Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum has been viewed by some fans as a player with the potential to become an above-average NBA center, if he can manage to avoid injury, but other people feel his greatest value may be as a trade piece to acquire Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.
Bynum and Lakers forward Pau Gasol have been mentioned in numerous trade rumors, and most of them have centered around bringing Howard to Los Angeles.
In an interview with the LA Times, Lakers team president Jim Buss indicated that he had no intentions of trading both Bynum and Gasol for Howard, but he didn't go as far to say that he wouldn't consider trading either player alone.
In that scenario, Bynum would probably be a more attractive proposition to Orlando if he can find a period of consistent good health.
And if Bynum is able to play injury-free, is this finally the year where his game will catch up to his potential?
Bynum has shown through brief periods that he can be a dominant NBA center, but it seems like every time that Bynum reaches another milestone in his development as a player, he suffers another physical setback.
Until last season that is.
Bynum was arguably the Lakers' best player after the 2011 All-Star break during a streak which saw the Lakers win 17 out of 19 games and claim the second seed in the west.During the streak, Bynum seemed to transform into the dominant post presence Buss envisioned him as when he first discovered Bynum playing in New Jersey as a high-schooler.
Bynum played with strength, passion and aggression, and he gave the Lakers interior unit a rough edge and attitude that was not present in Gasol or the departed Lamar Odom.
And after another period of growth and progress, Bynum got hurt again in a late regular season game against the Dallas Mavericks. But, this time Bynum got up and went on to have the most impressive postseason of his young career.
Bynum averaged career highs of 14.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 54 percent shooting from the field during the 2011 NBA Playoffs, and he seemed to be the only Laker competing with the enegy level needed for the postseason.
In two preseason games against the Los Angeles Clippers this year, Bynum averaged 20.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and shot 16-26 from the field, while looking dominant in the process.
Granted, the Clippers may be improved but Bynum will still face better frontcourts than Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan—but not too many.
The lack of quality NBA centers gives Bynum a nice edge when facing the league's other big men, and it doesn't hurt that he has quite a bit of skill to go along with that 7'0", 285-pound frame.
Bynum already had great size and basketball instincts, and the opportunity to work with Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has definitely enhanced Bynum's footwork in the paint and his awareness on the court.Since Bynum entered the NBA at 17, he has developed a back-to-the-basket game from either shoulder, he can score at the rim with either hand and he also understands how to use his size to make life difficult on the defensive end.
Bynum may not average as many blocks as Howard, but he may alter just as many shots by his sheer size and ability to move his feet in the paint.
There have been some people who have theorized that Bynum may actually be a more skilled post player than Howard, but unfortunately his knee ailments have prevented us from framing a complete picture of his game.
I'm not sure if Bynum can ever fully escape the shadow of injury that has clouded his career, but he is still only 24, and he plays a position that he might easily dominate if he could ever find a measure of good health.
That might not be good enough to protect Bynum in a deal for Howard, but it might make Buss think about pushing Gasol out the door first.