At 25 years old and one injury-destroyed season removed from an 18.7 PPG (on .558% shooting), 11.8 RPG, 1.9 BPG, Andrew Bynum is the best free agent left in the 2013 crop. He’s the ultimate high-risk, high-reward guy: if his health really is on the mend, he’s sure doing his part to make the matter mysterious. So, naturally, the Cleveland Cavaliers are pushing hard for his services, offering a two-year (the second year is a team option), $24 million contract. It’s hard to imagine Dallas or Atlanta topping that offer. Considering the contract quality and the fact that Bynum saw his best NBA season under Mike Brown, chances seem likely that Bynum relocates to the 216, soon.
The knee-jerk reaction for the majority of the people who read that is probably a snarky laugh, mixed with a Stephen Colbert extra dry “oh, Dan Gilbert and Andrew Bynum joining forces? With Mike Brown on the sideline? What could possibly go wrong? Let’s bring J.R. Smith into the mix and call it a day!”
I know that the owner of my favorite team has a sh*tty reputation, and I know that, if Bynum isn’t the top vote-getter in the league’s “Most Polarizing Player” category, he finishes in the top five every year. But let’s look at the work that Gilbert has done since the greatest player of our generation left town on national television: in the midst of a rebuild, he opened his pockets, allowing his team to serve as a credit card for NBA teams wanting to shed bad contracts for salary relief, in exchange for draft picks*.
Since he bought the team, Gilbert has shown a complete willingness to use his own money to make the team better, in ways that may not be apparent to people who don’t consistently follow Cleveland. He spends constantly, but in a smart and calculated manner.
But tanking and bringing on bad contracts (and draft picks) can only take a team so far; year three of the Kyrie Show has to be about making the playoffs. Enter Bynum. Offered $24 million over two years, a healthy Bynum could elevate the Cavaliers to one of the most well-rounded teams in basketball. And if he isn’t healthy? Something tells me Bynum flopping won’t change the comic sans-drenched M.O. that Gilbert declared back in 2010. Stay tuned.
* — Kyrie Irving would be wearing Clippers blue and red if Gilbert didn’t take on Baron Davis’ contract in 2011.