The Cleveland Cavaliers have officially traded disgruntled center Andrew Bynum, sending him to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Luol Deng. The Bulls are expected to waive the big man, as doing so would save the team in excess of approximately $20 million in payroll and luxury tax. When that time comes, the Miami Heat should ensure they're first in line to sign Bynum.
Per the report from ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, "the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks are among the teams expected to consider offering him a landing spot." Of those teams, Miami makes more sense over Los Angeles and New York.
Primarily, the Heat are the favorites to secure a third straight title. The Knicks reside in the gallows of the Eastern Conference, with a dismal 11-22 record. The team could realistically make the playoffs given how poor the East has been this season, but it's hardly a situation Bynum would find intriguing.
If Andrew Bynum hits free agent market, the Miami Heat would almost certainly be interested. Pat Riley may get another bargain contributor.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) January 5, 2014
The Clippers are playing well in the Western Conference with a 24-13 record, but the recent injury to Chris Paul hampers the attractiveness of signing in L.A. Bynum has played the entirety of his career, save for this season, with the Los Angeles Lakers; thus he's no stranger of being in L.A.
Despite this, both the Clippers and the Knicks have their starting centers pegged in DeAndre Jordan and Tyson Chandler, respectively. Bynum could seemingly come off the bench, but he wouldn't have a defined role. With Miami, he'd be the starting center or at very least the best big man off the bench.
Bynum averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Cavaliers this season, all in just 20 minutes per game. He shot just 41.9 percent, but the Heat would be signing Bynum for his presence in the paint over what he'd realistically contribute.
At this point in time, Miami ranks dead last in rebounds at 36.4 per game. The team also ranks last in offensive rebounds per game at 6.7, yet this is indicative of the willingness to get back on defense over looking for second-chance points.
Bynum has averaged exactly two offensive rebounds per game this season, so he'd be a big help in that regard. The Heat could keep the game plan of getting back on defense intact, due to the defensive prowess and speed of the players on the roster.
Bynum would also play a major role for Miami during the postseason. The Heat were on the verge of elimination twice last year, against the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs, as the final two series of the playoffs went to seven games.
Miami was out-rebounded by an average of 5.4 rebounds per game against the Pacers, with a lesser average of 0.6 against the Spurs. Bynum would essentially go against Indiana's 7'2" center Roy Hibbert. He averaged 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds in the Eastern Conference Finals, becoming a major catalyst in the Heat being on the brink of elimination.
It's a pretty sure thing Miami will face the Pacers in the playoffs once more, given the talent of Indiana and the lesser talent of the Eastern Conference. Adding Bynum would put any size concerns on the Heat's end to rest.
Should the Miami Heat try to sign Andrew Bynum?
Miami has long been without a traditional center on the roster. While the team has obviously proved it's not necessary to obtain success, it'd be a luxury that would make a third straight appearance in the NBA Finals a lock.
It's the best situation for Bynum as well, as he'd be surrounded by notable veteran players and coaches. He can be a tad temperamental at times, as he's shown in the past on many occasions.
Bynum's careless attack of J.J. Barea a few seasons ago is the most notable, in addition to a plethora of off-court issues (specifically when Bynum aggravated a knee injury while bowling).
Yet under the tutelage of Erik Spoelstra and LeBron James, as well as Pat Riley in the front office, Bynum could reel himself in and become a professional. The return of Michael Beasley this season carried similar doubts, yet he's turned into arguably the top reserve for Miami this season.
Beasley wasn't expected to contribute, but he's been a regular rotation player with 11.1 points (53.1 percent shooting) and 4.4 rebounds, all in 18.9 minutes per game.
Bynum might be a seven-year veteran, but he's still just 26 years old. With the right kind of support and experience around him, he could seemingly wind down and become an integral contributor for a team once again.
As aforesaid, the Heat aren't in dire need of a big man. Miami ranks No. 2 in the Eastern Conference with a 26-8 record, just one and a half games back from taking the top seed from Indiana. The addition of Bynum might not pay immediate dividends, but it's a move that would be overwhelmingly in the Heat's favor.
Wouldn't be surprised to see Andrew Bynum with the Heat before the end of this week when the Bulls officially waive him.....— Joshua Bingham (@binghamology) January 7, 2014
Among all the trade discussions and the suspension Bynum has been through this season, it's easy to forget he was an All-Star for the 2011-12 season. It's unlikely he'd perform similarly in a Heat uniform, but he'd become an instant game-changer for Miami.
The front office would be foolish to turn down a chance to improve an already stellar roster. Adding a big man of Bynum's caliber would do wonders for the Heat, despite any issues he might cause off the court.
The personnel around him would make a huge difference in that regard, as those on the Miami bench are a complete step (or flight of steps) above the mostly inexperienced coaches and rookies in Cleveland.
Ultimately, Riley and co. will make the decision that is best for the team. Adding Bynum would almost be unfair for the rest of the league, but it's absolutely a move that should be explored for the Heat.