The Cavs signed Bynum in the off-season to a two-year contract for not a lot of money (relative to NBA salaries of course, lots of money compared to my salary). The contract is loaded with incentives and the Cavs are protected if Bynum has a bad year. A week into the season, though, Bynum looks like a steal.
The 7-foot center came to the Cavaliers with questions about his health and his attitude, and it is certainly too early in the season to know the answer to any of those questions. Bynum missed all of last season due to a series of injuries including when he famously hurt himself bowling (what bowling alley has big enough shoes for him to rent?), and his reputation took a big hit during his season of not playing for the Philadelphia 76ers. During his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, there were questions about his attitude, but he also put up some big numbers. He averaged 11.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game with the Lakers and was an All-Star.
He had a few injury problems, but also had times when nights when he put up huge numbers. So far with the Cavaliers, Bynum’s progress has been slow, but he has made a big impact.
On offense, Bynum is the best option in the post for the Cavs. The team can dump the ball into the post to him and he is moving fairly well to put up high percentage shots. And because of his potential to score, opposing defenses have to react more to him, which is going to open up more shots for the Cavs offense as the season continues. Point guard Kyrie Irving has already talked about learning to pass the ball into the post better to Bynum and discussed not giving him so many bounce passes but instead giving him passes that are easier for the big man to catch.
On defense, Bynum is blocking shots and also altering the shots of opposing players. He also rebounds well and has been a force. Statistically, he is only averaging 6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, but he is only averaging 12.3 minutes per game and has only played in three games. Watching the games, though, it’s easy to see that he is changing the game by helping the team when he is on the floor and by allowing Anderson Varejao and other Cavs big men to get more time resting on the bench.
If he stays healthy, Bynum is going to get stronger as the season continues and he is going to learn to play more smoothly with the rest of the Cavs. This is a guy who has put up two 20 point/20 rebound games in his career and he has the potential to be one of the best big men in the NBA by the end of the season. His play will likely bring up some interesting questions for the Cavs, but questions about getting enough minutes for your most talented players are the questions a team wants to have.
Bynum looks like a steal for the Cavs so far. It’s going to be fun to see how he progresses as the season continues.