NBA Free Agency Talk: Andrew Bynum Still Worth Risk

By Joseph Nardone
Howard Smith – USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard have a few things  in common. No, it’s not about them being polarizing, aloof or even disliked by the fanbases which were their previous home base. Rather, it’s about people sleeping on the fact that seven-foot behemoths don’t really grow on trees in a magical forest called “NBA Center Land.”

After that, though, not much else is in common between the two. Mostly because Howard is being courted by many while people tend to believe Bynum may be as worthless as Amanda Bynes — a detriment to the human species.

There is also another pretty significant difference. Some feel that Howard — rightly so — is still a valuable commodity. Somehow, however, Bynum is not as highly sought after. That’s mostly due to a bowling incident, never actually stepping on the hardwood for the Philadelphia 76ers and the perception that he doesn’t care about basketball.

Philadelphia is going to let him walk. 76ers GM Sam Hinkie has a direction he plans on taking the organization — one which I think is great — and it likely won’t include Bynum, meaning he will travel the land of free agency.

Well, the bowling debacle should really be a non-issue. Granted, the perception of him bowling on a bum knee is less than terrific, but it’s not like he was at the club or should have been on home probation until he was healthy. Also, maybe he doesn’t care that greatly about the game of basketball. Although, to be fair, 18.7 ppg and 11.8 rpg in his last healthy season is an indicator that if he even doesn’t care about the game of hurling the ball in a hoop, that he is still better at it than nearly every other player at his position — with the exception being Howard.

Bynum is a risk. I get it. In his eight-year career, one of them being completely wiped out, he nearly missed half the games he was eligible to participate in. But it is odd that we are abolishing him off the radar as we prop up players who are far less proven, with similar risks. Rookies like Nerlens Noel and Alex Len are coming into the league injured, unproven and not even remotely as polished as Bynum. Even so, we continue to call them ‘quality’ prospects while downplaying Bynum.

Then there is the idea of how much he is worth. Some like to throw around the idea that a team should pony up a one-year deal. As if there won’t be a slew of teams offering him far greater than that. The league as a whole would have to be in collusion to minimize the years on the deals offered to Bynum. Sure, nobody wants to pony up a five-year deal for a player they have concerns over his dedication, but honestly, what exactly are the other options; Nikola Pekovic — a restricted free-agent, Al Jefferson — approximately 45,823 years old and Byron Mullens — um, you know, Bryon Mullens?

The center position is dying. That is cool with me, but having Bynum is far greater than having whatever player is closest to his skill set. Even if he cares as much about the game of basketball as you care about the Lifetime Movie of the Week — which are highly underrated — he is leaps and bounds better at what he does than what 95 percent of the players do at their position. Being a top-two of anything, even at a watered down position as center, is better than being a mundane, ho-humish backup guard.

No longer a cornerstone or franchise player, sure. Yet the idea that Bynum is not worth the risk is equally as absurd as thinking other guys have more value than him. If the Dallas Mavericks are forced to pay Shawn Marion $9.5 million next season because he opted back into his contract, how exactly is signing Bynum to a five-year deal for $12 million a year worse than that? I mean, at least Bynum is younger, better and — most importantly — the second best player at his position, whether he cares about the game of basketball or not.

Unless you plan on winning the draft lottery the next couple seasons, a better player than Bynum will never be on the market. Well, except for Howard, but Bynum will cost you a lot less and come with a smaller circus.

Now, tell me how he is a bum while you’re thrilled that your team offered Monta Ellis $8 million over the next four seasons..

Twitter @JosephNardone

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