Improving From Within: Andrew Bynum

Phillip Barnett —  May 24, 2011

Last week, Darius wrote a post about how the Lakers can improve next season by making internal adjustments, with individual players improving their games and bodies instead of making wholesale changes. In that post, he discussed all the things Kobe can do to improve on his health that would make for a better Bryant going into the 2011-2012 season. Today, we take a look at Andrew Bynum.

As the off season progresses, talks about the Lakers getting rid of the young center for Dwight Howard may grow louder, but if they happen to fall upon def ears, no one should be particularly upset about keeping ‘Drew in the Forum Blue and Gold as he showed more promise in becoming the league’s definite second best center than he had at any point in his career. While some of his offensive metrics are down from last year (FG%, FT%, TS% to name a few), he’s improved leaps and bounds on the defensive end of the floor and has developed a mid range jump shot that we hadn’t really seen from him in previous years. While this season wasn’t his best in terms of statistics, it was definitely one of his best in terms of overall impact and showed us that, while he isn’t a perfect center, he is moving in the right direction.

However, as Darius mentioned with Kobe, ‘Drew needs to spend this summer improving his health over everything else. Bynum missed a huge chunk of the beginning of the season recovering from the knee surgery he had during last off-season. After joining the team in December, Bynum managed to play in all but three of the remainder of the Lakers regular season games and in each of the Lakers playoff games, a huge testament to how hard he worked during his rehabilitation period. His knee is still a problem though, as witnessed by the collective reactions of Lakers coaches, players and fans every time he went down and grabbed that knee. Even if he were only down for a few seconds, most of us seemed to believe the worst first, and work back from there. Naturally, it is impossible to prevent freak accidents, but putting in work to strengthen the ligaments surrounding his knee would go a long way in building his own confidence in his knee. More than once this year, we saw Bynum go down and change the way he played his game because of the fear of losing another season due to injury.

Once Andrew Bynum gets that whole body health thing down, he’s going to be a very, very good basketball player. What I loved most from Bynum’s season was his dedication to rebounding and the defensive end of the floor following the all-star break. Land O’ Lakers Brian Kamenetzky gave a great account of his stretch of brilliant play when he wrote:

The Lakers ripped off a run of 17 wins in 18 games, during which Bynum was awesome. Particularly so in 11 March games, in which Bynum finished with fewer than 12 rebounds twice, and had eight multi-block games. As a team, the Lakers allowed only 91.3 points a game for the month, holding opponents to 42 percent shooting — their best marks of the season. Again, this was the influence of Bynum. He was changing shots to the point ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande actually invented a stat for him (S.A.B.O.A., or Shots Altered by Bynum’s Outstretched Arms). Scoring became secondary (though he still did enough of it), as for the first time in his career, Bynum truly committed to the idea of dominating defensively and on the glass, something the Lakers had implored of him for years.

Considering how great he was in protecting the rim and cleaning the glass, it’s hard to argue that he could have played any better during that stretch, however, consistency is something that can definitely be asked of from Bynum. There are very few men in the NBA bigger and more skilled than Andrew at his best. He’s always had great timing when attempting to block shots, and he’s done a much better job of using his body instead of relying on his size to rebound. Just doing those things on a regular basis will go a long way not only for his development, but for the Lakers in general.

Lastly, I think Bynum’s offensive game will be vastly improved if he spent a little time working on his patience — something that he’s already improved on. Take a look at the following play.

Bynum gets the ball, looks to the corner, then looks over his right shoulder for cutters before even taking a dribble. After a couple of dribbles, he kicks the ball out to Fisher and then re-posts deeper and gets a nice easy jump hook out of it. There have been myrad possessions where Bynum has caught the ball and attacked the rim too quickly, or caught the ball and immediately made another pass before evaluating all of his options. I’m not saying that he needs to hold on to the ball with every catch, but doing things with a purpose and with patience will help improve some of those offensive metrics that were down this year. Also, that five to 15-foot jump shot can be a great way for him to open up things for himself in the post.

