Top NBA Players: #15 Andrew Bynum

May 16, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) handles the ball while being guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (5) during the second half in game two of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Andrew Bynum
Resume: 18.7 points (career best), 11.8 rebounds (3rd in league, career best), 1.9 blocks (6th in league), 35.2 minutes (career best), 37 double-doubles (5th in league), 56% FG (4th in league), and 69% FT… Team record in games played: 38-22 (3-3 without)… Playoffs: 16.7 points (career best), 11.1 rebounds (career best), 3.1 blocks (career best), 48% FG, 78% FT, 5-7 record… All-Star, 2nd Team All-NBA

The most interesting subplot coming into this season that doesn’t have every angle covered by the media is probably the Andrew Bynum situation. I’m thoroughly intrigued at how this could turn out, because really there is a stark contrast in possibilities.

What do we know for sure? Well, Philadelphia traded away the guy who has been the cornerstone of the franchise for eight years (Iguodala) and a legitimately stable locker room guy. In return, they received Andrew Bynum; the unanimous choice as at least the 2nd best center in the NBA, but also someone who has had more than a handful of moments that lead you to believe he is not only moody, but has the potential to tear down a locker room like Bane brought down Gotham City in The Dark Knight Rises. This was a part of a larger trade that brought Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, basically sending the message to Bynum “We needed an upgrade at your position. Thanks for 7 injury plagued years. Have fun in Philadelphia.”

Here are the things we don’t know: We don’t know whether or not Andre Iguodala was being restricted in Philadelphia (something I touched on when I discussed Iguodala). We don’t know if Philadelphia’s lack of extended success over the last few years was due solely to the fact that they didn’t have a big man. Most importantly, we have no effing idea how Andrew Bynum is going to respond to being “the man” for Philadelphia. Will he act like a moody, immature 15 year old whose parents told him they wouldn’t extend his curfew, or will he grow up, quit the pouting act and make a legitimate case that not only is he the best center in the league, but that the Lakers effed up for trading him for Dwight Howard.

Personally, I hope Bynum does succeed. This stems mostly for my bitterness towards Dwight Howard, but what is the downside to having Andrew Bynum make the next step? As a basketball fan I want as many great players in the league as possible, and I see Bynum as someone who currently possesses a treasure chest of potential, he just hasn’t unlocked it yet. He’s good enough that there is at least a warranted conversation that Dwight Howard might not be the best center in the league. Do I agree with that statement? Unfortunately, I don’t. Bynum is a more naturally gifted offensive player, but that is really the only edge he has on Dwight. This season could change the course of that whole conversation though. Dwight Howard made average Orlando teams close to great, and Bynum could do the same exact thing in Philadelphia. Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Nick Young and Spencer Hawes provide a pretty decent supporting cast, but the key to Philadelphia contending in a bolstered Atlantic Division is Bynum.

Is Bynum ready for the pressure of being the go-to-guy in Philadelphia? Is he going to give the typically critical Philadelphia crowd and media a reason to criticize him, or revere him? These are the questions I am asking myself 15 days from the NBA season, because he could either make Philadelphia completely relevant for the first time since Allen Iverson was there, or the whole situation could end up a total mess.