If you’ve ever wandered onto an LA Lakers blog, message board, or listened to a nationally broadcasted game by Mike “Fellatio for the Lakers 24/7” Tirico then you’ll know, with complete certainty, that Andrew Bynum is one of the best centers in the league, and will without giving any prior notice, become the next best center in the league and join the pantheon of great bigmen. He will rightfully sit alongside Wilt, Russell and Kareem while using Ewing, Robinson and O’Neal as foot rests. The third footrest will be necessary because of how great and grand his male organ must be – as he has been photographed at the Playboy mansion (who cares) and is curiously linked to Rihanna right now. (who? exactly.)
As impressive as his potential appears, and as great as his off-court life may or may not be (I’d rather hang out at the Acharya mansion any day of the week) – I’m less than impressed with him as a player. I’m even less impressed when I actually look at his accomplishments as a player in the playoffs (aka. when it counts). Furthermore, I’m pretty much sick to death by the hype that he has received from casual fans, homer fans, and the media alike. Now, this isn’t meant to trash the hopes of the future of the Lakers at all – I strive to temper the expectations of him a little bit. For his sake, and ours.
My brother is the most rational Lakers fan I know, he is passionate, but not completely under the spell that countless others are on the internet. He’s more concerned with consistent play, rebounding and solid defense from all of the Lakers and does not have the time to worry about if Bynum is going to be the next Kareem – he’s worried about right now. If I was a Lakers fan I wouldn’t be worried about right now – you guys will trounce Denver on your way to the NBA Finals (where anything can happen). I would, on the other hand, be worried about the past – specifically Bynum’s past.
He’s 21 years old right now and was drafted as a 17 year old. What do we know about him that should really count? How about the fact that he had an injury ruined high school career (leg/knee injury), and in the NBA has had two more leg/knee injuries in his young career. He’s tall, but not nearly as super athletic and fit as freaks like Dwight Howard or Amare Stoudemire are – I don’t expect him to be physically made of the same stuff as those guys are. When you get over 7 feet tall, any injuries to your lower body seriously limit how reliable you can be, regardless of how much work one may put on their upper bodies. (You’re only as strong as your base is – look at Yao Ming, who has just a storied lower body injury history as Bynum, he misses lots of games every year, and is never 100% due to the strain his body puts on his lower body) Amare had two career ending (had this been the 80’s/90’s) knee injuries, but has come back due to a great work ethic. Bynum puts women on his shoulders during rehab. I wouldn’t be making a huge leap by suggesting that Bynum may have a career that features a number of injuries to his lower body, not unlike Yao Ming – as opposed to being virtual injury free like Dwight Howard. But I have no crystal ball, I’m just going on the fact that he’s a big guy with a history of lower body injuries who was injury prone as a teen and only looks to put an increasingly large strain on those same joints as his ages and increases mass.
That’s not very empirical though, it’s just an assumed health arc based on his body type, job, apparent work ethic, how healthy other big guys his size have been and medical history. What is empirical, on the other hand, is to dig deep and look at stats. I love stats. Stats are flawed, as I’ve explained on this blog before, but they still give a pretty good indication of on court production. (After all, that’s what counts, points, rebounds, blocks, assists, steals, turn overs and fouls, right?)
After this last game against the Houston Rockets the total number of playoff games that Bynum has participated in stands at 18. These 18 games have taken him from 2005-2006 till now to amass. In that time he has been brought along slowly – thanks to the fact that he doesn’t need to be useful when he’s so far down the pecking order behind at least 4 other guys. That said, his production does not appear to be indicative of him joining the pantheon of great bigmen any decade soon. I want to look at his stats in the playoffs and see the promise that appears to be there (and only appears in regular season games against bad teams sandwiched between injuries). As a point of reference I looked at Patrick Ewing’s first 19 games (why not 18? wanted to complete that one series to make it an even number of playoff off series for the two) in the playoffs. Ewing was a great center, but never will he be called the best of his generation, and thus, not up for entry into the pantheon of greatest bigmen ever (though the media has already reserved a spot there for Bynum).