Even with an early playoff exit, I do think the Lakers have the right pieces to contend for another championship, and Andrew Bynum’s size is a huge asset. Improving an already very good center could prove to be more valuable than trading core pieces away.

Phillip Barnett

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32 responses to Improving From Within: Andrew Bynum

  1. If Bynum stays on the team (which I am assuming he will outside of a Howard trade), I am looking for this to become to season where he becomes the #1 option offensively and starts really being a leader on this team.

    Bynum needs to get the ball on EVERY possession, and he should be the one to “get his” before everyone else.

    The question is how will Kobe respond with this idea. Will he be willing to give up his “top dog” status, or will his insistence to stay within his predefined pecking order be the downfall of the team. (Shaq v. Kobe part 2?)

  2. Sorry Dustin….Bynum has not shown that he needs to be the #1 option yet. When he completely dominates every other center that guards him and demands a double team every time he touches the ball, then I will pass the torch to him as the first option, but not till then. If it were D12, instead of Bynum, then I would agree with you that the ball should touch his hands 60% of the time and go through Kobe 40% of the time. (And no I am not suggesting that either take 60/40 of the shots, but that the ball goes through their hands either in the post or elbow for Kobe.)

  3. 1. Bynum must show he can be a consistent offensive presence before he becomes the first option. I don’t think that this is something you can institute inorganically. Drew has to prove he’s ready for by performance on the court.

    And I love Drew and his game. This is no knock on him.

  4. MIKE BROWN?????????????????????

  5. It sounds silly to think of Bynum as a co number one option with Kobe. But since he got healthy after the all star break and in shape the numbers and the eye test say it might be a good idea. With an offseason to finally work on his body and his game it wouldn’t be a suprise to any Lakers fan or anyone who watched the playoffs to see Drew lead the Lakers next season as he turns just 24 years of age.

  6. Mike Brown on the sidelines at Staples? Inconceivable!

    I must say at first I was VERY dismissive at the notion that Lebron’s scraps of a coach could possibly become the lead for the purple and gold. Lately though, I’ve been reconsidering as I weigh his strengths as a coach and what strengths we need IN a coach.

    The guy knows defense. Though Kobe and Artest are slowing down in the foot speed department, Im intrigued by the possibility of having two seven footers execute his defensive scheme. I know Phil Jackson could coach some D in his day, but having MB as a coach will continue emphasis (if not more) on that end. Also if MOUNTAIN DREW can continue to build on his post all-star break rampage, this could be interesting.

    Renewed vigor on that end of the floor for the Lake Show? It could happen.

  7. Warren Wee Lim May 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Yes Mike Brown and I am one of the few that see that as a better move than Shaw or Adelman.

    Offensively, Mike Brown is not the best coach. He is an X and O guy… but thats the purpose of a Kobe Bryant on the team. He can go beserk on the patterns and lets his game flow.

    Alot of FB and G bloggers have become fairweather fans… we have taken quite the “trade Kobe” stance that ppl even suggest Kobe “deferring” to Bynum for the offense. You guys should really take some vitamins for short term memory loss. Kobe is the offensive anchor of the team and what he needs are defensive anchors (Bynum and Artest) and good hands (Gasol and Bynum) and a couple of playmakers (Odom and Walton). What we need now are the shooters that will space the floor and some athleticism to chase fastbreaks and loose balls.

  8. Warren Wee Lim May 24, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    I am not taking away credit from Andrew Bynum – but his best games are the ones where he dominates the boards and guards the paint… he gets his juices flowing that way, and thats the right way.

    Your #1 option should always and forever be the most-skilled guy. Simply because Kobe can create. Whether or not he does is another story, but the point being is that Kobe is the team’s best scorer and playmaker and offense should run through him.

