Out of all the free agents in this year’s NBA class, the most intriguing, and frightening, risk/reward player on the block is Andrew Bynum. When healthy, few centers not named Dwight Howard can command as much attention at both ends of the floor. But, Bynum didn’t even play last year after a mega-deal centered on the aforementioned Howard sent him to Philadelphia.
Most, myself included, thought this was a worthwhile risk at the time. They did trade away the franchise’s most elite player in Andre Iguodala to gain a potentially dominant force in the middle. However, as good as Iguodala is, Philly wasn’t going past (at very best) a second round playoff birth as the team was composed. So, a little risk was in order.
It transpired into a franchise-changing disaster for the Sixers, who didn’t seem at all interested in keeping Bynum around for an encore, and more to the point, decided to begin blowing up the team before this year’s draft and look to the future… Not surprisingly, they used that draft to acquire a center in Nerlens Noel.
So, Bynum entered the market as, almost without a doubt, the most mercurial player in it. Based on potential alone, somebody was going to bite, and Bynum ended up with a few suitors.
Now, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that Bynum is set to sign a two year contract worth up to $24.5 million… But, most of that money isn’t guaranteed, limiting the Cavs risk in the transaction.
If this was the Andrew Bynum of two years ago, this signing would be a no-brainer… but alas, it is today and Bynum (and his knees) just don’t seem as sturdy as an investment.
If Bynum is anything close to his form of two seasons ago, Cleveland just got a steal, and, very likely, a ticket punched into the 2014 Eastern Conference Playoffs… But, if Bynum falls prey to his knees, as so many other NBA big men have done in the past, the Cavs have just thrown a lot of cap space away, even if Bynum only receives half of the full value of the deal… It could limit their ability to go after free agents next season and continue to make some of those same free agents (as well as their fans) wonder if the front office really has a direction for the team.
Of course, it isn’t all up to Bynum. Cleveland has one the game’s budding superstars in Kyrie Irving running the show. Talented young players like Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson who haven’t entered their prime yet. They used the number one pick in this year’s draft on Anthony Bennett to fill a long term need at small forward. They have another talented big man coming off injury in Anderson Varejao. And, they wisely decided to sign free agent Jarrett Jack to give Irving a running mate and more time free of playmaking responsibilities.
All things considered, Cleveland went about this the right way. If you’re going to move up the ladder, you’re going to have to take a few risks. Not every franchise has the clout to go out in an off-season and put LeBron James and Chris Bosh together with Dwayne Wade to form an instant super team.
Predictions are hard to make here. Nobody really knows what Bynum’s physical status is right now, let alone where it will be when the season kicks off. But, for a player of his talent, you almost have to take one year with a grain of salt and throw a little caution to the wind.