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Who’s Better: Marcus Camby or Andrew Bynum?

By 12.24.08

We argue. You decide…

MARCUS CAMBY (by Austin Burton)
Late last month, while Marcus Camby was posting a typical 12-point, 12-rebound, 4-block stat line during an atypical L.A. Clippers victory, one of the team’s announcers said, “I never knew how good he was until I saw him every day.” As someone who has already watched more Clippers games this year than ever before (thanks to Zach Randolph and Eric Gordon), I’d have to agree.

As that same announcer later said about Camby, “He just wins your team possessions.” In other words, having Camby on the basketball court is like a football coach having Ed Reed. He’s a ball-hawk. Whether it’s defensive rebounds or blocks where he keeps the ball in play, Camby increases your time of possession automatically. Better yet, watch when he gets an offensive rebound. Whereas a lot of big guys (Sam Dalembert immediately comes to mind) will get an offensive board and 90 percent of the time go right back up for a shot, Camby will often kick it back to his point guard, allowing his team to start over with a fresh 24. That’s a veteran move, one fitting of a true team player. And it pretty much sums up why, at this point, I’d take 34-year-old Camby over a lot of centers in the League. Of course any GM would take a 21-year-old like Andrew Bynum for the long-term, but a vet like Camby helps you win today.

Marcus Camby(Photo. SI.com)

Camby has made the NBA’s All-Defensive first or second team each of the past four years, leading the League in blocks three years running. He’s been producing consistently for several years, not just several months. Through Monday’s schedule Camby ranked second in rebounding (12.3 rpg) and second in blocks (2.8 bpg). Offensively he won’t give you much more than, say, Tyson Chandler, but he’s not a liability in that he tries to do too much on that end (11.2 ppg, 51.7% FG’s). Camby knows his role and plays it well.

Critics will say Camby’s numbers in recent years have been inflated because of the teams he’s been on: He wasn’t battling anyone on the Nuggets for available rebounds, Denver gave up tons of penetration which made for increased blocked-shot opportunities, and at the end of the day, was their defense ever really that good with Camby? To an extent, that’s true. Also, it seems curious that Mike Dunleavy Sr. hardly utilizes Camby to guard the other team’s top big man.

Thing is, just like with superstar scorers, the most important thing is to keep a star defender like Camby on the court. Sticking Yao or Dwight Howard for long stretches inevitably leads to foul trouble no matter how good you are, so like the Celtics do with KG, you want to pick your spots when employing Camby to stop an All-Star big. In the meantime he’ll live off weak-side blocks and boards, because as long as he’s on the court, Camby will get you the ball. And that’s all you really want.

ANDREW BYNUM (by Andrew Katz)
Here’s a fun little challenge: try to articulate how Marcus Camby scores. Umm … Well, he can kinda shoot that molasses-slow, ugly, over-the-head flat-footed jumper from 15 feet. And, uh, I guess he’s also good for a couple put-backs a night.

Andrew BynumAndrew Bynum (photo. Jeff Forney)

But aside from those half-hearted compliments, Camby’s offensive game is anemic. The guy’s a gifted shot-blocker and a talented rebounder, but he needs more than two dimensions to be called a better basketball player than Andrew Bynum.

Even if Bynum’s numbers are about the same as Camby’s (12.4 ppg isn’t much more than MC’s 11.7 ppg), remember that he plays with Kobe and Pau. That means there are probably less than five plays in Phil Jackson‘s playbook that are run specifically for Bynum to get a bucket. Maybe if this Laker team were still developing, and a couple of years away from the Finals, they’d work on getting Bynum more touches where he can score. But as Kobe famously said in Patrick Cassidy’s Dime #39 cover story, “Well, they know they gotta come with it. You know it’s … this train’s gotta keep moving. You either gotta be on the train or get run over by the train. But the train’s gotta keep moving. We want to win a championship and we want to win one now.”

That being said, it’s obvious that Bynum currently has some semblance of comfort with his back to the basket. Through Monday’s schedule he ranked fourth in the League in dunks with 50 — that’s only five behind Dwight Howard, and a cool 30 ahead of Camby. Add in that Bynum’s baby hook will continue to improve, and it’s easy to see this guy posting closer to 18-and-10 instead of the 12-and-8 he’s putting up right now.

Maybe it’s just me, but I need a power component to my center’s game. That’s something that you can’t teach — and it’s the biggest reason that Bynum takes about a free throw more per game than Camby. With the right work in the weight room and with the right trainer, Bynum can improve his motor; which is the biggest reason that Camby puts up higher rebound numbers.

Who do you think is better?

“Who’s better?” archives
12/19 — Deron Williams vs. Chauncey Billups
12/17 — Manu Ginobili vs. Tracy McGrady
12/12 — Amare Stoudemire vs. Al Jefferson
12/10 — Dirk Nowitzki vs. Chris Bosh
12/9 — Derrick Rose vs. O.J. Mayo
12/8 — Rasheed Wallace vs. Elton Brand
12/5 — Kevin Martin vs. Vince Carter
12/4 — Brandon Roy vs. Joe Johnson
12/3 — Dwight Howard vs. Yao Ming
12/2 — Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony


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