NBA Top 50: Andrew Bynum (No. 24)
FanHouse's Tom Ziller argues his ranking of the top 50 players in the NBA.
If Andrew Bynum is real, you're looking at the only lizard in the league who can crash the Dwight Howard-Greg Oden party of Best Beasts of Tomorrow.
Before February's cruel injury, Bynum lit the galaxy ablaze. The numbers were unspeakable for a 20-year-old: a double-double with two blocks in less than 30 minutes of work. If he's still learning the game and finding his body, the rest of the league is in immense trouble.
Again: what Bynum did last season in 35 games ... no one saw that coming so quickly. Look how his age-20 season compares to these recent young behemoths at the same age.
So, at age 20, Bynum was a better scorer, rebounder and shotblocker than every notable recent big man who was in the league by age 20 ... including Dwight Freaking Howard. And it can be argued Bynum's body was behind Howard and Jefferson at this point -- both those fellows came into the lig built like oxen. Bynum had baby fat and intsy calves last October when he started this mess.
No matter if Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Luke Walton or Vlad Radmanovic start the small forward, Bynum combines with Pau Gasol to create one of the best rebounding lines in the NBA. All those problems competing on the glass against Boston? Gone, just because of Bynum's presence (and its bump of Gasol to his natural PF position). L.A. didn't need scoring help, and Bynum probably won't feature heavily in the offense, barring an injury to Kobe or Gasol. But the chances he gets, he'll convert. And the team certainly should look for him: he won't embarrass himself, with smart moves and a good mind to both protect the ball and find options when the interior gates close.
He's already L.A.'s best defender in the paint. Gasol's too slight, as we learned in June. Odom, while active, has neither the size nor the intuition to hold someone like David West or Tyson Chandler at bay. Bynum may not incite mirages of Bill Russell, but he's a stout, insistent player too proud to let himself be played a doll.
There's a chance Bynum went over his head in the first half of '07-08. There's a chance the injury has set him back a year and he won't keep improving right away. There's a chance Bynum was a breeze of excellence lone gone, replaced by a snake-bitten young curse, pricking Kobe's side is way far more innocent than Shaq did. As a fan of a division rival which thinks itself to be on an upswing, I desperately hope Bynum has already come ripe.
But science says that isn't the case. Get your helmets, Big Men of the NBA. It's gonna be a long decade.