    Gasol is the one kind of lost in the translation, but I am one of the few believers that Pau can come back rested and healthy and refreshed to average atleast 22/10 for the team. Kobe gets his usual 25/5/5. Andrew’s 18 would be optimal… he won’t ever be Shaq or Duncan but the part I want to see him do is achieve 12 rpg and 2.5bpg. If he does that, it would be tantamount to Kobe scoring 35+.

    Artest is not the perfect 3 guy for the team, we could thrive with a Trevor Ariza once more, perhaps he could be lured back, but not necessarily. I’m hoping Ebanks improves his jumper as his athleticism is already there, he just needs his range.

    I know FB&G loves Lamar as much as I do but if we could get someone of Devin Harris’ skillset for him while adding a wide body down low would be the perfect offseason.

  9. I hope this means that BShaw gets the Warriors gig, if Brown comes to the Lakers.

    Meanwhile, the Buss family strikes again as only they can. (I’m not sure that this is a complement,either!)

  10. @8

    The one undeniable issue you may be forgetting is Kobe’s decline. He is not even the same player he was in the 2008-2009 season. Projecting into next season based on who Kobe was this year may not lend to an accurate forecast. You may be counting on Kobe to be someone he no longer is. That is why I am for more offensive involvement for Bynum.

    I don’t think Bynum needs to be “promoted” to number one. I think some of our perspectives on this are too static. Kobe needs to remain the number one guy, but in a more equitable fashion. I’m watching Dirk and the guy always seems to shoot between 15 to 20 shots a game. It is enough for him to dominate offensively while still keeping his team mates involved. And keep in mind, even though he is seven feet tall he is basically a wing player. So it’s not like most of his shots are from five feet out.

    The days of just hitching the wagon to Kobe and letting him lead the team to the promised land are gone. Miami is deadly because on any given night there are three guys that can score 30 points. And depending on how the defense wants to cover them the Heat will just adjust. That sounds a lot smarter than having a pecking order set in stone. I think that is point people are getting at. No sane Laker fan wants to see Kobe playing like a role player.

  11. I dunno know…MB (and the other coaching candidates) don’t really seem to generate a whole lot of expectations or energy or the thought that the Lakers have executed a coup.

    Remember when PJ was hired? The vibe? The feeling that this was something special and significant? That this was something that would put the Lakers over the top? That this gave the Lakers an advantage?

    I just don’t feel that w/ MB (or any of the other candidates that have been mentioned in the media).

    When PJ left the first time and rumors surfaced that the Lakers were courting coach Z from Duke it sounded ludicrous to me; now I think he’s the one coach that could generate that kind of renewed sense of purpose that this team needs.

    Like I said: I just dunno know. What I do know is that hiring MB feels like the equivalent of the Lakers signing Samuel Dalembert when everyone is dreaming about Superman II: disappointing, practical, somewhat understandable, conventional, uninventive and worst of all settling. Just don’t think the NBA is quaking at the thought of the Lakers being coached by MB.

    Maybe I just want/expect the Lakers to think out of the box, to be bold and pull the next great coaching genius out of a hat. In any case, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see (and try to learn from you alls thoughts and insights on the matter).

  12. To follow up on what T. Rogers (10) said in response to Warren (7-8)–I think it’s very interesting to parse Warren’s way of putting things. He said that the #1 option should “always and forever” be such and such and that those doubting Kobe should take memory pills. I think a little too much “always and forever” is being applied to Bryant.

    In other words, an interest in permanence (“always and forever”) and the past (memory enhancers).

    You know where I’m going here and it’s a place Laker fans need to go. Kobe has been great for a long time. But Father Time and etc etc.

  13. Wow…meant Coach “K” not coach “Z” whoever that might be.

  14. Over at espnla, Brian Kamenetzky (another last name starting with K!) sums up the MB potential hiring pretty succinctly.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/19651/sources-lakers-in-serious-talks-with-mike-brown

  15. Mike Brown can not win a ring.

    He is the head coach equivalent of George Bush.

