You know what one of my favorite movies is? Napoleon Dynamite. The movie tells the story of a young, socially awkward kid and shows how he is destined to be a lifelong failure and underachiever. Sure, there are flashes of promise here and there, but those are few and far between. Oh yeah, the main character also rocks a tight afro. Whoops, I actually meant to say, “Napoleon Bynumite – The Story of Andrew Bynum”. While the titles are different, the plot line is the same.
Since being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 10th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, Andrew Bynum has become the most polarizing player on the team – you either love him or you hate him. Touted as a highly-skilled, “true center”, who is a legitimate presence in the post, Bynum has always had a lot of hype surrounding him. Lake Show fans have been fed a healthy dose of “Bynum is THE MAN” from Lakers execs from day one.
We all remember when Bynum went head-to-head with Big Shaq during his rookie year. Shaq decided he would be the personally welcome Bynum into the NBA by slamming home a put-back dunk right over Bynum’s dome, knocking Bynum-ite to the ground in the process. Instead of Bynum swallowing the embarrassment he was just handed, he gets right up and bolts to the other end of the court, sets up shop in the post and demands the ball. We all said to ourselves, “What is this kid doing? He’s too young to know any better…” What was even crazier is that Kobe conceded and gave Bynum the ball! Next thing you know, Bynum drop-steps to his left and throws it down, leaving Shaq in his wake. I remember leaping to my feet and cheering for our “promising” center. Unfortunately, that is the last time I felt that much excitement about Andrew Bynum.
Since Bynum has been in the league, the Lakers have played 410 regular season games, not including the current season – Bynum has only played in 278 of those. On average, he is missing over 26 regular season games each season and it is very possible that he may miss another quarter-of-a-season this year. Some of you are already building the argument in your head, “Well he’s been injured and some of those injuries weren’t his fault” and you may be right, but how long do you hold onto a guy that is absolutely injury prone? Let’s not forget that Bynum’s issues with injuries did not start when he got to the NBA, he had multiple issues during his high school career as well.
Over the course of his first five years in the NBA, Bynum has averaged 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game – a long ways away from impressive or promising. Bynum fans are quick to defend him, “Listen, he was only 17 when he was drafted. He needs some time to develop. Believe me – this kid is a superstar!” Sorry Bynum Apologists, I am just not buying it.
Take a look at Dwight Howard! There is a “promising” prospect that lived up to the hype. He burst onto the scene his rookie year by averaging a double double over the course of the season: 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game. His stats and play have improved every single season since then – Dwight is legit, Bynum is not.
Wait…what’s that? You think I’m being unfair to Drew by comparing him with Dwight Howard? Alright, alright….Let’s compare Bynum to some other players in the League and here is the criteria we will use: drafted in the 2005 NBA Draft, has never been the main option on their team, is a power forward or center.
- Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks: Over the course of his career he has averaged 12.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per game.
- David Lee, Golden State Warriors: Since Lee entered the league, he is averaging 13.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2 assists per game.
- Ronny Turiaf, New York Knicks: The Tin Man has chalked up averages of 5.5 points, 4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 blocks per game.
Since all four of these gentlemen were drafted the same year, we can throw that whole, “he needs time to develop” argument out the window. Bottom line is – Bogut and Lee have better stats than Bynum do, not too mention how much more durable they are than Bynum. After examining these numbers, there is no way, knowing what we know now, that you would take Bynum over Lee or Bogut.
While Turiaf was the only guy to have inferior scoring and rebound stats to Bynum, he has actually been a greater defensive presence than Bynum has over the course of their five years in the Association. Turiaf has swatted 426 shots, compared to Bynum’s 406. Granted, it’s a small margin, but when you note that Bynum is over four inches taller and longer than Turiaf and has played 1,200 minutes more than he has, the margin suddenly looks a lot larger than what it is. Let me admit though, that I would still take Bynum over Turiaf merely for his offensive production capabilities.
The Lakers have been fortunate enough to reach the NBA Finals three years in a row – an impressive feat. The thing that irks me is that I have heard year after year that the Lakers will only win the title if they have a healthy Bynum. When Andrew did not play in the 2007-08 Finals and the Lakers lost, we all believed the “experts”. Over the past two years, the Lakers have shown that the “experts” aren’t really “experts” at all – they have two consecutive titles without a healthy Andrew Bynum.
Let me be clear – Andrew Bynum has been, and will continue to be, an utter disappointment throughout the course of his career. The Lakers DO NOT need a healthy Andrew Bynum to win an NBA Championship. Bynum Proponents need to stop saying, “We just need Andrew to get healthy, play a full season and everyone will see that he is indeed our future.” Stop it, stop it now. Fool me once, shame on Bynum. Fool me two or three times, shame on all Laker fans. There is no such thing as a “Healthy Andrew Bynum”, some things just aren’t meant to be.
In order to win a title again this year, the Lakers need a healthy Kobe, Pau, Lamar, Ron Ron and Fisher – not Bynum.
Stay tuned for Napoleon Bynumite: The Sequel where we discuss some possible trade scenarios involving the Big Houdini (Because he’s always disappearing – get it people?). As always, please let us know your thoughts.