When the Cavaliers signed Andrew Bynum this offseason, it was largely hailed as a risky signing that could either completely flame out because of injury or be a steal due to his value prior to last season. One thing that wasn't discussed enough was what is happening right now (other than Mike Prada, who discussed the idea here).
What if Bynum plays and he simply isn't good? What do you do?
And let's not mistake this: Andrew Bynum has not been good this season. How "not good?" Well let's go to the numbers.
On offense, Bynum is shooting 41.5% from the field. If that figure doesn't look disastrous enough, I'll give you one that's worse. At the rim, he is shooting 47%. The average at the rim among NBA centers last season was 67%, according to hoopdata.com. He's at 20% lower than league average. Last season, the worst regular NBA centers around the rim were Roy Hibbert (with a seriously injured wrist) and Nazr Mohammed at 54%. Kendrick Perkins shot 58%. Greg Stiemsma was at 59%. Omer Asik even managed 60.5%. These guys are not exactly beacons of offensive talent. All of them provide more defensive skill than Bynum ever has. They were all CONSIDERABLY better than Bynum has been so far this season at the rim.
While that's troubling, it's much more troubling that he's operating more out of the midrange area than in the paint. It seems that Bynum is struggling to consistently establish deep post position, and is settling for midrange shots. He's already taken 82 shots outside of eight feet. During his previous two full seasons, he took a combined 167 shots from beyond eight feet. During the 2011 and 2012 seasons respectively, those shots made up 11% and 17% of his shot distribution. This season, they make up 42% of his shots. He's only converting 35% of them.
His TS% overall is a solid 45.3%. The average among centers in the NBA last season was 54.5%. The only two regular NBA centers last season with a worse number than that were Mohammed and Brendan Haywood. His eFG% of 41.5% would have been second worst in the NBA last season only to Mohammed.
None of these numbers are the biggest issues in and of themselves. The biggest problem is Bynum's usage rate. When he's on the floor, the entire offense seems to run through him. His usage rate so far this season is 23.8%. That places him fourth among starting centers in the NBA this season. This, in conjunction with his massive and debilitating inefficiency, makes the Cavaliers' offense conclusively worse when he is on the floor. Overall the Cavaliers have an offensive rating of 97.4. When Bynum is on the floor, it's 93.4, when he's off the floor it rises all the way to 99.6.
In fact, there is literally not one aspect of offensive basketball that the Cavaliers are better at with Bynum on the floor. With Bynum on the bench, their assist rate goes from 14.2 to 15.0, and their assist-to-turnover ratio rises from 1.19 to 1.29. Their offensive rebounding rate rises from 25.4% to 27.1%. Their turnover rate slightly falls. Their eFG% and TS% both go up by about 3%.
One topic that has often been discussed about Bynum's offensive value is that he draws double teams, which leads to open shots for teammates. While he may be drawing doubles, it certainly hasn't led to better shooting opportunities for his teammates. With Bynum off the floor, the Cavaliers shooting percentages rise across the board. From 15-19 feet, the Cavs go from 35.2% with him on the floor to 40.1% with him off the floor. From 20-24 feet, the Cavs go from 32.4% to 38.2%. From 25-29 feet, the Cavs go 33.3% to 38.5%.
While Bynum has been a veritable disaster on the offensive side of the floor, he's been close to as bad on the defensive side of the ball. He's completely useless against the pick-and-roll because of how bad he is defending in space. I don't think he could guard the chair that Yi Jianlian used for his pre-draft workouts in space -- eventually he'd knock over the chair and the ball would fly off of the back of the chair and into the hoop. He's been pretty excellent protecting the rim, only allowing opponents to shoot 38% against him (this number shouldn't be glossed over. That's 3% better than what Hibbert has done to this point), but ultimately the bad far outweighs the good on this side of the ball because of his inability to guard in space. He's only been able to defend about 3 of those shots at the rim per game because he often gets caught in no man's land away from the rim.
Also, his activity level on the boards hasn't been nearly what it used to be. Among the 28 centers who are playing 15 minutes per game according to NBA.com, Bynum is 22nd among them in rebounding rate at 14.4%. The Cavaliers are overall a better rebounding team without Bynum on the floor, going from getting 48% of all rebounds to 50%.
So what it comes down to is that the Cavaliers are a better team offensively, defensively, and rebounding the ball without Bynum on the floor. What does that mean for the man whose contract becomes fully guaranteed in two weeks? Well, first and foremost it's worth mentioning that we really don't know any of the details on Bynum's contract. The contract becoming guaranteed may be tied to meeting certain injury-based standards, despite there being no performance incentives. Plus, given how the Cavaliers are using him, it would be a major surprise to see him not given a full season with the team. I'd say the odds are extremely low that his deal is voided before January 7th, the waiver date.
I do not advocate waiving Bynum before that date. There's always the potential for improvement -- in reality, it can't get much worse -- plus that contract is eminently tradeable as what could be considered an expiring deal. However, something must be done about the way he has been used to this point. There is no circumstance where Bynum should be receiving minutes if his play has been this poor in every respect of the game of basketball.
Tyler Zeller in particular played extremely well last night in mop-up duty against the Pistons, scoring 13 points in 14 minutes on seven shots. Where Zeller struggled most last season was on the defensive end, but not to the extent that Bynum has this season. Zeller is at least an agile big man that can defend some guys in space despite having somewhat short arms. His biggest issue was in the post where he got bullied last season, but he's now bulked up and around 260 lbs. He's very energetic every time he's on the floor, and he runs extremely well in transition, where he can hopefully get some easy buckets from Kyrie Irving and company. Playing him for 15 minutes per game would probably be really beneficial to his development, and would probably give the Cavaliers more than what Bynum is giving them right now.
It's a tough situation for the Cavaliers right now. Things aren't going well for them. Shaking up the rotation is the easiest way to get a different result than what's happening now. Like it or not, Andrew Bynum is the worst player in the Cavaliers' regular rotation right now (Bennett's minutes have been a bit too sparse recently to call him a member of the rotation). Giving his minutes to someone else may not only help the Cavaliers in the short term, but also in the long term depending on what they see out of Zeller.
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