If you just went off of what they did last night, the casual basketball fan might go for Andrew Bynum. Bynum was the only one who played well (17 points, 15 rebounds) in that Lakers/Mavs mud bath, and while the Magic also won in New York, it had more to do with the Knicks disrespecting Ryan Anderson than Dwight Howard (eight points, 10 boards).
In fact, take out Dwight Howard’s ridiculous night in the Bay late last week, and as crazy as it sounds, they’re playing almost to a standstill at times this season. Bynum has improved that much. Now, he has to keep it going.
We’ve had a lot of basketball fans come at us in the past week or so about this argument, which is made even more intriguing because these two could very well be traded for each other at some point. Whereas some will incredulously tell you there’s no comparison, other fans don’t believe it’s so cut and dry.
Our friends from LakersNation.com posted the recap from last night on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” where Shaquille O’Neal stuck to his script. He believes Bynum is the better player.
So who would you rather have as your pivot man for the next decade? We argue. You decide.
Laker fans have to be the funniest fans for any one team in the NBA. Now that Andrew Bynum is finally back up and running and Kobe has strung together a few good games, they have gotten back on their high horses. Bynum’s career to this point has been one filled with expectations and burdened by disappointments. However, Laker fans are more than excited to see the big fella healthy and playing well again. So far this season he’s been making up for the absence of Lamar Odom on the glass, having his best rebounding season since he’s been a pro. He’s showing signs that he’s ready to be an All-Star and has accepted a significant role on the Lakers. However my biggest pet peeve with Laker fans is that they always amplify things to the max.
They’ll always find a way to turn the bad into good. After going through what was the most disappointing offseason for any NBA team, the Lakers went into this season without much to be happy about. With their failed attempt at Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard being taken off the market, Laker fans were livid prior to the start of the season. Before he had been taken off the market, Jim Buss told Orlando that everyone not named Kobe was available. Orlando wisely refused to be swindled, and held onto Dwight.
Now that Bynum has come out of the gates on a mission, and is having his best season to date (which still isn’t saying much), he’s suddenly better than Dwight Howard? Oh please!
This particular Who’s Better argument is dedicated to all of Laker nation because they are the only ones ridiculous enough to actually believe that Bynum has suddenly surpassed Howard as the best center in the league. It’s almost like they make themselves believe this nonsense to ease the pain of not getting Howard a little bit.
To give Bynum the credit he deserves, he is superior to Howard in one aspect: post moves. Howard has yet to develop a go-to move in the post. Everyone knows that. But his athletic ability makes up for it. Bynum is inferior to Howard in every aspect aside from that.
We reached out to Eddy Rivera, the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball, a blog in ESPN’s TrueHoop network. While he says it’s hard to compare the two players given their differing roles, he believes Howard is a once-in-a-generation talent:
“Bynum is just a great talent,” Rivera wrote in an email. “Dwight is the slightly more efficient player on offense, even though Bynum is more polished in some ways and generally the better free-throw shooter. Where they’re worlds apart is defense. Dwight honestly has no peer in that sense, and I think that’s where the comparison ends. Bynum, just by his size, doesn’t have the athleticism and mobility to impact a game defensively like Dwight. That’s where Dwight shines.”
Dwight Howard is without a doubt the most dominant center the NBA has seen since Shaq. He’s averaged a double-double in all seven of his full seasons (and doing it again this year). On top of that, he’s started just about every game in every season while Bynum has never started more than 65 games and has averaged a double-double just once (a 35-game 2007-08 season). And for those of you that think this season has been any reason to call Bynum a better center, Dwight refreshed your memory with his 45-point, 23-rebound performance against the Warriors.
Arguing who’s better between the two is really not a fair argument. Bynum has the potential to be a great center in the league but he’s so injury prone that it’s hard to believe in him. To his defense, his stats are not a great reflection of what he can really do. He’s not far behind, but his lack of athleticism will always keep him inferior to Dwight. He will never have the same presence as Dwight on the defensive end of the floor, which is ultimately what makes a great center in today’s game.
Laker fans don’t really believe Bynum is a better center than Howard, but they simply use that as a way to convince themselves that everything is okay. If any Laker fan says they would honestly rather have Andrew Bynum than Dwight Howard don’t believe them because they are blatantly lying to your face.
Andrew Bynum came out of high school and entered the league before he’d perfected his game, and seven years later we’re still wondering what to make of the seven footer supposedly made of glass. But make no mistake, he’s not the overwhelming undercard against Dwight Howard he’s been made out to be.
While there’s no denying his injuries have slowed development, so has playing in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant â€” making the comparison to Howard, Orlando’s everything, hard to make, but still worthy of discussion. And discussed the pair have been, after they were nearly the pieces to a Orlando/Los Angeles trade to bring the Magic’s dominant center West.
The thing is, Bynum can be that player â€” certainly on defense and increasingly on offense. He’s averaging a career-best 16.5 points and 13.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, signs his career isn’t stuck on a static pace. Just ask Bryant, who said last week he sees the pecking order changing between Pau Gasol and Bynum’s roles scoring:
“It seems like it’s changing a little bit,” Bryant conceded to the Los Angeles Times. “Andrew is thirsty to score. He can score. He has more of a scorer’s mentality so we’ll take advantage of that.”
Yes, there are legitimate issues to pick with Bynum’s strategy against double teams, and he lacks the balance of brute force and agility Howard wreaks on defenses built to contain him. But there is an increasing confidence in Bynum.
His progress on defense is nothing short of equal to, or better than Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Bynum is already in the top five in the league in total rebounding, just one spot behind Howard, grabbing 22.5 percent of boards when he’s on the court, and third in boards per game. He’s also fourth in the league in blocks, just below Howard, and fouls less than Orlando’s counterpart. It’s not such a surprise Bynum is one of the best on the glass considering he’s focused his energy there after being third in L.A.’s scoring star system after Bryant and Gasol for much of his career.
We reached out to Gary Lee, the owner of LakersNation.com, and he believes that it’s the off-court production (charisma, celebrity) that separates the two:
“The ability to recruit and build a franchise in LA is something Dwight can do now,” he wrote in an email. “I don’t think Laker Fans are patient enough to wait for Drew to start networking. Bottom line is if the Lakers get Dwight, they have a better chance at getting other good players.”
That emerging role is key to seeing the potential isn’t about his seven-foot frame. It’s about the player he can become with the confidence he gains as a main cog. He’s always been the best player on defense but as his shots have increased, so has the notion he’s not just a player suited best for a complementary role alongside better stars. Lakers assistant Darvin Ham has spoken about building the post’s confidence as much as his footwork. Key to that is working on his balance and reading defenders with his body to know which way to lean or spin to find the hoop or an open teammate. Healthy and increasingly secure in his role with coach Mike Brown, Bynum is learning to read his situation on game nights and react better than ever before within the confines of his own team, too.
Having never been asked to be L.A.’s go-to man, quietly becoming the team’s No. 2 option on offense is as big a test as we’ve seen given to him. Howard is a truly special talent at both ends, and it’s hard to compare Bynum given that standard. But if Bynum’s baseline is a double-double every night, his value compared with Howard â€” given more confidence and stable health â€” is worth taking a bet on.
Who would you rather have for the next 10 years?
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