Lamar Odom to Mavericks: Is Andrew Bynum on Cusp of Breakout Season for Lakers?

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IDecember 22, 2011

DALLAS, TX - MAY 08:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers is ejected from play against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 8, 2011 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  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.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are going to struggle this season.

They're going to struggle so significantly that they might not even have complete control over their city. The struggles are going to be so persistent that it might not even get them out of the first round of the playoffs.

I'm just saying this now so that you're not surprised in the playoffs when it actually might happen.

Face it—losing Lamar Odom was the worst thing that could have possibly happened to this prestigious franchise aside from having Kobe Bryant bow out to a significant injury. Odom was the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and is the league's most versatile player. He is capable of playing all five positions, a feat that no other player in the NBA could possibly do.

From point guard to center, Odom could play it, and the Lakers had him coming off the bench just because they could. With Pau Gasol at power forward and the man formerly known as Ron Artest at small forward, Odom would come in relief for either of these players and provide all the aspects that any multidimensional player provides.

If the team needed him to become a facilitator, he could provide that. Be a strong post presence? Odom was there. Lead the offensive forefront? You better believe that he was living up to the occasion.

The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is talented in so many ways, and the Lakers gave him to the Dallas Mavericks for a few draft picks and a $9 million trade exception.

Now where do the Lakers turn?

Bryant just suffered a torn ligament in his right wrist and will most likely be hampered with that for the duration of the season, Pau Gasol is coming off of an embarrassing postseason in which he averaged 11 points and seven boards per, and Metta World Peace is not even close to an answer in terms of finding offense.

The only player who could possibly salvage a quality season out of this mess is center Andrew Bynum, who will be sitting out the first five games of the season after throwing an elbow into J.J. Barea near the end of the L.A. Lakers postseason a few months ago.

So he won't be getting off on the right foot, that's for sure.

But that doesn't mean that Bynum won't be able to come back and make a name for himself in the absence of Odom. He's been highly criticized throughout his career for his immaturity, the way he conducts himself on the court, and for not being as efficient a player as the Lakers thought he would be.

In six seasons, Bynum has averaged 10 boards per only once and only has a career high of 15 points per game. The Lakers drafted the center as an 18-year-old out of Saint Joseph High School, but they have yet to see the player that they are investing $14 million into per season. He's dealt with a number of injuries and is noticeably hampered by these ailments whenever he is on the floor.

As for his actual game? It's been decent thus far. At 7'0", 285 pounds, Bynum's a solid defender who's averaged at least two blocks per game twice.

He has a long wingspan that allows him to deter shots, as well as a wide frame that limits drives and the shots of opposing post threats. It's not that difficult to be an imposing defensive threat at that size and with that wingspan, but Bynum has at least got that down.

His offensive game, on the other hand, could use some work.

He's averaged as much as 15 points per game, but he finds the majority of his points coming off of the highest percentage of shots. Bynum's hook shot isn't Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's and his body doesn't allow him to be Shaquille O'Neal, so he's sort of in an awkward place on where to find consistent points in the paint.

Also, with former Lakers centers like Abdul-Jabbar, O'Neal and Wilt Chamberlain being compared to you, the pressure might get to a player who entered the league at 18 years old and is expected to draw similarities to some of the greatest centers in Lakers—and NBA—history.

Bynum's dealt with pressure, but he certainly isn't helping when he can't control his emotions and can't stay on the floor without getting hurt.

In the past four seasons, Bynum has failed to play in 66 or more games. He's played in less than 60 games in three of the past four years.

However, Bynum is only 24 years old, and with Odom gone, he can now step up in his place and become a more dominant rebounder. If he's healthy, he'll receive a greater deal of minutes in order to make up for the loss of the Lakers sixth man, and it should result in an increase in his stats, specifically in the rebounding department.

Bynum is going to have to step up.

The Lakers have no quality big man outside of him and Gasol, and with his size he contains an advantage that few players in the league possess.

He should be capable of dominating the boards with at least 10 per game and should be just as dominant on offense when attempting to post up opposing players. He has a developing hook shot, but post moves would be an even better asset.

This is Bynum's year to break out. He's recovered from the ailments that limited him last season, and he'll be the healthiest he's been in a long time for this upcoming season.

Without Odom taking up minutes and grabbing boards, the Lakers will be looking toward their 24-year-old center to finally make his breakthrough and start living up to expectations.

If not, the Lakers may just begin looking toward Orlando for someone to replace Odom and Bynum.