The Cavaliers have agreed to sign unrestricted free agent center Andrew Bynum to a multi-year contract, according to multiple reports.
ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports both report that Bynum is heading to Cleveland after sitting out the entire 2012-13 season in Philadelphia with knee injuries. He will reportedly receive a two-year contract worth $24 million; only $6 million of Bynum's 2013-14 salary will be guaranteed and the second year will be a team option. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Wednesday that the Mavericks and Hawks were the two other finalists for Bynum's services, according to the 7-footer's agent.
Bynum, 25, last played for the Lakers during the 2011-12 season, averaging a career-high 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 60 appearances while earning his first All-Star nod. Traded to the 76ers in a 2012 four-team blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard from the Magic to the Lakers, Bynum never suited up in Philadelphia following a series of setbacks with both knees.
The bad news steadily trickled out for Bynum throughout the 2012-13 season. He sat out training camp and the preseason because of a bone bruise in his right knee. In November, Bynum told reporters that he had cartilage damage in his left knee, and later admitted that the “setback” happened while he was bowling. The Sixers had initially hoped he would return in December but eventually opted to list him as out indefinitely with bone bruises in both of his knees following that setback.
In January, Bynum was cleared to run and spoke about a return to the court after the All-Star Break. After participating in a 5-on-5 scrimmage in February, Bynum conceded on March 1 that he might not play this season because of swelling in his right knee. Season-ending surgery was then raised as a possibility in early March and he eventually underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees in mid-March.
The 2005 first-round pick holds career averages of 11.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
Without Bynum, Philadelphia missed the 2013 playoffs and finished with a record of 34-48. Sixers coach Doug Collins stepped down and the organization parted ways with GM Tony DiLeo before installing Rockets assistant GM Sam Hinkie as his replacement. Hinkie told reporters in May that retaining Bynum wasn't necessarily a top priority.
“I think of Andrew like the thousands of other young men that are walking around the world that are unrestricted free agents, that have potential to play NBA basketball, and he is one of those,” Hinkie said, according to ProBasketballTalk.com.
Hinkie then traded All-Star guard Jrue Holiday for the rights to Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, the No. 6 pick in the 2013 draft.
Bynum's addition adds to a busy, somewhat strange summer for the Cavaliers, who replaced coach Byron Scott and re-hired former coach Mike Brown before unexpectedly selecting UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft. Cleveland has also agreed to sign free agent guard Jarrett Jack and forward Earl Clark.
Grade: C. You could hear writers from coast to coast sharpening their fingernails as they prepared to bang out angry screeds in response to whoever signed the most risky proposition in the 2013 class. Just this morning, The Point Forward was bracing for a giant mistake. All of that skepticism now appears to be overblown.
The risks are still risks: Bynum's health, his commitment to getting healthy, his ability to stay healthy and questions about his general attitude haven't gone anywhere. In addition to the laundry list of knee problems, let's not forget that Bynum told the Los Angeles Times in April 2012 that he prefers to "Get my Zen on" during timeouts rather than participate in Brown's huddles. What the Cavaliers did here, though, is limit their exposure.
This contract amounts to a one-year deal stocked with incentives that will guarantee Bynum, on a per-year basis, less than one-third of what Dwight Howard will make in Houston next season, less than what Tiago Splitter just signed for in San Antonio, and slightly more than what Zaza Pachulia just signed for in Milwaukee. Not bad at all. Bynum isn't yet at the Greg Oden stage of the growth curve, where anything more than a veteran's minimum would be an over-pay, but he is headed that direction quickly if things don't work out this season. Should he approximate his 2011-12 production, or even achieve 70 percent of it, he will be worth the full $12 million figure. If not, the Cavaliers aren't breaking the bank.
Cleveland is well-positioned to take this type of chance. Ownership clearly wants to win now while also preserving a level of cap flexibility for next summer if LeBron James somehow decides he wants to return to the Cavaliers. Signing Bynum to this type of deal accomplishes both goals. Now Brown and company will just cross their collective fingers that Bynum and Anderson Varejao don't succumb to the injury problems that have plagued them.