By Wade Foley
Andrew Bynum has finally chosen which team he wants to play for next season, and that team is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Bynum and the Cavs met on Monday to discuss him coming to Cleveland and playing once again for Mike Brown. It was later reported that the Cavs had offered Bynum a two-year, $24 million deal with a team option on the second year. This seemed a bit steep for a player who missed the entire 2012-2013 season after having arthroscopic knee surgery. Still, with cap space and money to spend to reach the cap floor, it didn’t seem too unreasonable for a chance to land a guy who averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game during his last season with the Lakers.
On Wednesday, it was reported that the Cavs offer to Bynum was actually only $6 million guaranteed for next season. This means that Bynum is only guaranteed to make $6 million during his first year with the Cavs and in order to earn the other $6 million, he will have to meet several benchmarks. These undisclosed benchmarks presumably consist of playing in a certain number of games and playing a certain number of minutes throughout the season.
This is a very smart contract by the Cavs because they essentially have nothing to lose. This is a very low-risk contract for them, and it motivates Bynum to get healthy and play at a high-level again in order to make more money.
The best-case scenario is that Bynum regains his health and becomes close to the player that he was two years ago, which would make the Cavs a very dangerous team. The worst-case scenario is that he is unable to rehabilitate his knees and misses another season, in which case Dan Gilbert is only out $6 million and fans get to watch Bynum’s ever-changing hair on the bench. With a team option on his second year though, this deal will not hurt the Cavs’ 2014 cap flexibility if he doesn’t perform well.
IF Bynum can play anywhere near the level he was playing at two years ago, the Cavs will have struck gold for this season. They will have their elite point guard and elite center, surrounded by many talented role-players.
Bynum and Anderson Varejao could be a lethal combination down low. Just imagine Kyrie Irving or Jarrett Jack running pick-and-rolls with Varejao, Tristan Thompson or Anthony Bennett and finding Bynum down low. They also have several more shooters this season to space the floor, which will be even easier with a dominant (hopefully) center down low. There will be so many options with this unique team. The best part is that the Cavs have a plethora of offensive weapons now and if Brown can get everyone to buy into his defensive mindset, they should be solid on both ends of the floor.
With everyone healthy and motivated, this Cavs team should not only make the playoffs for the first time in three years, but they could be as high as the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. That would be absolutely remarkable growth from their previous season of 24-58 (13th in the East).
At this moment, Bynum is far from a sure thing to be an All-Star again. It’s evident that his knees scared off other teams in need of a center. The Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks reportedly didn’t even make a formal offer to him. Even someone in the Cavs organization reportedly said neither of Bynum’s knees looks good at the moment.
Still, this is a risk Gilbert and the Cavs can afford to take. Bynum is the biggest NBA free agent to ever decide he wanted to play in Cleveland. He credits Brown as one of the biggest factors in his decision to play for the Cavs. It was under Brown that he had the best season of his career.
With a healthy Bynum, Irving and a strong supporting cast, the Cavs look to be on their way to turning things around since the departure of LeBron James three years ago. With a little bit of maneuvering next season, the Cavs should be able to offer a max contract to someone to go along with Irving and Bynum. Depending on health, that could be quite a trio.
Before we look to the future though, the most important thing is seeing how quickly (or if at all) Bynum can get back.
All in all, this is a huge signing for the Cleveland Cavaliers and something the fans should be excited about. The city of Cleveland deserves to have something exciting like this after having to endure three years of rebuilding.
Chris Grant said that the Cavs would be “aggressive” in free agency this year and that almost seems like an understatement. Signing Earl Clark, Jack and Bynum is better than this writer could have hoped for during this offseason, and rumors are that they aren’t even finished yet. There have been reports that they are also eyeing Andrei Kirilenko still. That would put the Cavs over the cap, so it seems unlikely to me, but we will see.
As far as playoff contenders go, the Cavs are relevant again! Now, let’s hope that Gilbert owes Bynum $12 million by season’s end.
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