Can Andrew Bynum Be a Real Difference-Maker for Indiana Pacers?

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2014

It didn't work in Philadelphia or in Cleveland for various reasons. Now, Andrew Bynum will finally have an opportunity for redemption; a chance to show the world that he is not finished and that he does still have a burning desire to play the game of basketball.

After a long wait, it appears that the Bynum experiment is about to get underway for the Indiana Pacers.

Bynum, who signed on with the Pacers a little over a month ago after a tumultuous stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, is apparently close to making his Indiana debut. He won't be starting, obviously, but he could play a pivotal role off the bench.

We have seen Bynum be an impact player before. Actually, we have seen him be a star before.

Operative word: "before."

This was prior to all of the knee problems Bynum encountered since being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers during the summer of 2012.

Of course, Bynum was never exactly a model of durability, but these past couple of years have simply been a major struggle.

Bynum did not play a single game as a 76er, and in 24 games with the Cavaliers this season, he labored mightily.

His per-36 numbers don't look too bad: 15.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. Pretty solid, right? Well, a deeper look into his statistics shows that the big man was anything but stellar as a Cav.

Take a look at the dip in his percentages this year as opposed to his career averages.

Andrew Bynum's Shooting Percentages
Source: Basketball Reference


Obviously, Bynum's knees still weren't right in Cleveland. There were certainly other factors at play, such as the Cavaliers being, well, not very good. Regardless, those numbers are still alarming.

Also, Bynum averaged only .036 win shares per 48 minutes playing with Kyrie Irving and company, a significant drop from his .168 lifetime average.

But does all of this mean that the 26-year-old can't help the Pacers?

No. It doesn't. Let's find out why.



Indiana is a title contender with an elite starting frontcourt. Cleveland? Well, you already know that it don't have realistic championship aspirations and that its big men aren't on the same level as Indy's.

For that reason, the Pacers will not be expecting nearly as much from Bynum as the Cavaliers did. Indy already has the likes of Roy Hibbert, David West, Luis Scola and Ian Mahinmi up front. Bynum would merely be an extra piece to complement those guys. He wouldn't be asked to put up big numbers or even play big minutes.

Instead, Bynum would serve as support if the Pacers' big men get into foul trouble. Regardless of how poorly Bynum played in Cleveland, he is still a pretty darn good option off the bench, especially on a team with such a deep front line.

There is not much pressure here in terms of Bynum's productivity. He is not being asked to be "the man." He is being called upon to provide some assistance. The Pacers were already very good before Bynum arrived. The only way they can go is up. 

At the very least, Bynum, at 7'0" and 285 pounds, can protect the rim. Also, against ball clubs with smallish players on the interior (hello, Miami Heat), Bynum would have the opportunity to be fairly effective on the offensive end of the floor, even if his fragile knees don't allow him to thoroughly dominate the post like he did during his days with the Los Angeles Lakers.


Probable Change In Attitude

It was clear that Bynum was not happy with a losing organization like Cleveland, something he was not at all used to after winning two championships as a member of the Lakers.

As a matter of fact, Bynum was so unhappy with the Cavs that he once launched a half-court shot during a practice scrimmage and even mocked an assistant coach, calling him a "horrible referee."

"Those are the two things I did. I did them on purpose because it was over there for me," Bynum told Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.

Now, Bynum is with a franchise that came within one game of reaching the finals last season and is considered by most to be one of the title favorites this year. And according to him, he sees some similarities between this Pacer squad and the Lakers teams he was on.

"I (had) only been in Indy for a week and certain things are similar," said Bynum. "The way coaches handle things and how everything is time regimented … It's better, it's more structured."

Is that enough to completely turn Bynum around mentally?

Well, given his history, one can only hope, but there is another factor at play here.

Bynum likely knows that this could very well be his last chance to remain in the NBA. With all of his injury issues and his disruptive behavior, teams are not exactly going to be knocking down his door to sign him should he mess up in Indiana.

If the 7-footer doesn't turn things around now, he is a lost cause.

We understand that, and he probably does, too, so let's hope we don't see any of this.

"My motivation is because I want a championship. I want to play," he also told Buckner.

So, couple the chances of capturing another ring with the possibility of him being permanently banished from the league if he doesn't behave, and it seems safe to say Bynum will do everything in his power to make things work with the Pacers.



Let's face it: The system in Cleveland is not really conducive to winning championships. Too much one-on-one, not enough team play. It's not like the guys there necessarily like each other, either. Remember when Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson almost came to blows? (Per ESPN's Chris Broussard).

In Indiana, head coach Frank Vogel and company are allergic to that type of offense and that kind of unsportsmanlike conduct.

They do things the right way, and that should help Bynum be more effective as a Pacer.

The Pacers move the ball incredibly well. It may not show in their assist totals, but don't let that fool you. Everyone gets a chance.

Bynum will benefit from outstanding playmakers like Paul George and Lance Stephenson on the perimeter. Notice that neither George nor Stephenson are even point guards. They just have great floor vision and know when to make the right pass offensively.

As a matter of fact, Stephenson, a 2-guard, is averaging 5.1 dimes a night. George posts 3.5.

That type of offense will help Bynum. Big time.

Indiana will understand when to get him the ball in his spots, and should he draw double-teams, he will have a myriad of weapons to dish the rock to.

Does that mean the two-time champion is going to go back to putting up 20 and 10? No, but it signifies that he could indeed be a valuable asset to what is a selfless offense.


So, What Will be the Outcome?

There is absolutely no question that Bynum can represent the difference for Indiana in a series against the Heat. He has the size, strength and fundamentals to be just that, and even if he's only getting 10 minutes a game, he could still be a key component.

The questions are a.) can Bynum stay healthy, and b.) how much does he want it?

As stated earlier, if Bynum doesn't want it at this stage, he may as well just give up, because basketball is not something for the half-hearted. It takes a full commitment, and if Bynum is not willing to give it his all, he should save the Pacers some time and just walk away.

So let's assume Bynum is hungry enough to try and be successful.

That brings us to something that is essentially (and sadly) out of his control: Will he be able to physically handle it? Can he handle the grind of a playoff run?

It remains to be seen, but if he can, look out. The Pacers just became that much more dangerous.


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