2009-10 Player Review: Andrew Bynum

Jeff Skibiski —  August 16, 2010

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SEASON REVIEW:

Andrew Bynum’s progress during his first five seasons in the league has been a tale of two cities for the Lakers. The 2009-10 season was no different as the center once again showed promising flashes of his enormous potential, while also disappearing for long stretches. At this point in his career, that is essentially become Andrew’s M.O.—tease fans with moments of brilliance when he’s been able to stay on the floor, then miraculously find a way to become invisible or at best, irrelevant, at other times.

On the season, Bynum’s averages were virtually equal to 2008-09 as he boosted his scoring average a point to 15, while pulling down 8.3 boards a night. The big difference for Andrew was in games played, where he managed to play in and start 65 games, despite giving Lakers fans a gigantic scare when he missed a series of games in March due to a strained achilles tendon. The 65 games was a dramatic improvement over the 35 he played in 2007-08 and 50 in the following season. In fact, for Andrew, his most significant area of growth last season was arguably his relative ability to stay on the floor. Regular playing time breeds consistency and that has been one of Andrew’s largest problem areas the past few seasons.

Health issues aside, Bynum surprised many fans and critics by unveiling a newfound attitude and sense of maturity last season. Even after suffering debilitating season-changing injuries each of the past two seasons, Andrew maintained a positive outlook when he hurt his achilles tendon—a devastating injury for many athletes—just as the team was gearing up for another playoff run. Not only that, once he did return just in time for Game 1 against the Thunder, he showed little drop-off, putting in a reassuring 13 points and 12 rebounds in that first game back from injury. The excitement was short-lived though as Andrew suffered a slight tear of his meniscus in Game 6 of the same series, dramatically decreasing is mobility for the rest of the title run. However, like a true champion, Bynum persevered, throwing together a timely 17 point, 14 rebound performance in Game 2 against Utah and an even bigger 21 point, seven block outing in Game 2 against the Celtics. Through it all, the center showed a level of passion and grit that was previously absent from his game and earned a lot of respect from teammates, critics and fans.

PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON:

Andrew certainly posted higher totals during the regular season (especially during the first month of last season when he looked like a sure-fire All-Star), but his gutsy (and underrated) 39 minute, 21 point, seven block, six rebound effort in Game 2 of the Finals was by far his impressive, revealing performance to date.

NEXT SEASON:

Measuring Andrew’s success five years into the league is still a somewhat difficult, not to mention, divisive task. On one hand, the still incredibly young 22-year-old continues to provide sneak peaks of the type of dominance that has entered his name into the discussion of the league’s top centers. On the other, he’s neither completed an entire NBA season, nor shown the ability to maintain his performances night in and night out. Luckily for the Lakers and Andrew, they still have time to figure those kinks out. Without much roster turnaround expected until at least the season after next, the Lakers still won’t need to rely as heavily on Andrew as an option A or B on offense, though he has certainly shown that he has the potential to be that type of force.

Looking ahead to next season, one of the largest contributions Bynum can make is simply staying on the floor. Andrew was a difference-maker on defense in the playoffs, even when limited by injury. His size and length are invaluable to the Lakers as a last line of defense and when he’s at the top of his game, the forum blue and gold are virtually unbeatable. With Kobe, Gasol, Artest and Odom in tow, the Lakers have shown that they can surive—and still flourish—without a monster scoring night from Bynum. However, they need every bit of the seven footer’s still evolving defensive game against presumed NBA powers like Oklahoma City, Boston, Orlando and Miami.

Jeff Skibiski

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23 responses to 2009-10 Player Review: Andrew Bynum

  1. What is intriguing is the thought of how good this team could be if Andrew stays healthy for the season.

  2. Health is a talent, that’s for sure.

    Not sure if it’s Bynum’s, however.

    Still, if we can have him during the entire playoffs, I like our chances.

  3. This review made me recall Doc Rivers’ stupid pronouncement that his starting lineup had never been defeated in a playoff series. My immediate reaction to that line of garbage, which I suspect damn near every other Laker fan shared, was to think, “If that’s not the pot calling the kettle black.”

    A severely injured Bynum was still a huge difference maker in this season’s Finals. Rivers can whine all he wants about the Celtics’ loss of Perkins for the majority of games six and seven in L.A., but the counterpoint to that argument is there may never have been a game six or seven had Bynum been healthy all series. As game two demonstrated in particular, Boston had no answer for the kid when paired with Pau up front. Honestly, no team in the league can match the Lakers’ front line when healthy, and that’s the key thing that should separate them from the other contenders next season.

    And while we can’t discount the fact that Bynum’s 2008 injury paved the way for Pau’s arrival, I will always wonder how the 2008 Finals would have played out had Bynum been able to return by season’s end and Ariza been closer to 100 percent. Injuries are part of the game, of course, so we can’t whine about them any more than we can let Rivers get away with doing the same. But don’t act like those guys’ absences weren’t any less of a factor in the Lakers’ losses in 2008 as Perkins’ injury was to Boston’s this summer. Rivers wants to pretend like injuries alone cost his team in ’09 and ’10, yet he doesn’t acknowledge the impact they had on his team’s win in 2008. He can’t have it both ways.

