When the Los Angeles Lakers traded Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard back in August, pretty much anyone with an opinion thought it was a clear win for L.A. While Howard acted like a big jerk and struggled with back issues last season, he's also one of the two or three best players in the NBA, a game-changing big man capable of dominating for long stretches at both ends. Bynum is a great player and deserving All-Star, but he's also the sort of guy you give up to get a player of Howard's caliber. There's a reason that everyone's more afraid of the Lakers now that he has replaced Bynum.
Still, the Philadelphia 76ers have every reason to be excited about their new center, because he's not that far from Howard's level. Although that doesn't mean that fellow new acquisition Dorell Wright should say that Bynum is the best center in the league. From John Mitchell for Deep Sixer:
Having faced Bynum, acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers, multiple times when he and Wright played in the Pacific Division, Wright, who spent his last two seasons with the Golden State Warriors, stated unequivocally that Bynum is the league's best big man.
"He's going to need two defenders to stop him; I would say he's the best big man in the NBA right now, hands down," Wright, speaking at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, said. "He's a guy that can give you baskets with his back to the basket; a guy who makes free throws at 7-feet. You've just got to respect him."
At that point I interjected, asking him if he calls Bynum the best big man in the league because they are now on the same team. Or could it be because Howard is on the mend from back surgery?
"No way, I'd say it any day. It's because I know he can put his back to the basket and give us a basket and request a double team and make free throws," Wright continued. "It's his all-around game. Hopefully he can stay healthy and we can ride, he can put us on his back and he can take us as far as we can go."
Bynum is really good, so Wright isn't terribly off-base in his statement. Plus, as a Deep Sixer commenter notes, Bynum is arguably more skilled than Howard, which means that in a couple years, if Howard's athleticism and health dips, Bynum could end up the better player.
On the other hand, Wright sure sounds like he's trying to support a teammate and not making an objective statement. That's fine, of course, and basically standard operating procedure for professional athletes. Imagine, for instance, that you have super-cool new coworker. His success is in your best interest, as is his happiness. Plus, he has a sweet jacuzzi and throws awesome parties every Saturday. Wouldn't you want to do everything possible to be that person's friend, even if it means pretending he is the best sales associate in the industry?
Of course you would! That jacuzzi is awesome!
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