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Say What You Will About Andrew Bynum, But He Makes the LA Lakers Better

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IApril 24, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 02:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks in front of Troy Murphy #3 of the Indiana Pacers on March 2, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 122-99.  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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

If the Los Angeles Lakers want to solve the dilemma that is the Oklahoma City Thunder, there is a simple recipe for success, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

The Lakers have been their best when the team made a concerted effort to feed Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol the ball in the post, allowing the two players to take advantage of their considerable height against the smaller Thunder players.

The two seven-footers tower over the opposition, and they happen to be more talented than anyone Oklahoma City has on its roster at their positions to boot, so why not exploit this at every opportunity?

In all three games of the series Los Angeles has jumped out to large leads by constantly feeding Gasol and Bynum in the post, only to see those leads dwindle when they inexplicably go away from the pair.

Gasol has arguably been the most dominant player in the series thus far, and his 20.3 points per game to go along with 13.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists has been impressive, but Bynum is the X-factor for the Lakers. 

After Bynum suffered yet another injury near the end of the regular season, many people thought he would not be healthy in time for the postseason, and even if he was, he wouldn't be effective.

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But this strained Achilles tendon injury was different from the catastrophic knee injuries Bynum has faced in the past, and the difference in recovery time has been reflected in Bynum's play.

Bynum has shown none of the rust that was evident after his return from injury in 2009, and besides conditioning issues there are no visible signs he has been bothered at all by this recent injury.

A healthy Bynum to pair with Gasol in the post gives the Lakers an advantage in this series against the Thunder—and an advantage against most teams they will face if they can advance beyond this series.

Other teams have length, but few have the combined talent and skill that Bynum and Gasol possess, and none of the other teams have two seven-footers that can dominate the game from the post.

Everyone was aware Gasol would be effective by utilizing his versatility and controlling the tempo of the Lakers' attack with smart decisions, strong defense, and pinpoint passing to open teammates.

Gasol is a true seven-footer with the skills of a small forward, and he excels in the finesse area of the game, but Bynum has a similar impact for the Lakers, and he does it with his potential for brute force in the paint.

Bynum is not interested in the prettier elements of the game, but he does have the footwork, size, and strength to be one of the most dominant forces in the paint this postseason.

He is averaging 10.7 points per game and 9.7 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the field, and no one on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster has had an answer for Bynum when he receives the ball in the low post.

Bynum has endured endless criticism since he entered the NBA, but most of this stems from the amount of potential he has shown and his inability to stay healthy for an entire season.

Bynum is arguably one of the better center prospects to enter the league in a long time, and although he has shown his youth in certain situations, the fundamental aspects of his game are impressive.

Lakers legend Kareem-Abdul Jabbar took the time to teach Bynum some of the finer points of being a true low-post center, and Bynum so far has proved to be an apt pupil, and maybe the best center the West has to offer.

Opinions vary on whether or not Bynum has the resolve or the dedication to be a great NBA center, but there is no doubt his presence increases the Lakers' chances of repeating their championship of 2009.

The duo of Gasol and Bynum are averaging a combined 30 points and 23 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the field, and that's better than any other team in the postseason can boast of its post players.

Bynum and Gasol's dominance in the series against the Thunder has been overshadowed by the emerging scoring duel between Kobe Bryant and the Thunder's Kevin Durant, but it's the reason the Lakers have a 2-1 lead in the series.

There were questions about the ability of Gasol and Bynum to coexist in the starting lineup and some have clamored for Bynum to be replaced with Lamar Odom, myself included, but right now he is proving me wrong.

Bynum has been much more effective than Odom, and his presence in the paint has actually made it easier for the Lakers to assume a true post identity, since Odom sometimes prefers the perimeter.

In fact, Bynum has made the game easier for Gasol, and he could make it easier for Bryant if he would recognize the value of feeding him the ball in the post, rather than settling for jump shots.

It has been shown the Lakers will prevail over the Thunder by the strength of Bynum and Gasol, and not the scoring prowess of Bryant, and as soon as the rest of the Lakers understand this, the series will be over.

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