The Indiana Pacers added Andrew Bynum to the fold on Saturday, signing the center to a contract that will pay him $1 million over the rest of the season. The move gives the Pacers added depth, as Bynum will serve primarily as a backup to All-Star Roy Hibbert. He will also receive time at the power forward position, sharing minutes with David West and Luis Scola, instead of just sharing a seat at the sidelines.
After missing all of last season with recurring knee problems, Bynum, just 26, showed he could still contribute on the court this year–he averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds playing in a part-time capacity with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Traded by the Cavaliers to the Chicago Bulls on January 7, the former tenth overall pack in the 2005 draft was subsequently released by the cost-conscious franchise.
With the NBA season having just passed the halfway point, this move would seem to give Indiana, who leads all of the Eastern Conference with a 35-10 record, an extra edge over their closest competitors, the Miami Heat. The Heat were also rumored to be looking at adding Bynum, who has been sitting on the sidelines as a free agent since January 7.
While it does not seem likely that the Pacers are getting the version of Andrew Bynum that put up averages of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds a game with the Los Angeles Lakers as recently as two seasons ago, the small contract means this is a very low risk move for a team that is a strong bet to go deep into the playoffs this year.
Bynum had barely turned 18 when he first began his NBA career with the Lakers in 2005, and the 7-1, 285 pound big man made an instant impact backing up then center Shaquille O’Neal on a storied franchise in a market known for having relentless media coverage. Within two seasons, Bynum had graduated to a pivotal role on the team and seemed to have virtually unlimited potential to fulfill. Unfortunately for the Lakers and Bynum, injuries have always plagued him, as is evidenced by his low games played totals throughout the seasons. He has appeared in all 82 games just one time, his second year in the league, and never more than 65 games in any one season since.
Although his field goal percentage this season of .419 is significantly lower than his career rate (.557), his points and rebounds per game averages hold up very nicely to his career rates when normalized on a per 36 minute scale.
In adding Andrew Bynum at minimum cost to an already formidable roster, the Pacers have stocked up an impressive array of big men that gives them perhaps as much bench depth at the big positions as any team in the NBA, and removes a power play from the sidelines. This bodes well for a team that will be looking to hold onto their prized top conference seed going into the playoffs. If all goes well, they might now even be able to set their sights on overtaking the Oklahoma City Thunder for the best record in the entire sport.
by Spencer Hendricks