Bynum’s first 18 Playoff games, and how they stack up:
Ewing creams Bynum statistically. And Ewing played in a time where big guys weren’t bailed out with foul shots, and played against much better competition. Bynum played against the Phoenix Suns, twice anchored in the paint by Frenchman Boris Diaw; the injury depleted Utah Jazz that was forced to start Jarron Collins; and the Houston Rockets, who during the course of the series, lost Yao Ming to injury a little more than 2 games in – and had to turn to a rotation of Chuck Hayes, Carl Landry and Luis Scola to battle LA’s 7 footers. Bynum gets killed – just look at the stats.
Alas, he is immune to any criticism for a great rebuttal exists: Ewing had much more experience from being a guy who actually went to college, won a National Title; and also played in the NBA for a few seasons before making the playoffs. All this is true, but nothing prevented Bynum from going to college himself – if he was really interested in experience. That said, I also took a chance to look at another young bigman, and saw how he faced the NBA pressure. David Robinson did manage to make the playoffs as a rookie (he led his team there, unlike Bynum who did his best to stay out of Kobe’s way). David Robinson is far from my favorite player in the world – but he also creams Bynum’s numbers when you take out experience and look just at Bynum’s FIRST FOUR SEASONS against David’s ROOKIE season.
Let’s not forget that David had to go to war against Joe Barry Carroll and the plethora of tough guys in the paint that Portland sported back when David was a rookie. Bynum, with 4 years of experience in the NBA, has yet to face anything like that in the NBA playoffs – and his numbers are completely pathetic.
Ewing: 22.1 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 2.37 bpg
Robinson: 24.4 ppg, 12.00 rpg, 4.00 bpg
Bynum: 4.83 ppg, 3.78 rpg, 0.67 bpg
Obviously the data is heavily skewed against poor, young Bynum. His first few playoff sorties were short and he was inexperienced. Obviously the stats are going to go against him when you include some of his early games. The Bynum of today is a beast though! Look at Bynum’s numbers from just his 4th season in the playoffs against other greats and you’ll see! You’ll all see!
Okay, let’s do that then.
Bynum’s Playoff stats from his 4th season, and how those stats stack up:
Bynum’s numbers improve very slightly, he ups his ppg from 4.83 to 5.58, his free throw percentage from 62.96% to 76.47% and he swats almost 0.2 more blocks per game. Still not impressed. He’s a far cry from, let’s just randomly say, Hakeem Olajuwon. In the Dream’s 4th NBA season he happened to tear the NBA playoff’s a new one with his scoring -- 37.5 ppg (57.14 fg%, 88.37 ft%); rebounding – 16.75 rpg; and all around game – 2.75 bpg, 1.75 apg, 2.25 spg.
Not only did Hakeem obliterate Bynum’s pitiful offensive output by a magnitude nearing 7x, but absolutely owned him all over the boxscore. He also did it against much tougher competition as well.
Heck, Bynum is so far from being impressive that Greg Ostertag’s fourth year playoff stats could (and do) give Bynum’s fourth year playoff stats a run for their money. It’s horrible to say, but really Lakers fans (and media, or is that redundant?) – take a look and weep.
Bynum is a much better offensive player than Ostertag (is this even saying anything?), but Ostertag owns Bynum when it comes to rebounds and blocks. Greg even managed to out-assist Bynum and made less mistakes (as seen in less turn overs and fouls per game).
What’s worse, the fact that Bynum just got his lunch handed to him by Ostertag; or the fact that Ostertag was doing this against super duper vets and talented players like Vlade, Arvydas, Dale Davis and Rasheed (when Ostertag was a 4th year player) – and looking better than media adored Bynum going up against Chuck Hayes and the guy who was behind Ostertag on the depth chart?
Furthermore, Bynum’s had 5 scoreless games in the playoffs, out of 18. And he’s scored less than 5 points 11 times out of 18. Ouch.
Take a look at Hakeem’s 37.5 ppg average again. Ouch.
