Andrew Bynum still has potential to be NBA’s best center

Dwight Howard’s arrival to the Los Angeles Lakers is monumental.

There’s no doubt that the Lakers’ new starting lineup of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Howard have made themselves as a powerful championship contender in the Western Conference. It brings back hope for Bryant’s quest for his sixth championship ring, and possibly more.

But as a longtime Lakers fan, I can’t help but lament about the departure of Andrew Bynum, despite the obvious upgrade.

Yes, I’ll miss the same player that so many fans and experts loved to criticize last season, from his ill-advised 3-point attempt near the end of the regular season to his disappearance in the playoffs to his overall maturity issues.

All throughout his career, I looked at him differently.

Bynum first won my respect in his rookie year when he went toe-to-toe against Shaquille O’Neal. Bynum had dunked in front of the Hall of Famer when O’Neal had done the same thing to him just seconds prior. An epic shoving match broke out immediately afterward.

Then Bynum’s courage was again tested in the 2007 season following these infamous words made against him:

“Andrew Bynum?” Bryant said in an amateur video regarding the state of the Lakers. “F***ing ship his a** out! Are you kidding me? We are talking about (trading for) Jason Kidd!”

The season after the video went viral, Bynum first showed signs of his potential as a superstar.  Bynum helped the Lakers reach the No. 1 seed in January 2008 before he dislocated his kneecap just weeks later, ending his 2007-08 campaign.

Despite being a major contributor to the Lakers’ two championships in 2009 and 2010, critics still ragged on him for suffering up two more knee injuries, and many assumed Bynum would never play at the superstar level.

In 2012, Bynum was voted to the NBA All-Star Game as a starter for the Western Conference.

All he has really done in his career is improve.

The trade is a little bitter to me because Bynum’s potential is still enormous. Right now, the best center in the NBA is undisputedly Howard, followed by Bynum.

If you ask me again in three years, however, my answer might likely be different.

If his development rate stays the same, Bynum could easily be better than Howard by then.

Let’s compare the two: Howard is much more athletic. “Superman” is stronger and quicker, and he has a lot more experience playing as the go-to option in Orlando. Not to mention, he’s a three-time recipient of the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Bynum, on the other hand, possesses some tools that still can be improved even more. Bynum’s footwork in the post is fundamentally polished enough to make old-school centers smile. He has a much longer frame than Howard does, and Bynum can grab rebounds that other centers can’t retrieve and raise the ball to places his defenders can’t reach for.

Yes, Bynum has a much bigger ego than he should possess, but so does Howard. It took an eternity and a half for Howard to leave the Magic, and it’s still unknown whether or not Howard will sign a contract extension with the Lakers.

Now that he’s now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Bynum is faced with a great test. It appears that Bynum will start the season as the Sixers’ main offensive weapon playing under renowned coach Doug Collins.

Collins is a disciplinarian coach, so his coaching style should either shape Bynum’s ego, or be déjà vu of Collins’s disaster with Kwame Brown in the early 2000s.

I wish Bynum well. Although I’ll be enjoying Howard’s likely success with the Lakers, I’ll still sit back and watch Bynum’s continued success to unfold.

Andrew Bynum is a one-of-a-kind center in basketball today. It’s hard to expect someone like him to fail.

 

Reach the columnist at jnacion@asu.edu