    He can look as he might know a thing or two, but then cannot properly say the word “nuclear”.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqLvBUSJucg

  16. Warren Wee Lim May 25, 2011 at 12:54 am

    T. Rogers and Will,

    Let me quote myself: “Your #1 option should always and forever be the most-skilled guy.”

    I am placing emphasis on Kobe’s ability to “create” and not his ability to shoot or explode. Has Kobe declined? Yes he has. But he is still the team’s most skilled player, next to him is Pau Gasol. I am referring to skill as the ability to create shots for himself if needed and the ability to draw defenders.

    I don’t agree with the pecking order terminology that has been thrown around… I think Kobe, more than you or me, understands what it takes to win and thats putting the ball on the team’s leader.

    I might be a little biased or a little prejudiced but like Kobe, I am nor ready to relinquish the reins of the team to an immature 22yo whose knees are yet to last a full season. I am not taking anything away from Bynum, he is the closest thing there is to a pure center as there is in the game today, but the kid has to grow up – not just horizontally and vertically but in his head.

  17. Warren Wee Lim May 25, 2011 at 1:09 am

    Just like in amateur pickup basketball that we play, you put the ball in the guy with the best skill to pass, drive, create…

    I hope we are referring to the same kind of sport here but the ball doesn’t have to go through Bynum ALL THE TIME for us to be effective.

  18. I loved the improvement by Bynum on the defensive end, he definitely is a guy you can set up your team defense around. Especially since a lot of his blocked shots are of the Bill Russell kind, staying in play and possibly leading to quick outlets and easy fast-break points.

    Although he was very efficient, I was not that impressed by Bynum offensively. I thought he took a small step back as far as using his footwork. In past seasons he had shown an array of drop steps, up and unders and the like. This season – to me – he mostly relied on his physical advantage whenever he could. Instead of creating better angles and closer shots, he was often-times content to just go into the body of his defender. This works a lot of times because of Bynum’s size and physicality, but on several moves he was caught just throwing the ball up there and shouting like he was being fouled.

    To Bynum’s credit, the last few off-seasons have been all about getting back to a acceptable level of health and not of developing skills under game conditions. He’s said so himself, he now can get to working at his game again. In my opinion he should try to refine his footwork over the summer, his size advantage will be there and his athleticism should also continue to get better (not to pre-injuries level, but still).

    If Bynum continues on this trajectory, to me he can be the clear #2 center in the league behind Howard. Maybe Kobe can invite Hakeem again and lock him into a gym with Bynum all summer.

  19. It is refreshing to see commenters like Warren Lee around on ESPN.Let us see what happens if Kobe plays around 38 minutes as he is still the most creative offense maker.

  20. What ever it may be, I just don’t think the lakers ever intended to hire Shaw as head coach. Mike Brown may seem like a terrible choice but the more I think about it the more I like it. What’s the point of bringing in Alderman to replace the triangle with a similar offense and have the team still lacking on the defensive end. What’s the point of bringing in Van Gundy who will scrap the offense and try to implement something that may not be best suited for the lakers although he’ll most likely improve the team defensively. But if you bring in a great defensive coach like brown, he’s most likely to keep on the assistants, keep the triangle and vastly improve the lakers defensive scheme. I just don’t think implementing a completely new offensive is the best move for the lakers. While I think MB will most likely keep the triangle, I don’t think he’ll be afraid to make a few minor and much needed changes.

    But I also like Mike Browns energy, enthusiasm, and just the way he approaches the game. I know people say he appeased Lebron, but I think just about every other coach outside of Jerry Sloan would’ve as well.

  21. Our halfcourt defense is excellent. The team just doesn’t have the youth and speed to defend well in transition. I don’t see how a defensive-minded coach is going to rejuvenate our older players.

    I’d prefer Adelman because he’ll help us score more efficiently, which will force teams to take the ball out more frequently and cut down on transition opportunities.