Of course, there HAS to be a rebuttal for this . . . no way can Bynum been so far behind Hakeem at the same stage of NBA experience, and yet so close to NBA laughingstock Greg Ostertag . . . right? . . . .right? Don’t worry Lakers fans, of course there is . . . forget about NBA experience, that’s a flawed concept. Let’s not forget that Hakeem and Greg both played college ball (like Ewing and Robinson did) . . . Bynum didn’t play college. Look at how young he is! He’s only 21! Surely when you take that into account it makes up for 32 ppg (in the case of Hakeem), or nearly a block and a half (in the case of Ostertag)!!!
Okay, let’s take at a look at that. Try me.
Bynum’s Playoff stats as a 21 year old, and how those stats stack up against another 21 year old:
Bynum is a very brittle 21 year old who doesn’t have to do anything, and his team makes it to the NBA Finals. I’m not lying, the Lakers did that last season. That said, Bynum is a force of nature, and the future of the center position in the NBA. His 21 year old production is unrivaled. Right? Wrong. Take a look at this guy, and what he did in the playoffs at the tender age of 21 (his 2nd season in the L, not his 4th like Bynum). I just have one hyphenated word to describe this: Shaq-Attaq.
A lot of the same Lakers fans who champion Bynum marginalize how great Shaq was. I can clearly see why Kobe went out of his way to suggest that Bynum needed to be traded – because Kobe knew how good Shaq was. The difference between the two is quite telling when you look at these two centers at the age of 21, Bynum in his 4th season and Shaq in his 2nd.
The difference between the two was almost 15 points, 10 rebounds and over 2 blocks and almost 2 assists . . . in favor of the 2nd year player.
That’s a huge difference.
The difference between being called one of the best bigmen of all time, and being called a bust.
Bynum was a lotto pick man, and aside from his inspired dirty play in injuring two guys this season, and being afraid of Fesenko in the paint, he’s done nothing to earn the high praise that’s heaped on him. And he’s done nothing to make me feel like giving him any props.
His current playoff run isn’t over yet, and he’s got one, most likely two more playoff series to make his 2008-2009 playoffs slightly more memorable than his complete no-show in the 2007-2008 playoffs.
I’m taking it easy on Bynum here by comparing him to guys that he may yet one-day reach . . . even if it doesn’t seem like it. I could really try to down him if I wanted by comparing him to his contemporaries who are out-playing him right now. For example take Dwight Howard -- in his first 14 playoff games: 17.86 ppg (57.23 fg%, 51.72 ft%), 15.5 rpg, 2.71 bpg, 1.14 apg, 0.714 spg . . . those numbers are way better than Bynum’s. Also better are Dwight’s numbers as a 21 year old and Dwight’s numbers in his 4th NBA season.
If I really wanted to be a dick I’d mention that Dwight also has 3 less leg injuries. I’m not a dick though, so I’m not going to mention that.
What did we learn?
What did we learn? Well, for starters we learned that Andrew Bynum’s playoff performances leave much to be desired. His first 18 games in the playoffs pales in comparison to Ewing’s numbers over the same situations – and Ewing played against much better defensive clubs like Michael’s Bulls and the Bad Boy Pistons. We learned that David Robinson’s rookie season playoff numbers invalidates the argument that Bynum’s rookie numbers shouldn’t count. We also learned that Hakeem’s numbers as a fourth year player completely eclipse Bynum’s as a 4th year player. I didn’t even have to look up 2nd tier NBA centers like Rik Smits at all after I found out that at the same level of NBA experience that Greg Ostertag’s playoff performance was a wash with that of Bynum’s. Lastly, we learned that Bynum can’t even hide behind his age as an excuse for how poor his performances have been – as Shaq as a 21 year old eats Bynum up. Ultimately, we learned that it’s a bit too premature to call Bynum anything other than a bust at this stage. He’s much closer to Ostertag, albeit one who rebounds and blocks less, and fouls and turns the ball over more, than he is to being one of the greatest bigmen of all time – let alone in his own generation.
After all, Dwight’s numbers at each break down (first x number of games, 4th NBA season, and at age 21) are vastly superior to Bynum’s. Oh yeah, also Bynum has a history of injury problems to the same parts of his body and young guys who sustain so many injuries in short succession tend to have injury plagued careers. Yeah, I wasn’t supposed to mention that again . . . I guess I am a dick after all.
Bynum doesn’t deserve his hype until he does something. Something other than sucking when it counts, that is.