Cleveland Cavaliers Gamble on Andrew Bynum

andrew-bynum-clevelandLast year, the Philadelphia 76ers paid $16.5 million to watch Andrew Bynum sit in street clothes throughout the entire NBA season. But knee problems and bone bruises don’t scare the Cleveland Cavaliers since they signed Bynum to a two-year, partially-guaranteed contract.

If Bynum performs and meets incentives during his two years in Cleveland, he’ll earn a maximum of $24.5 million. However, he’s only guaranteed $6 million of this amount during the first year. Assuming Bynum meets certain stipulations, he’ll earn up to $12 million in the first season. The second year is a $12.5 million team option that allows Cleveland to cut ties with the 25-year-old if they no longer want him.

Before signing with Philadelphia and sitting out an entire season, Bynum was one of the NBA’s best centers. He averaged 18.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG and made the All-Star team during the 2011-12 season. Since jumping directly from high school to the NBA, Bynum has put up career averages of 11.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.6 BPG.

When the Sixers signed Bynum to a one-year, $16.5 million contract, they were hoping to get the same guy who was coming off an All-Star year for the Lakers. Philadelphia shipped Andre Iguodala to Denver, and Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, and a first-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Bynum and Jason Richardson. After building a team around Bynum, the Sixers thought they could contend for a high playoff seed; what they got instead was a guy who never played and a 34-48 record.

andrew-bynum-76ersLucky for Cleveland, they don’t have to invest as much in the 7-footer since they aren’t banking on his production. The Cavaliers know that the future of their squad lies with 21-year-old’s Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, 22-year-old Tristan Thompson, and newly-drafted 20-year-old Anthony Bennett.

If Bynum pans out, he could join this young core group and help form a playoff contender. What’s more is that the 25-year-old might provide incentive for LeBron James to return to Cleveland during the 2014 free agency period. But if Bynum doesn’t play much, or at all, the Cavs can simply pay him the $6 million and wash their hands of this deal after one season. For Quicken Loans and casino magnate Dan Gilbert, this is a small price to pay for a potential top-5 center.

The Cavs aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from this arrangement. Andrew Bynum wasn’t exactly a coveted free agent after 31 other NBA teams saw Philadelphia flush $16.5 million down the drain. So the relatively young center was looking for another opportunity to showcase his skills and prove that his knees aren’t totally shot.

If the Cleveland thing works out, Bynum will earn as much as $24.5 million and lead a strong group of young players. He’ll also hit the free agent market in 2015 with a much loftier status than what he carried this season. And if he has another Philadelphia-type year, well, at least Bynum made an extra $6 million before he enters Greg Oden territory.