  22. Excellent point chibi. How are you going to get old guys to play defense? You can’t because they’re old. That was out of Jerry West’s mouth and what happened!!! Dallas was old too, but they were more athletic than us. We are the Dinosaurs of the League. We have no quick guard, small forward coming off the bench and scoring like a mad man, no one locking everyone up we place in front of him. We certainly don’t have an athletic forward blocking every shot that comes near him so much so that no one wants to test him (Pau gets tested on a regular). So how is Mike Brown going to make a team without LaBrawn doing almost all of the above play defense?

  23. ……and let’s not even discuss his offensive coaching pedigree or lack there of.

  24. the other Stephen May 25, 2011 at 3:06 am

    i don’t understand. mike brown? what good can come of this? i hope we lose him to the warriors or some other bidder.

  25. Renato Afonso May 25, 2011 at 3:22 am

    Warren,

    Even with a supreme skill set, the way that Kobe plays requires him to be a good athlete. Where I am going with this is that Kobe should adjust the way he plays due to the ability he has and diminishing athleticism. If you look at Dirk, he will always get his because his game does not depend on his speed at all. The ball can go through Kobe a lot, but I’m afraid that Kobe doesn’t have the proper mindset to adjust the number of shots he takes per game. And calling the commenters here “fairweather fans” is not the way to go. I’m here since day one and never was a Kobe fan. We are Lakers fans and we want what’s best for teh team. Some people like some players more than others and try to justify their choice to what (to them) seems logical. Contrary to general belief, I do have a deep knowledge of the triangle offense and whenever the ball is in Kobe’s hands there’s a high chance of him breaking the play. He is excellent at aspacing the floor without the ball but other times… Well, enough on him.

    Regarding the people talking about the transition defense, people must realize that most of the time it has more to do with tactical knowledge and basketball IQ than with athleticism. I ask you this: if someone is having a 2 on 1 fastbreak against the Lakers, who do you want being the lone defender? Derek Fisher, right? Case rested. The problem with our transition defense is that the triangle requires a high shooting percentage from the corners. When the ball is shot near the baseline we will have one wing and two post players the furthest they can be from our rim. Obviously this generates fastbreaks against us… The triangle has its faults, like all offenses do, and this one was severily exposed this year. And Mr. Bynum talked about that earlier this season during a losing streak.

    Bynum shows to understand the triangle better than what people thought and he definetly understands how to score. I firmly believe that having the ball go through his hands will result in more high percentage shots and more assists to open wing players. We’re not talking about Bynum shooting 25 times a game like Kobe does. But if he shoots close to 15 then we’re set. And I agree with him needing to prove that he must have the ball in his hands and command a double team whenever he touches it, but if he barely touches the ball at all how are we going to find out if he deserves them or not?

    To me, Bynum’s key improvement must be his assist numbers. He must be able to drop near 20 points, grab over 10 rebounds, block 2 per game and have 3 to 4 assists at least. Maybe it will cost LO some minutes, but Bynum can be as good as that and the near future runs through him…

  26. As for Bynum…….

    We all hoped that the lectures given to him by Phil and his dedication to defense were more than a phase. We saw the potential to be the biggest game changer since David Robinson, we now learn that it was only a fleeting fancy, he really wants to be Patrick Ewing instead. He again is saying he wants to score. Damn.

    He cannot be the scoring emphasis for the Lakers because he is not as fleet a foot as an Hakeem Olajuwon. He takes too much time to score and he can’t create his own shot. I do like that he has a mean streak now that he is mentally growing into his body. I also feel like him averaging 15/15/3 is not a bad thing. But I would say the rebounds, blocks, and altered shots still have to come first.

    Teams started defending him better by having their centers get stronger defensive position (by using their legs) to prevent his repost from getting closer to the basket. In the time it took him to establish better scoring position, a help defender would cirlce or cut back to alter or block his shot. That has to do with people standing still and not cutting to get their defenders away from Drew. It’s a simple as using the strong side defense employed by Boston, clogging the middle or using a zone.

