What trading Andrew Bynum would do for the Lakers
In a video that instantly went viral, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant didn't mince words when asked whether the Lakers should trade Andrew Bynum.
"Ship his .... out!:
It was just one of many grievances Bryant had with the Lakers front office in the 2007 off-season, as he pushed the Lakers to trade Bynum to New Jersey for Jason Kidd. The Lakers' contention that a young Bynum would become the future of the franchise was not worth the wait in Bryant's eyes. He wanted to win a championship instantly.
Bryant soon reached that point, but that didn't involve the Lakers trading him or Bynum. Instead, Derek Fisher's return and the acquisition of Pau Gasol helped spur the Lakers to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, including back-to-back championships. Yet, with the Lakers' recently going through too much inconsistency to the Lakers' liking, Mitch Kupchak's consideration to make a trade, as reported by ESPN.com's Chris Broussard, could involve sending Bynum to the Denver Nuggets as part of a deal for Carmelo Anthony.
Keep in mind the report indicates that this is only in preliminary discussions, and if anything involving the Melo-Drama has taught us anything, it's that the sausage-making process could take a while or frankly lead to nothing. The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner also report the Lakers immediately refuted the story, with a team source telling them they're unwilling to deal Bynum. The New York Daily News' Frank Isola adds that the Lakers recently turned down a deal because Jim Buss, the owner's son and Lakers VP of Player Personnel, doesn't want to trade him. Also, keep in mind Bynum's name has been floated in plenty of trade offers before, what with the possibility the Lakers would send him last season to Toronto for Chris Bosh and when possibly to Minnesota when Kevin Garnett was still around.
But for the sake of figuring out what trading Bynum in general terms would do for the Lakers, there's definitely a few pros and cons.
The Lakers' identity would change. Obviously, the degree of concern depends on who the Lakers would get in return. But even acquiring someone as talented as Anthony would yield to some changes that would change the team for the worse, especially in the short term. Time and time again, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, opposing coaches and the players themselves all agree that one of the Lakers' distinguishable skillsets involves the fact that they have two seven-footers in Bynum and Pau Gasol. That's not to take anything away from Bryant. He's a major element why the Lakers' frontline flourishes and why opposing defenses are mostly at a lose-lose situation when it comes to what priority they should place on defense. But one only has to look at the 2010 NBA playoffs to know how Bynum's presence alone completely altered the landscape of the game. Even while playing limited minutes with a meniscus tear in his right knee, Bynum' presence alone disrupted passing lanes, sharpened the defensive rotations, intimidated opposing players from driving the lane and gave the Lakers dependability on close rebounds and putbacks. Outside of acquiring Dwight Howard, it would be impossible in finding someone who can duplicate what Bynum brings.
Trading Bynum now would hurt the Lakers' chances of three-peating, but he's not a dependable long-term investment. Here's the most challenging part of this scenario. Even if the Lakers pulled off a blockbuster trade, they would go through even more chemistry issues this season that are frankly too risky during a championship run. The Lakers may not be playing their best basketball, but from a big-picture perspective, the state of that franchise is in pretty good shape. I wouldn't invest much money on Bynum staying healthy even if he's shown improvement the past two seasons in learning how to manage and play through injuries, but getting rid of him now would mean the Lakers are putting more priority on long-term planning than trying to squeeze out as many championships as this current roster will offer. Even if the Lakers acquire an impact player, it wouldn't be the same situation as when the Lakers acquired Gasol. They simply plugged him into a position the Lakers sorely needed. Trading Bynum would leave both a position of need and require the rest of the team to reshape its identity. Sure, the Lakers would still have Gasol and Lamar Odom as dependable post options, but that wouldn't change the fact that the Lakers would be thinner in their frontline. With the Lakers showing inconsistency in their outside shooting, particularly from three-point range, that would require an adjustment that's frankly too risky to work with during an already up-and-down season.
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Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum tries to power his way to the basket against Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal in the teams' meeting last month at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times