The Cleveland Cavaliers have had some lean years since “The Decision” 4 years ago. They have seen some tough years and a lot of lottery balls bounce, not all of them favorably. With a combined win-loss record of 65-166 (shortened 11-12 season) the Cavs have struggled with lack of talent, injuries and the stage of the rebuilding process. They have struggled through the years all the while watching their former star player, LeBron James, win two titles for the Miami Heat.
But things are looking brighter for the Cavaliers as the oncoming 13-14 season looms. Drafting future star Kyrie Irving at the helm to go with veterans Anderson Varejao and newly acquired Jarrett Jack seems intriguing. Add to that the young up-and-comers Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, with the number one pick, Anthony Bennett, and it’s easy to see that the Cavaliers seem poised for a playoff push. And then they made a move that really could be the deciding factor as to whether or not Cleveland becomes contender. Yes, I said “contender”. I know, big words but I truly believe it.
The signing of Andrew Bynum is a risk indeed. Just two years ago he was arguably the best center in the league (I was one of those believers). Though the Lakers faltered that season, Bynum had his best season with career-highs of 18.7 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game in 11-12 season. He was then traded to the 76ers in a blockbuster trade that landed Dwight Howard in Los Angeles. But Philadelphia never got to see the star center play one game in a 76ers uniform. It seemed like Bynum’s injury plagued knees had other plans and kept him down all season long. With bad knees and a whole bunch of bone bruises, Bynum never took a step on the court as a Philadelphia 76er. After just one year of having Bynum on the roster, the 76ers seemed to have made up their mind in letting Bynum and his knees go as a free agent, when they traded up in the draft for potential future star Nerlens Noel.
After a little bit of being on the free agent market, Bynum and the Cavaliers agreed to a two-year $24 million contract. Seems like a steep price until you look at the contract a little closer. Of that $24 million, only $6 million is guaranteed, and the second year is a team option. Think about it. The Cavaliers could have just picked up potentially the best center in the league for almost nothing (we are talking NBA dollars here).
Imagine a healthy squad with Irving and Bynum running the show, a quality starting line-up (potentially Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and a toss up at the 3 position, possibly Anthony Bennett if he is ready and in shape) and rotation players of Thompson, Jack, Zeller and Miles. Health is the biggest concern for this young Cavalier’s squad. But the potential is incredible. The depth is there and veteran savvy of Varejao and Jack bring experience to the squad.
The Cavaliers are a force with Bynum in the squad. He matches up with the bigs of the East in the likes of Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez and Joakim Noah. And the champion Miami Heat suffered all the time against the big men of the league. The chance is there if the right match-up occurs.
Championship aspirations are still a little ways away, but the potential for the Cavs is finally back in Cleveland to be a threat. And it could be that Andrew Bynum makes all the difference.
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