide stability up front. It isn't something the team will be locked into, though, as his contract expires at the closure of this season.
Humphries has proven he can play when given the opportunity, as evidenced by his 13.8 points, 11 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game during the 2011-12 season.
Scenario 2: Boston trades Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee for Bynum
This deal is slightly more enticing for Cleveland, as it provides them with two experienced role players. Bass has started 29 of the 31 games he's played for Boston this season, putting up 11.1 points and 6.2 rebounds.
He has a superb mid-range jump shot that would space the floor for the Cavs, in addition to him being a rugged interior presence on both ends of the floor.
Lee's 7.5 points per game this season haven't been ideal for Boston, but he remains a useful player nonetheless. Other guards, namely Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley, have priority over Lee in the rotation, hence his lack of playing time at 16.8 minutes per game.
He is shooting 50.6 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from three, so he's making the most of his opportunities.
Cleveland's rotation would be immense with the addition of Bass and Lee. The bench would potentially comprise of Dion Waiters, Jarrett Jack, Lee, C.J. Miles, Earl Clark and Bass. That would alter depending on how coach Mike Brown tools things, but the Cavs' roster would be stronger in any case.
The only issue with this deal is the salary Cleveland would be taking on (should the organization be unwilling to have more players committed long term).
That may very well be the reality, given the Cavaliers' option to waive Bynum and clear the salary immediately. Bass' contract ends after next season, with Lee's concluding the year after. This option would provide Cleveland with a stronger supporting cast going forward, but it essentially comes down to the team's willingness to keep the payroll full.
In any case, the Cavaliers would be wise to seek assets in return for Bynum. Merely waiving him is a solid option, given the fact it would clear cap space, but there remains the possibility the team can flip Bynum for other role players.
It's unlikely the Celtics would give up any of their draft picks, given how valuable they will be down the stretch. Boston could force the Cavaliers' hand and test just how desperate they'll be to rid themselves of Bynum.
Cutting Bynum should be the "worst-case scenario" for Cleveland, as adding role players for a playoff run should be the priority. The team is talented enough to make some noise, and swapping Bynum for players who can help can ensure that.
Boston would take a risk on acquiring Bynum, as his deal would be guaranteed past January 7. Even if he plays at his current level, it would be just enough to give the Celtics a serviceable frontcourt. Best-case scenario, Boston is able to pair a returning Rondo with Bynum, creating a tangible duo for the near future.
The Celtics have a winning culture about them, and as seen in his time with the Lakers, Bynum performs best when he's competitive and motivated. Boston can be an up-and-coming team over the next season or two, and adding Bynum would cement the team's production down low.
All salary information courtesy of HoopsHype.com.