Just hear me out.
First of all, there were hardly any bigs with Bynum’s level of talent left on the market before Atlanta signed Paul Millsap. Dwight Howard is off to Houston, and was a stretch for the Hawks to sign since free agency began. Josh Smith was about as close as it gets as far as talent goes, but all signs pointed to his time with Atlanta being over. Nikola Pekovic was on the market as well, but as a restricted free agent the Timberwolves would have likely matched any offer sheet the Hawks sign him to.
Now, there was the Omer Asik option, being he and Lin coming to Atlanta in exchange for Josh Smith in a sign-and-trade. I love Asik’s defensive prowess, but there are some key faults in his game and in this potential deal to consider. He’s 27 years old and rarely at that age does a player still add on to his game. Asik is in dire need to do so, still being on the raw side on the offensive end, shooting 56% from the free throw line, 28% from anywhere outside of 3 feet from the basket and scoring 0.63 PPP in the post.
The worst part? Having to take on Jeremy Lin too. A point guard that can’t provide anything Teague doesn’t as a backup such as defensive stability or efficient ball protection, nor is he a veteran presence that can help Teague or newly-drafted Dennis Schröder develop. Speaking of the import, Schröder would struggle to see many minutes on the floor with Lin in town, making it difficult for him to evolve into a stronger point guard.
Onto Bynum’s would-be potential fit in Mike Budenhozler’s system: his immaturity has been a major anti-Bynum point, with a clear distaste for tyrannical coaches who would dare to tell him not to shoot threes. He also has injury concerns, ones dating back to the beginning of time. There’s an enormous risk factor in play and an entire change in attitude needed to take place for this to have worked well. These question marks could have been offset with the agreement of merely a one-year deal with a team option for a second go-around however, and in this case I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea of offering Bynum a maximum deal.
The season before last, Bynum was considered the second-best (and even by some, THE best) center in basketball, sporting an all-around game only matched by Dwight Howard’s dominance. Bynum averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds a night in the 2011-2012 NBA season, with 55% shooting from the field and just under 70% from the charity stripe. He was expected to put up monster numbers as a Sixer last year, with the only other isolation scoring threat being Jrue Holiday. Bynum missed the entirety of the 2013 season due to injuries, and it’s safe to say perception towards him would be completely different had he been able to return and play to his 2012 production.
Bynum is a bully in the low post, and could have brought a Tim Duncan-esque consistency from the block to this “Spurs East” squad. His defense is solid, nothing too exceptional, but his large frame and high reach make for effective contests and the near certainty of a defensive rebound. Back in 2012, Bynum had a defensive rebounding percentage of 26.1%, which was fifth best in the league that year. There’s also Bynum’s finishing ability, making him a lethal target for Horford, who’s one of the best passing bigs the game has to offer nowadays. The towering Bynum caught and slammed lobs for days back in Los Angeles with his pal Pau Gasol, and it would be difficult to imagine him not being able to replicate such plays with Horford feeding him from the high post.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know how Bynum would fare as an Atlanta Hawk with recent signings swallowing up the cap room needed to assure Andrew’s inking, if the Hawks even chose to pursue him. Whatever the case, the moves Atlanta has made during this free agency period – signing Korver, Millsap, Brand and Carroll – are ones to be applauded and set the platform for a season Hawks fans can look forward to watch unfold.