Andrew Bynum. I just love saying his name right now. After watching him go from that 17 year old kid on draft night in 2005, becoming the youngest LA Laker ever, likely the only thing he will ever beat Kobe Bryant at in his Laker career aside from blocks and rebounds… that is if Superman himself Dwight Howard isn’t wearing purple and yellow in the next month or year. With so much speculation about Howard and a trade for Bynum, I’ve been increasingly annoyed at how many people (aka NBA fans and homers included) who don’t really watch the game aside from their home team, solely, yet comments on players like they have watched them play in any game not against their favorite team.
It’s simple statements like “Bynum doesn’t deserve a comparison to Howard” or “You Laker fans are in your 6th season of ‘Bynum will show us who he can be this season” type of stuff, as well as the “Bynum gives you 50% of the games and I’d be surprised”. So it’s really made me think about Andrew and the player he is today, as well as the player he was 5 years ago. To take a look at this currently All-Star level Center in his 7th NBA season! Yet he’s only just turned 24 years old. Since he’s out of high school his prime might be around 26 years old in the NBA, if he can continue to stay on the court and play at this level he will carve out a beautiful career and spot in the Hall of Fame. At the same time, like anyone, you’re one injury away from finding a new career field.
Drew was a great kid to bring in the 2005 draft, and at 17 years old and 7′ feet tall with his touch he looked like a great pick, and all in all has been a great pick. Like most high school draftees, your rookie season is about practicing with the real men that are teammates, applying a lifting guide to gain strength and speed, as well as coaches to teach you the fundamentals like shooting and post-game. While I’ve watched basically every Laker game the last 6 years or so, his rookie year I have few memories. He played little, but that match-up with the Heat and Drew going up against him was a classic (video below):
Rookie 18 year old Bynum VS Shaq who recently left LA
In his 3rd (aka “breakout year”), at the age of 20 Bynum proved to the Lakers and NBA he was a top center in the NBA by late January 2008. After his 13 December games (prior month), posting 14ppg, 9rpg, 2apg, 2.3bpg 66%FG in 32.2 mins), showing an improvement in most all stats from November to December, so on.
Playing his best ball in January, his numbers continued to improve each month that season (3 months minimum to a year), and had been showing in the numbers and impact he not only “could have” but actually did have for over a superb 10 game span mid-season ( 15ppg, 11rpg, 2.2bpg on 68%FG & 70%FT (also won all 6 January games). Are those not “legit numbers for a starting Center at age 20 in 30 minutes a night? Lead the NBA in FG%, top5 in blocks and boards, efficient play at 28.8 mins, minutes a game in any season till present day 2011-2012 season. But oddly enough, his season season averages in scoring
Those that watched him play consistently the last 6 seasons (Laker fans or League Pass freaks like myself) saw him become a stud, especially those last 10 games right into his injury in Jan/09 as well as the 12+game stretch in 2010 also into his injury. He was 20 years old and had a breakout year and would of been Most Improved Player as he played 2007-08 like this:
- October’s 4ppg, 4rpg, 1bpg
- November’s 11ppg/10rpg
- Decembers 13.9ppg/9rpg/2.3bpg
- January’s 17.3ppg, 12.3rpg, 2.7apg, 2.3bpg, 70%FG
- February/March/April = HURT
2007-2008 NBA Stats (35 games):
_-13.1 points, 10.2 boards, 2.1 blocks, 64%FG & 70%FT in 28.8 minutes
He missed the rest of the regular season in 2008, including the Lakers playoff run to the Finals in a loss to the Celtics. As Bynum came back from a pretty big injury (3-6+months, as arthroscopic knee surgery to rehab), Rehabbing during the NBA Playoffs and upcoming off-season he ended up coming back to training camp near full health. Started the 08-09 season looking around 80%healthy/comfortable and integrating back in. Once again, he gets back to near/at 100% and has the best stretch of his career in January again this season, getting back into game shape and full health he had the best 12 game stretch of his career in January:
Simply to be disrupted by another injury playing the Memphis Grizzlies (ironic much? Both times it was a teammate, Odom and Kobe landing on his foot / knee).
While Bynum ended up missing over 2 months, the Lakers obviously weren’t going to rush him back (knowing he was key for their title runs) as well as signing him to a big contract extension. He came back from the MCL tear (level over knee sprain), and on his right leg (his major injury being on that left knee), so management brought him back for 4 games left in the regular season to get into the flow with 4 solid games. It allowed the Lakers to use their big lineup with Pau at PF next to Drew at C, and they kept close tabs on Bynum in the playoffs. Averaging 6 points, 4 boards, 1.0 blocks (17.6 minutes), starting at Center in the Lakers run to winning the finals and becoming NBA Champs. His post defense was mediocre, but his size and strength still had a nice impact that gave them the rotation, matchups, and depth they needed.
2008-2009 NBA Stats (50 games):
_-: 14.3 points, 8.0 boards, 1.8 blocks, 56%FG & 71%FT in 28.9 minutes
note: Played in every playoff game as the Lakers won the NBA Finals.
The saga continues. Bynum sort of his first healthy start since his 3rd season, and it was very similar as he was lingering throughout with injuries and staying in shape / good conditioning. They play him as a 30+minute starter, but also he was sitting out some games on back-to-backs or had some minor or lingering injuries needing a good rest. He finished the season strong though, as was his intention, starting every playoff game in their drive to the Finals Repeat. Bynum posted solid numbers in their 23 game run: 8.6ppg, 6.9rpg, 1.5bpg, on 54%FG in 24.4 minutes in the playoffs. Considering he injured his knee against the Thunder in Game 6 of the opening round matchup, Bynum chose to play on, get them that second banner, and then addressed the second big surgery after the Finals. Show’s you some heart and grit, as well as consistent numbers that barely change while he’s fighting injuries.
