With Bynum set to clear waivers and hit Free Agency after the Bulls-Cavaliers trade that got him out of Cleveland, some reports suggest that the Mavericks might be interested in the black sheep big man:
Mavericks, I'm told, are among those eight teams to register interest in free agent-to-be Andrew Bynum. But Mavs only have minimum to offer— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 8, 2014
As @Chris_Broussard reported earlier, money is among prime factors for Bynum when he chooses his next team after clearing waivers Thursday— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 8, 2014
Bynum was signed by Cleveland this summer to a fairly unique contract: he was guaranteed $6 million before 5 P.M. last night, January 7th, at which point, if he met a list of criteria (such as playing in a certain number of NBA games, which he succeeded in doing) he would be guaranteed up $12.15 million.
Early yesterday morning, Bynum was traded, along with a few small picks, to the Chicago Bulls for Small Forward Luol Deng. Bynum was included entirely for the purpose of being cut from the team before his full option became guaranteed in order to free up $6 million from the cap sheet to get the Bulls below the tax line, free up to $14 million in cap room next summer, and tank in earnest.
Bynum was waived later that day, and will be a free agent sometime tomorrow, at which point he can sign with any team he wants.
Apparently the Mavericks are on the short list of teams looking into Bynum.
Bynum had been averaging 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 20 minutes for the Cavaliers, on a very, very bad 41.9% shooting and 45.6% True Shooting %, while shooting a sad 38% from the post -- supposedly where he dominates.
Bynum sat out the entirety of last season with a series of knee problems, which have been a perpetual issue for the 26 year old former All-Star big man. It would appear that his knees were just not built for a man his size. Current reports have it that playing basketball is still very painful to him, and that at the moment, he's playing with bone-on-bone contact in his knees.
Since his surgeries and injuries last year, it would appear that he's lost most of the athletic advantage that made him a force in his prime. The likelihood that he returns to All-Star form appears to be very low, and he's said that he may never get his explosiveness back.
Then there's the other issue regarding his behavior. Bynum was recently suspended for Conduct Detrimental to the Team, a suspension he's fairly familiar with. Many writers have pointed out how he seems to be almost universally disliked by the staff of teams he's worked for, and many reports (as well as Cleveland's report on the suspension) indicate that Bynum has no real interest in the game of basketball. There's the obvious concern, then, that he could be a problematic figure to have in the locker room.
On the other side of that, it would appear that while Bynum may not have too much interest in the sport anymore, he does appear to do what is necessary to play and contribute to a team, even if he doesn't do any more than that.
As of his being waived, Bynum was a functional backup center for Cleveland (though he started more games than not). The argument could be made, unfortunately, that his inefficiency and problematic use of post-up plays that stagnate an offense were more harmful than helpful. However, it's certainly possible that Bynum could still be a very useful backup center option on the cheap for teams that need his size.
Right now, the primary targets for Bynum look to be the Clippers, Nets, and Heat.
Several days ago, the Clippers waived recent Small Forward pickup Steven Jackson presumably to free up the necessary roster space with which to sign Bynum, as both DeAndre Jordan has failed to meet expectations and no backup Centers have risen and played well. The Clippers, despite having been touted as his main target, don't have anything to offer other than possible title contention, as they only have the Veteran Minimum to pay Bynum.
The Nets lost their starting Center and best player, Brook Lopez, to a broken fifth metatarsal on his foot -- a recurring injury for him. They've recently been approved for a $5.25 million Injured Player Exception that they can use on free agents, and they're probably looking to use that money to pick up a big-man to fill their Bropez-sized hole. It would appear that with this exception, the Nets would have by far the most money to offer Bynum. If money is a big factor, as ESPN's Marc Stein and Chris Broussard indicate, they could easily be frontrunners.
The Heat are always a major destination for players like Bynum. As "reformers" of players with behavioral issues like Michael Beasley and Chris Anderson, they often take players with large, as-of-yet-unlocked potential on the cheap, and turn them into rotation players. The allure of playing with LeBron and for perennial contenders is strong, and the Heat can offer the taxpayer Mid-Level Exception of $3.183 million; several million more than the minimum.
Other contenders for Bynum, mostly, are either non-contenders or don't have as much money or both.
It's interesting to hear that the Mavericks are interested, particularly given the front office's tight-lipped tendencies. The Mavericks have been depressingly deficient in big men, and Bynum is a potential stopgap. The concern, of course, is that he'll be more of a drain on the team than a boon.
Either way, the Mavericks are firmly in non-title contention and can only offer the Bynum the Veteran Minimum contract of around 800,000. It's hard to imagine them having leverage in courting the big man, but it's hard to know for sure. Even then, perhaps not having leverage is for the best, in this case.
This will be something to watch going forward.