Time for L.A. Lakers To Trade Andrew Bynum? Shaky Team Play May Dictate Move

Howard RubenContributor IJanuary 3, 2011

Time for L.A. Lakers To Trade Andrew Bynum? Shaky Team Play May Dictate Move

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    Are the Los Angeles Lakers and owner Dr. Jerry Buss seriously considering a blockbuster trade that would involve moving Andrew Bynum?

    The potential-laden young center for the Lakers is seemingly healthy again and playing significant minutes for the champs.  In the three games he has started since coming back from summer knee surgery, Bynum has averaged 11.7 points on 15-26 shooting, 11 rebounds, and most importantly, a tad under 30 minutes per game on the floor. 

    Not coincidentally, the Lakers snapped a sorry three-game losing skid with a huge win over the Hornets, followed up by a second victory at home against the Sixers on New Year’s Eve, a game in which Bynum had 15 rebounds including 13 on the defensive end.  They lost badly to Memphis on Sunday, but Bynum was impressive with five blocked shots, 11 rebounds and nine points in 27 minutes.

    So is now the time to showcase the 23-year-old native of Plainsboro, New Jersey and trade him while his value is high?  Most teams in the NBA would love to have such a player anchoring their middle for years to come. 

    Or, is it best to hold onto what many people see as the centerpiece of the Lakers future, built around the most talented young center the team and fans have seen in L.A. since the days of The Big Diesel, Shaquille O’Neal?

    There’s at least five good reasons to trade Bynum and five good reasons for keeping him in Los Angeles. 

    Let’s take a look.

Andrew Bynum Is Injury-Prone: Freak Accidents or the Norm for Him?

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    Reasons to trade Andrew Bynum:

    1.He’s injury prone

    Bynum has suffered serious knee injuries the past three seasons, two of them from freakish accidents under the basket.  On January 13, 2008 in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, he landed awkwardly on Lamar Odom’s foot while attempting to grab a rebound and partially tore his left kneecap—he was done for the season. 

    One year later, on January 31, 2009 also against Memphis, Bynum was under the basket when a driving Kobe Bryant came down directly on the big center’s right knee, hyperextending it and causing him to miss over two months. 

    Bynum returned in April and helped the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic and grab their first of two consecutive NBA Championships.  And last season, playing against Oklahoma City in the western conference playoffs, Bynum again injured his knee but kept on playing. 

    A less-than-healthy Bynum continued to play through the playoffs for the Lakers.  He played in every single game with a torn meniscus and strained Achilles tendon, and the Lakers repeated as NBA champions against the Boston Celtics.

    Bynum underwent knee surgery following the season but not before taking a vacation to go watch the World Cup in South Africa.  His detractors say that he should have had the surgery right after the finals against Boston and that his waiting till he got back only delayed his recovery.

Andrew Bynum Has Tremendous Upside and Still Only 23

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    2.  Get the most value for him now, while he’s young, strong and has upside potential

    Only 23 with five years experience already under his belt, a healthy Bynum has tremendous upside potential for any team looking for that missing piece in the middle. 

    Big, talented, legitimate centers are a very rare commodity in today’s NBA.  Bynum is 7'0", 285 pounds, with a tremendous wingspan, nice soft touch around the basket and a couple of championship rings already to his credit.

    Teams are always taking a risk on any player they sign or draft, so it's no different with Bynum.  He may learn how to continue playing through the injuries and through the pain or it may all catch up to him, and he could end up like Greg Oden of the Trailblazers—the prize of the 2007 draft who has played in only 82 games through four seasons because of the three major knee injuries.

    Now is the time for Bynum to make (or break) his future.

Is Carmelo Anthony Headed to L.A. in Exchange for Bynum?

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    3.  Lakers seek a cornerstone for the franchise when Bryant retires

    When he was drafted, there were many in the organization that saw in Bynum a potential star the team could build around for a decade.   Now, with his uncertain health patterns, the Lakers and owner Dr. Jerry Buss may seriously be thinking about trading Bynum (and a few other players or draft picks) for Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets. 

    It seems likely that ‘Melo will be traded this year by Denver, who doesn’t want to get left with nothing once the superstar power forward finishes his contract at the end of the season. 

    Anthony and Bryant played together on Team USA in the 2008 Olympics—the, slick shooting, 6'8", 230-pound former Syracuse standout is still just 26-years-old and would give the Lakers three players who need double teaming.  Anthony is averaging 23.7 ppg and a career high 8.4 rebounds. 

    Bryant, Gasol, Anthony, Odom and Derek Fisher would constitute a formidable lineup with Odom, Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown, Ron Artest and Steve Blake coming off the bench.

    Anthony could be that cornerstone.  To some, such a trade may sound ridiculous, but this is the same team that "stole" Kobe Bryant from Charlotte in exchange for Vlade Divac in 1996 and swiped Pau Gasol from Memphis in on Feb. 1, 2008. 

    Stranger things have happened.

Shuffling In and Out of the Lineup Can Cause Disruptions for the Lakers

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    4.  Being in and out of the lineup causes disruption

    It’s been hard for the Lakers to maintain a consistency because Bynum is in and out of the lineup so often.  And since he missed the first third of the season, other Lakers had to pick up the load.  They did for awhile, but then December came, and the players looked tired.

