How Much Will Andrew Bynum Help the Indiana Pacers Down the Stretch?

Cody NormanCorrespondent IFebruary 4, 2014

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 20:  Andrew Bynum #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stretches prior to the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at The Quicken Loans Arena on December 20, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Andrew Bynum puts the Indiana Pacers one step closer to an NBA championship.

In a lead role with the Cavaliers this season, Bynum averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. According to 82games.com, he posted a net efficiency rating of just plus-0.1 per 48 minutes and was wildly inconsistent. Through all of that, there is no denying the Bynum of 2014 is just a shell of the Bynum of old, and his impact as a star player is quickly diminishing.

While the 26-year-old may no longer be fit to carry the load for a championship contender, he did prove in 24 appearances this season that he can still have a positive impact on the game if he plays in the appropriate system.

And the Pacers are the perfect system.

Indiana Pacers Lineup with Andrew Bynum
StartersReserves
George HillC.J. Watson
Lance StephensonOrlando Johnson
Paul GeorgeDanny Granger
David WestLuis Scola
Roy HibbertAndrew Bynum
Courtesy of ESPN.com

According to Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated, general manager Larry Bird "will only regret [signing Bynum] if he hurts the chemistry of the team." Do not expect that to happen, though, as his new teammates and coach Frank Vogel are not going to allow their new 7'0" acquisition to be a distraction from their ultimate goal.

The one weakness the Pacers had this season was their lack of depth at the center position. Behind All-Star Roy Hibbert, Ian Mahinmi has averaged just three points and three rebounds per game. While he has been productive in a handful of games, Mahinmi is certainly not what a championship contender would like to have as its primary backup.

Bynum is an exceptional offensive talent and brings with him a strong defensive presence that will not allow opponents a free shot at the rim in Hibbert's absence. The only major question marks through his entire career have been regarding his health and his desire to play the game of basketball. If Bynum can keep both of those inquiries from surfacing, he has the ability to dominate any second unit in the league on both ends of the floor.

Bynum has invaluable championship experience. He has played with one of the all-time greats in Kobe Bryant and now, more than ever, his game is best suited for a complementary role. If he is able to provide the Pacers with 10-15 minutes per game down the stretch, he will allow Indiana to keep pressure on its opponents for 48 minutes per game.

It is unlikely that the Pacers will attempt a "twin towers" approach with Hibbert the way the Lakers did with Bynum and Pau Gasol, but Bynum will allow Pacers coach Frank Vogel to attack the Heat (among others) at their one glaring weakness, with or without Hibbert in the ballgame.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear Bird and Vogel are all-in on an NBA championship. The signing of Bynum is just another piece to the puzzle, as stars like Hibbert, Paul George and Lance Stephenson will carry the load.

But make no mistake about it—Bynum will be an integral piece if the Pacers are able to dethrone the king and take home the NBA championship this season.