    Aside from the attitude Bynum displayed in the playoffs — watch the replays and see how often Bynum was the first one off the bench to cheer on Pau — the other really encouraging step he took in 2009-10 was developing a great on-court chemistry with Pau. Their talents really should support the other’s games, given their differences in skill, size and strength. The more time they share together on the floor, the more they’re likely to become one of the league’s better all-time versions of a twin towers lineup.

    I’m admittedly a card-carrying member of the pro-Bynum camp, for better or worse. My hope is this season he’ll be able to avoid the freak injuries that have stymied his progress the past three seasons. His run of bad luck has to end sometime, doesn’t it?

  4. I say we kill a chicken at the start of the season to ensure good health for Drew.

  5. Dunk Specialist August 16, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    I really think Drew stays healthy this year. Probably means like 72 games. But I think he is actually going to be fully healthy this playoffs. If you look at big guys they always get hurt to some extent. Only Dwight Howard seems to stay completely healthy. Just to name a few but mostly playoff teams over the last three years: Bosh, Yao, Oden, Bogut, Boozer, Gasol, Nene, Camby, Robin Lopez, Amare, Shaq, J ONeal, Big Z, Noah, and KG. None of them play in all 82 games. I am too lazy to look but I don’t remember any of them making a full 82 games in the last three years (though KG might have the year they one the championship). What do they all have in common, they are bigs on playoff teams. Duncan might have played all 82 the last three but again he was the except not the rule. Big bodies just can’t handle that kind of wear and tear. I think everyone makes a bigger deal with Bynum because he plays for the Lakers (and because he is still somewhat inconsistent). Plus he had 2 freak accidents so people just assume he will get hurt. But in both cases no player in the league could have played after someone falls into your knee. And people always seem to forget that Gasol played in, yup exactly 65 games. The difference is nobody dwells on it. But with Bynum they think it means he can’t stay healthy.

  6. I’m definitely not on the Andrew Bynum bandwagon, in my opinion there hasn’t been an important game in this 3 year run where I said to myself “We would have lost that game without Andrew Bynum”. Now of course a lot of that has to do with injuries but staying healthy and/or being effective while hurt are important attributes (see. Byrant, Kobe). Having said that, I do appreciate the fact he gutted it out in the playoffs on a bum knee, and had a positive demeanor throughout.

    Like I said I’m not on the bandwagon but I do recognize his potential, still he’s one more knee injury from officially being damaged goods.

  7. Drew contributed in a real and meaningful way to this championship without being a 20&10 guy or an all-star.

    There were flashes of brilliance. Not Kareem-style brilliance, but Dennis Rodman-style brilliance.

    For Drew to meet expectations this season, he’s going to need to tap into that again. To exceed expectations, just sustain it.

    I’m hopeful we’ll see more of this kind of play, because I feel something just clicked for Drew sometime during the post-season.

    Is it just me, or did he seem to react faster, and go about things more intuitively?

  8. KG played the following # of regular season games the past eight seasons –

    2002-2005: 82 ganes each of three seasons;
    2005-2007: 76 games each of two seasons;
    2007-2008: 71 games;
    2008-2009: 57 games;
    2009-2010: 69 games

  9. The caveat on the Lakers to have Bynum healthy this season is to have the Laker players watch out themselves from falling off on Bynum. The last three seasons Bynum’s injury were caused by freak accidents from his mates (the last season being an aggravation of the last two injuries). For this year, I think Andrew will likely play more games in the regular season and will be healthier and dominant in the playoffs.

  10. The one thing that I always thought was missing from Drew’s game was a sense of urgency. That feeling on the court that what you do out there matters most in your team’s success. With so many great players around Drew and the freakish injuries he seems to get all the time, leave me with the impression that Drew feels out of the loop or left behind. But last year when he got that knee injury he changed. It’s like Drew decided that nothing was going to stop him from being a part of this Laker team and making the type of impact he knows he can make. A fire is now kindling in Drew. Now he will become the dominate center in this league we all thought he would become.

  11. Ever since the Miami signings people have tended to put the Heat as at least co-equal favorites to win the prize next year.

    The one thing all these assumptions have in common is that none of them include any meaningful role for Andrew Bynum next year.

    He is the type of body and skill set that will simply overpower other teams. The Celtics had to sign Shaq, if they expect to counter a healthy Bynum. Nobody else, except Orlando, has any answer.

  12. The Leprechauns had to hire the O’Neals to counter our size. The Orlando go that far due to Howard’s physical dominance. San Antonio has always been a team with the ability to dominate inside.

    Bynum is and always will be a difference maker even if he doesn’t develop into superstar status. All the teams that go deep into the playoffs have some sort of physical dominance near the glass.

