We've known for months that the Eastern Conference will come down to the Indiana Pacers versus the Miami Heat. Well, the Pacers may have just grabbed the upper hand by signing free-agent center Andrew Bynum.
"It really wasn't a hard decision, I think it's the right fit for me and, in all honesty, I think we've got the best chance of winning," said Bynum, per an official release on the Pacers' website. "It will be great to back up Roy and I'll do whatever I can to help this team."
Between Bynum and Greg Oden, both the Pacers and the Heat have incredibly talented yet injury-prone big men. The acquisition of Bynum could be more of a boon to Indiana than Oden has been to Miami, though.
With the Pacers and the Heat separated by only three games, the slightest addition could be enough to help one team secure home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. In that sense, the Bynum acquisition is as much about preventing Miami from getting the big man as it is adding him to Indiana.
Both teams are incredibly effective, but they go about asserting their dominance in completely different ways.
The Pacers do much of their damage on the defensive end, while the Heat garner most of their success from their offense. That's not to say each team is limited in how it goes about winning games, just that their strengths tend to lie on one end of the court.
Much of Indiana's success on the defensive end can be attributed to center Roy Hibbert. He's a menacing presence in the post and one of the league's premier defenders. Although Bynum is nowhere near his level, him signing with Miami could have neutralized Hibbert just a bit.
Statistically speaking, adding Bynum would have helped Miami with its deficiencies more than it will help the Pacers with theirs. That's exactly why Indiana had to sign him.
The Heat rank 19th in defensive rebound percentage and 30th in offensive rebound percentage. In short, if Miami is lacking in any single area, it's rebounding.
|Pacers vs. Heat: Rebounding|
|ORB% (rank)||DRB% (rank)|
|Heat||19.6% (30)||73.9% (19)|
|Pacers||25.1% (20)||77.2% (1)|
Bynum, for all his ailments and physical limitations, is still a capable rebounder. In his 24 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, he averaged 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes and a total rebound percentage of 14.6 percent. Both of those figures are below his career averages (10.8 per 36; 17.0 TRB%), but they're still solid.
He may not be the rebounder he once was, but he'd certainly help the Heat in that regard.
Furthermore, he'd provide the Heat with a rim protector. Miami averages 4.4 blocks per game, which is tied for 21st in the league. Bynum, for his part, averaged 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes for Cleveland. That's right in line with his career average of 2.2.
Unlike Miami, Indiana is one of the league's best teams in terms of rebounding and blocked shots. It may not have needed Bynum, but the Heat did. That's why corralling him before the defending champs could sign him was of the utmost importance.
That doesn't mean the Pacers won't also benefit from the signing. The addition of Bynum gives Indiana a two-headed monster in the middle that not many teams can match—especially not the Heat.
The Heat only have one player who is 7'0"—Greg Oden, who doesn't play many minutes to begin with. Their only players listed at 6'10" or taller are Oden, Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen and Rashard Lewis. With the addition of Bynum, the Pacers will now have three players who are 6'11" or taller (Bynum, Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi).
The Pacers are also the league's best defensive team by far (allowing only 96.5 points per 100 possessions) and the best defensive rebounding team. Bynum will help in both those areas.
The only area in which Indiana could use a boost on defense is shot blocking. The Pacers are still well above average, but they're not at the top of the league, ranking fifth with 5.7 blocks per game.
Hibbert, at 2.5 blocks per game, is the only one on the team who could be characterized as a shot-blocker. No other Indiana player is averaging more than 0.9 blocks per game. Bynum averaged 1.2 blocks in 20 minutes per game for Cleveland. So even in a small role, he'll provide a shot-blocking boost for the Pacers.
Bynum is obviously not the player he once was. He's a shell of his former self, in fact. However, he's still capable of providing shot-blocking, size and rebounding. For the most part, Indiana is already capable in those areas. The Heat, on the other hand, are not.
With the two teams so close already, that could be just enough to put the Pacers over the top in the East.
Unless noted otherwise, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
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