This season we have really seen Andrew Bynum come into his own as a dominant offensive center in this league. Being one more injured season away from being a bust, Bynum shocked the league by not limiting himself to being a complement to Pau Gasol but rather being the more dominant of the two big men. Bynum’s 18.3 PPG, 12,2 RPG, 58.1% from the field, and 25 % from the three point line (much to the resentment of Mike Brown) are all career highs. Bynum has wreaked havoc for opposing defenses, establishing himself in the low post in a way few players can. In fact, in terms of offensive arsenal and polished post moves, Bynum is the best center in the league. Yes, even better than Dwight Howard. If you don’t believe me, watch them play (or listen to Skip Bayless). Bynum’s post-moves are light years ahead Dwight’s, and Bynum attains his averages by being the third option on his team. And here lies the problem…
The fact of the matter is that if Bynum played on any other team, the coach of that team would be labeled as insane if he did not insist that Bynum take 20-25 shots per game. Why wouldn’t you want a guy who shoots close to 60% from the field and gets most of his shots from within three feet of the basket to be a volume shooter? The problem here is that this isn’t any other team. Bynum plays for the Los Angeles Lakers who are led by the ageless wonder Kobe Bryant.
Now let’s be clear. The Lakers will not come close to winning a championship without Kobe being Kobe. The Lakers are built around Kobe’s offense and let’s face it, the Lakers have no consistent perimeter players outside of him.
Kobe’s scoring has been critical to the Lakers’ success in the past but the truth is that Kobe has never been in this situation before where he has not one, but two dominant post players who both can cause matchup problems for any team on a nightly basis. The Lakers need Kobe to be aggressive but over the past three games, Kobe has shot a meager 36% from the field while Bynum’s field goal percentage has soared to above 60% since the All-Star Break. Looking at last night, Kobe shot 7-25 from the field while Bynum was 10-15, finishing the game with 25 points compared to Kobe’s 23. And yet, Bynum’s statistics don’t do justice to his presence. It was clear that neither Perkins nor Ibaka had any chance against him. Bynum physically outpowered both of them and they were often forced to foul him. The only time he got into trouble (no he didn’t take another three pointer) was when OKC sent a double-team, something that Bynum will learn to handle better over time. Bynum is already a pretty good passer and once he starts getting more shot attempts, he will be more willing to pass out of a double-team, setting up other Lakers with quality shots. Right now, being the third option on them team, it makes sense that he wants to put the ball up towards the basket any chance he gets. And why shouldn’t he?
The Lakers have lived and died with Kobe Bryant in the past and it seems like Kobe wants to keep it that way. However, if Kobe is serious about getting his sixth ring, he has to put his ego aside and insist on pounding it inside to his young center. We saw a glimpse of that in the game against the Celtics where it was Bynum, not Kobe, who made a critical bucket during a critical point of the game. This doesn’t mean that Kobe should take a back-seat to Bynum. Rather, instead of taking two or three of his classic tough fadeaways, he should instead let Bynum get more looks at the basket, allowing his game to grow and truly making him an unstoppable force come playoff time.
It’s evident with the drama over the past couple of games that Mike Brown really has no control over the Lakers, especially in terms of its offense. Kobe is the unquestioned offensive coordinator of the Lakers and therefore, the play-calling has to come from him. Kobe has to realize that whether he likes it or not, it’s Bynum, and not him, who has a mismatch on almost a nightly basis. If shooting five less shots means potentially winning more games, especially come playoff time, then why not give to Bynum more? And yet, we all know its not that simple. This is Kobe Bryant we are talking about, the face of the Lakers’ franchise. Kobe must decide what means more to him: a scoring title or a better chance of getting ring number six.