    Regarding the Nazgul in Miami, while they lack dpeth at Center, they do have the most physically dominant player at the SF slot. Their rebounding woes will be somewhat covered. But basketball is no all about weakside help on defense. To be efective you also have to be able to man-up inside.

    I don’t see Bosh and Z holding their own against our twin towers. I don’t see Orlando able to keep Howard on the floor against us. I don’t envision the O’Neals tearing us apart (not in 2010 at least). I do see Splitter and Duncan matching up with us… They’re the ones who will require 20-10 from Bynum in order for us to win. I just hope he doesn’t get more freakish accidents.

  13. According to some mystical “rule of centers,” Andrew is still three years from maturity–which has to keep the brain trust of most other NBA teams sleepless more nights than they care to count.

    Let’s look at the competition.

    At the high end, Drew could be challenged by Yao Ming or Greg Oden in the Western Conference–but they might be even bigger injury risks. In the Eastern conference, there are Andrew Boget and Dwight Howard–but our Andrew holds his own. Among the proven veterans, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett stand out, but more as comparisons to power forward Pau than Drew. Among the geritol set, the Heat have Ilgauskas, and the Celts have Dr. Shaqrock–both minimum salary bench warmers.

    Yes, there are 4 or 5 other centers in the NBA that can compete at high levels, but few of us would trade Drew for any of them, one for one.

    At last year’s performance levels, Drew would be a more than adequate center if he plays the entire seson. If Bynum begins to reach his mature potential and stays healthy?

    Oh my . . . .

  14. I love this kid, and was so glad Dr. Buss & Mitch didn’t give up on him in rumored trades for Jason Kidd & later Chris Bosh. @ 22, this kid is truly the future of the Lakers. The beauty of it all is the Lakers are so good now they can afford to bring A.B. along, in spite of his injuries, as the 3rd scoring option. Think about, he already has a much better low post offensive game than most other 5’s in the league. And his “D” is steadily improving. Late last season I saw passion added to his game.

    As far as stats: this season I’m expecting a healthy Bynum to post the following:

    games: 77
    mpg: 31
    PER: 23
    ppg: 17
    rpg: 11
    fg%: 58
    ft%: 77
    bpg: 3 (I’d love it)
    apg: 2.5
    injuries: 0
    NBA titles: 3rd

    Bonus: 1st NBA All-Star selection

  15. I take Ratliff’s word when he praised Bynum’s strength and toughness inside. I think Ratliff will prove to be an important role in helping Bynum develop. I’m sure DJ and Powell practiced hard, but Ratliff should prove to be an on-court mentor.

    If Bynum can embrace his role as a rebounder and defensive intimidator, who can score inside when given the call, I’m hoping for 16ppg, 12rpg, 2.5 bpg, and hopefully 75 games. It is unreal how we’ve been in the Finals the past three seasons, and are back to back champs, even though our starting center has been so banged up. I think Bynum is finally “getting it” as evidenced by his gutsy performance in the playoffs. Also, he is our decisive advantage inside against the cHEAT. That big puppy who got excited and dunked on Shaq (seems like a decade ago) is truly growing up to be a force inside.

  16. There’s going be a bit of a delay with the afternoon post today (it’s a mailbag, btw). The day job just threw me a curveball. Thanks for your patience.

  17. Someone close to LeBron needs to put a muzzle on him, for his own good.

    “I don’t think (Dan Gilbert) ever cared about LeBron,” LeBron tells GQ, using the always classy royal third-person reference.

    And this gem also echoes his humble nature: “Even my family gets spoiled at times watching me doing things that I do, on and off the court.”

    And seeing video of that rally a few weeks ago, one would be led to believe the Heat had, you know, actually won something, what with all the high fives and fancy pyrotechnics and what not.

    Thankfully, the only ceremony that matters will be at Staples Center on Oct. 26 when the Lakers (again) redecorate the arena’s south wall with a shiny new banner.

  18. Bynum’s increased maturity at 22 yo is even more impressive, as we see LBJ at 25 yo regress to needing a lolipop and a nap!

    (check his GQ interview).

  19. I am also on the side believing Drew will only improve, both in ability and games played. (So much so, that I bet a random gentleman at the bar I frequent that Drew will play 65+ games this season.) It really is unfortunate that his injuries have him labled “injury-prone” when it could have been anybody Kobe fell onto (See LO stepping on Kobe for example). With many of you, I see Drew as a huge difference maker when playing even 75%. If you say (more or less) the top three (or four if you count Miller/LO) on the Heat/Lakers can wash, there is one major card we still have.

    And, God-willing, we will have it in every single game.

  20. A. B. will play well enough, and play in enough games to get selected for the 2011 NBA All-Star game, nuff said

  21. Will the Lakers entertain a trade for Mr Anthony….I can’t imagine it, but is it a possibility?

  22. 22- While a trade for Anthony would be a nice future-term move, I don’t see how it makes this current Laker squad any better, because we would have to lose at least Bynum and Odom/Artest. I don’t think we could pull that off without being a weaker team in the short-term.