2009-2010 NBA Stats (65 games)
_-15.0 points, 8.3 boards, 1.4 blocks, 58%FG, 74%FT in 30.4 minutes
Beautiful off-season surgery the last days of July. As a result, and a setback or two, Bynum ended up missing the start of the 2010-2011 season for a much longer period of time than expected. Then more time passed, while the Lakers dialed in and won games as usual thanks to the Laker formerly known as “L-O”. By mid-December Bynum returned to action and starting at Center, but the Zen-Master (Coach Jackson) decided to keep his minutes down to keep him healthy and energetic. Before the All-Star break I think Bynum was confused about his role and situation as Jackson would play him 34 minutes one game and 19 the next. But he did increase Bynum’s time a little in the final 1/3rd of the season (post All-Star break), it was hard to get consistent minutes when the NBA’s 6th Man of the Year is the backup Power-Forward and veteran Pau can play PF and C at 7 feet, though a bit soft.
2010-2011 Stats (54 games):
_-11.3 points, 9.4 boards, 2.0 blocks, 57%FG, 67%FT in 27.8 minutes
And that’s actually the summarized version of Bynum’s NBA battle, trying to stay at the top with injuries and few touches in the past 5 years where nothing comes easy to him (aside from the 8 figure annual salary. Now Bynum has been healthy for about 15 months at 100%, but the first time he’s had this opportunity to start, play bigger minutes with a new coaching staff and system.
When it comes to all the “Dwight VS Bynum” jabber, stuff I try not to get into, why doesn’t anyone bring up the fact that Bynum was always looking over his shoulder worrying if Odom would come in and spark the team, turning Drew from a 34 minute starter to a 20-24 minute half-starter.
Why doesn’t anyone ever bring up the fact the Lakers had the best front-court rotation (at the time in 09-10), and Lamar Odom was the biggest reason Bynum never got a chance to be comfortable as the starter and guaranteed 30-36 minutes a game like many had.
I also question why people don’t simply ask “what if Dwight played Center in the triangle offense under Phil Jackson with that roster” ? Seriously, Dwight’s a smart player, but offensively the triangle often requires a decent mid-range shot, or a 8-10 footer that’s consistent, as well as some big-man passing skills. Would he of had trouble playing there and been a 16ppg/12rpg/2bpg starter or maybe turn into a 22ppg/18rpg/3.5apg/3bpg stud… these are all variables one must consider when comparing the two.
I do love my boy Bynum though, it’s not that improbable he can not suffer a freak injury this season or next and be a 20ppg/14rpg/3bpg stud. Of course, if one is forced to answer the comparison, then the man who fears that kryptonite, Mr. Dwight Howard, gets the nod from this season currently, but not by as much as some may think
Fans Ask: “Will they ultimately trade Dwight Howard+possible piece/s for Bynum+possible pieces/picks?
JoshFarc says: “In the end, while I think there’s a 20% chance they end up landing Howard for Bynum a week or two before the trade deadline, I think the Lakers management is actually thinking to take the risk in keeping Bynum and his injury history along with his 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 2+ blocks a game this season and he’s as healthy as ever turning 24 last week.
They keep Bynum in order to trade Pau Gasol to the Nets for Deron Williams around the trade deadline. Filling the GAPING hole at PG in the Lakers roster, both first and second units, Deron would turn that weakness into a top 5 strength in the NBA for the Lakers. I see it as we already have 2 guys that can post-up well/great as well as hit the mid-range (Pau a bit better); the Lakers having two is no longer a positive for them while the PG spot has become the most important position for each team… and the Lakers honestly havethe worse possible starting / backup PG duo in the NBA. No on D-Will, then go after Devin Harris, underrated defender and passer who needs All-Star veteran presence around him, Mo Williams who I can’t see the Clipps trading to the Lakers, and Ramon Sessions, a very underrated player who is a really high IQ PG with the size to play some SG and back-up Kobe, while also a great passer and defender. Problem is Dan Gilbert would have to agree on the “big market Lakers” getting a solid (not “great”) player at a position they are weak in. Dan Gilbert says “not gonna’ happen”!
JoshFarc ponders: “The Lakers need a PG desperately, that much is obvious. Especially now that the triangle offense is gone, the exact system/offense Fisher has always fit and excelled in while Blake was a decent backup piece in that system (good 3pt shooter that spreads the floor, decent passer). The problem is the NBA has become a league of the PG, while a decade ago it was the league of the ultimate big-man. Rather than 7 footers overloading the NBA Draft Lottery, instead we now end up having 30%-50% of the 14 lotto picks as PG’s. With this young generation of attacking scorers with such great height and strength in Derrick Rose, Russel Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving, all revolutionizing the position and game the past few years; then the great do-it-all great and 10+apg Chris Paul and Deron Williams all-around PG’ who pass as well as they shoot threes, and my last wave of PG’s in those defensive minded, pass first, mediocre shooters in Rajon Rondo and Ricky Rubio. Then there’s the smaller 2nd tier upcoming PG’s in Steph Curry, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, Mike Conley, Raymond Felton, and Darren Collison. Did I almost leave out the epic PG’s of my time in Jason Kidd (Mr. Triple Double, falls in between the Rondo and Williams category, and of course the John Stockton of the past 14 years in Steve Nash, an amazing offensive PG that can do it all while defensively struggle.