    By the time Christmas and their big showdown with Miami rolled around, L.A. was spent.  Gasol was playing 38 minutes per game, and Theo Ratliff was recovering from his own injuries and not expected back until sometime in early 2011.

    Bynum is good when healthy, and they can be good with him not in the lineup. 

    But, constant shuffling could prove a major impediment to the Lakers as they seek a three-peat in 2011.    

Lamar Odom Would Be Comfortable Starting Alongside Pau Gasol and Ron Artest

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    5.  Lamar Odom deserves to be a starter. 

    Now in his 11th season, the 6'10", 230-pound Odom is having what is arguably his best campaign, averaging almost 16 points and 10 rebounds per game to go along with three assists.  He is as versatile a player as there is in the NBA and is ok with starting or coming off the bench. 

    Some critics have said he is too laid back—he does have stretches where he appears to be gliding through a game with his head somewhere else.  But those moments have been less apparent this year. 

    A case can be made to make Odom a permanent starter and trade Bynum for a top frontcourt player.  The team has Theo Ratliff as their backup center. Joe Smith, Gasol and rookie Derrick Caracter can also play the pivot, so depth may not be an issue.

5 Reasons To Keep Andrew Bynum: A Major Talent When Healthy

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    1.   Bynum takes pressure off of Pau Gasol, allowing him to play power forward where he excels

    To anyone watching the Lakers closely this year, it is obvious that Gasol is laboring.  He’s exhausted much of the time—why?  Because he’s playing way too many minutes—38 to be exact. 

    Gasol should be at 35 minutes or less; those 3-4 extra minutes mean a lot in the NBA.  Having Bynum start a game and average 28-32 minutes will rejuvenate Gasol and free him up to terrorize smaller power forwards from in close to about 10-15 feet out. 

    Gasol is a deadly shooter and one of the best big man passers in the game.  Since coming to L.A. in February 2008, he has been a perennial All-Star, averaging 18.7 ppg, 10 rebounds and four assists.

Lamar Odom Is the NBA's Top 6th Man: If Bynum Stays, Then Odom Will Flourish

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    2.  Keeping Bynum allows the Lakers to permanently move Odom to the second unit, where he is the NBA’s best sixth man. 

    In the first two games that Bynum started in December (wins over New Orleans and Philadelpha), Odom played his best ball of the season coming off the bench. 

    Against the Hornets, he went off for 24 points in just 31 minutes and had 18 points and seven rebounds versus the Sixers, both wins by L.A.  Odom looked relaxed and let the games come to him—he consistently tells the press that he doesn’t care if he starts or comes off the bench.  It’s about the wins, says L.O. 

    The key to the Lakers ultimate success clearly rests with Odom because of his versatility.  Having Bynum in the starting lineup next to Gasol just means that the bench of Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown and Steve Blake will be that much stronger because Odom is directing them.

Byrnum's Presence in Middle Disrupts Flow of Point Guards

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    3.  Bynum’s presence makes it harder for all those pesky little point guards to penetrate at will. 

    The Lakers are often torched by the league’s quick, small point guards who are easily able to penetrate off screens and drive to the basket for layups. 

    With Bynum in the game, his sheer presence will disrupt the flow of guards like Chris Paul (Hornets), Darren Williams (Jazz) and Tony Parker (Spurs) and make them think about passing instead of always driving to the hoop. 

    This type of asset can be a difference maker.

There Aren't Many Big Men in the Game Like Andrew Bynum

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    4.   Bynum adds bulk and effective rebounding on both ends of the court

    When healthy, Bynum is explosive and can dominate the glass.  Working the boards, on offense and defense, is what wins games. 

    Bynum has become a better rebounder each year and now averages close to 10 a game.  He also shoots 57 percent from the field and blocks two shots per contest.

    No other Lakers player has Andrew’s size and ability to block out.  His mere presence and ability to block shots changes the Lakers from a perimeter moving team to one that can match up with the tough teams in the East, particularly the Boston Celtics. 

    Even though Bynum was playing with a torn meniscus, the Lakers “toughness” played a huge role in their 4-3 Finals series win over Boston that gave L.A. its 16th NBA title.

To Keep Andrew Bynum or Trade Him: Lakers Not Sure Which Way To Go

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    5.  A great complement to Kobe Bryant and one of the few legitimate big men in the NBA with star potential

    Kobe Bryant is still the game’s best closer and ultimate competitor, but he is 32 and needs a supporting cast more than ever. Bynum's game is a complement to Kobe's and is capable of providing tremendous screens and pick and rolls for Bryant.

    At 7'0", 285 pounds, Bynum is the prototypical big man that we hardly see any more in the sport—a rare commodity.  In fact, this is a great reason to keep Bynum AND a great reason to trade him.

    If the Lakers continue to sputter through January as they did in December, the likelihood of a trade grows bigger.  But, if Bynum stays healthy, gets stronger and the team plays with passion and gets on a roll, it’s wise to keep him in L.A.

    Andrew Bynum remains an x-factor for the Lakers.  Having a chance, however, to bring ‘Melo to Staples Center, may prove too enticing a proposition for Mitch Kupchak, Dr. Buss and Phil Jackson to say no. 

    Stay tuned.