  27. This is The Buss family being cheap, but I am glad for another black coach in the league

  28. So r they saying that there is no mor Tex, Clemons, Shaw, Chuck,etc. Whatever job Brian Shaw gets, he will take those guys with him. This us not good especially with a Kobe career coming to an end.

  29. Warren Wee Lim May 25, 2011 at 6:14 am

    What has Mike Brown got to do with us being old? And how do you expect Adelman to do otherwise?

  30. Can’t say I’m a fan of Brown. Plus, wasn’t Brian Shaw halfway out the door to Cleveland last summer before Phil insisted on him staying? I seem to remember Phil making comments in the media implying Shaw was the next man in line. I got the impression Shaw stayed because he was given a good indication that were the case.

    Sure nothing is set in stone. But to go outside for a coach as unproven as Brown is a bit of a slap in the face to Shaw. What really is Mike Brown’s edge over Brian Shaw? For all the talk about Shaw being too buddy, buddy with Kobe are we forgetting Brown’s relationship with LeBron? He never even had LeBron’s respect. And he is supposed to impress Kobe Bryant? I’m sure Mitch has a method to his madness. I wish he would let us in on it. Right now I just don’t see it.

  31. As for the discussions that advocate Bynum being promoted to the number 1 option, (in Seth Myers voice) REALLY?!? One must EARN the number 1 option on any team, unless they are the number 1 pick on a non-competitive team–see, the Cavs and the Clippers!

    Otherwise, one must prove through consistency and improvement from one season to the next, that one is ready to assume the position.

    No one handed Kobe the number 1 option! Kobe had to be counted on as the number 2 option for years before he was installed as the MAN! And, when Kobe’s time came there were still questions as to his ability to accept the crown.

    All, I am saying is that while Bynum appears to be the best candidate to assume the no. 1 scoring option moving forward in the future, if he continues to work on his game and improve during successive off seasons. While this may be an imminent option for the future, the future has not yet arrived. So, we should ride the wave of Kobe for this up coming season, slowly incorporate Bynum to the number 1 slot for the 2012-2013 season. During the 2013-2014 season Bynum can then assume the position of number 1!

    If Buss and Kupchak decide that Mike Brown will be the coach going forward, then I for one will trust their choice, no reason not to!

  32. Don’t doubt it the Lakers are in a quandry. This is the proverbial fork in the road for the organization. Some big decisions will have to be made and some changes are coming for sure. But what?

    1) Bynum: Shows signs of being a beast at times and you think wow the next great Laker big. But the knees concern me over the long haul. We need him to grow into the first option but at the same time he is the Lakers most marketable asset. Decision, Decision.

    2) Lol…lets wait before we retire Kobe just yet. We forget how great of a player Kobe truly is. However, we all must agree he aint the high flying, 82-point scoring Kobe anymore but he is still great. I believe he will be back stronger than ever becuz what Kobe needs is rest more than anything and to get healthy. The issue is will he be willing to allow Bynum to grow into the first option or even exist on the same plane as he…ie…the Shaq/Kobe 30-30 days. This is a BIG ONE don’t kid urself Kobe is KING in Lakerland and this will have to be handled right.

    3) Coach…Brown I like it for now. Can he handle Kobe and light a fire under friggin Gasol? He is Defensive minded but do the Lakers players really want to play that level of Defense every nite? He will have to win this group over and quickly. Some young guns on the perimeter wouldn’t hurt with his style of play.

    4) New Blood…We need some speed on the perimeter. We talked about Kobe alot but Fisher will need to accept his new role also. I like DFish but he has showed that he cannot cover the younger guards anymore. Brown is too inconsistent to start, so a move will need to be made here. A PG that can play D and shoot the 3 would be great.
    A knockdown shooter like Sasha was supposed to be. Also, do you make the big 2012 deal?…Decisions, Decisions?