COMMENTARY | A giant talent is lurking on the trade market should the Boston Celtics want to become buyers in this semi-successful rebuilding year. Andrew Bynum is on the outs with the Cleveland Cavaliers and is available for the right price.
Instead of waiving Bynum after his most recent transgressions, the Cavs hope to find a sucker for his immense talent and even more immense perceived immaturity. Cleveland would like nothing better than to move him before his contract becomes fully guaranteed to the tune of $12.2 million after January 7. Danny Ainge and the Celtics could be that "sucker" if Cleveland is willing to take on some salary or bad contracts.
In other words, scratch my back and I will scratch yours.
Boston has been barking up all kinds of trees trying to unload Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries and Courtney Lee all season. With the exception of Wallace, all of them have been reasonably productive and have gotten good run to showcase their skills to other teams. The Celtics haven't canvassed the neighborhood on Jeff Green trades, but he too could be had in the right scenario.
Bass makes the least amount of sense for Cleveland as he duplicates services it has with other frontcourt players on its roster, and he is owed money until July 2015. Humphries almost falls into the same category as Bass, except his contract will expire this summer, which would allow Cleveland to be major players in a hot free-agent market. Lee is owed three years on his deal but could address the Cavs' small forward problem. He can shoot the three (currently ranking third in the league at .478%) while staying out of the way Kyrie Irving or Dion Waiters. He could also provide the Cavs with a guy who actually enjoys playing defense on the perimeter -- something Coach Mike Brown would love to have.
The Cavs would like to get young talent and a pick(s) for Bynum's services. Then again, who doesn't want or need young talent and picks? They may have to settle for mediocre or declining talent and a pick if they really want to get something done. Their talks with the Los Angeles Lakes for Pau Gasol seem to have stalled, but that indicates that they may not be delusional in thinking Bynum can yield them a star.
Enter the Celtics, who could offer a deal of Humphries and a pick or Humphries, Lee and a pick for Bynum. Both deals work under the guidelines of the salary cap. It's possible the Cavs would want to shed another player off their books or get MarShon Brooks for the young talent angle from Boston, but Christmas is over. There would be no need to be overly generous.
The Celtics would be getting a talented, although disgruntled, center who could potentially help them this season and beyond. They haven't had a dominant post presence in years and if Bynum applied himself, he could be very productive with Rajon Rondo (once healthy) feeding him the ball.
Bynum is far removed from the 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per-game gladiator we saw in the 2011-12 season. That man is forever gone. But a hybrid form of that player could yield about 13 points and 7 rebounds per game even with twigs for knees as Bynum apparently has. It's all about applying himself and being smart with his minutes from the acquiring team's perspective.
The risk for Boston is in losing a pick, especially if it ends up being one in this year's highly touted draft, Bynum himself isn't really the risk. Even if he were to play terribly, clash with Rondo or remain uninterested as some perceive him to be, Boston could be rid of him come the summer. The Celtics would inherit the team option negotiated into his contract next season and could decline that option, making Bynum a free agent if he were disruptive. That's the worst-case scenario, and that's still not that awful if trading for him relieves Boston of an undesirable contract or two. The loss of a pick might be worth the financial flexibility in coming seasons.
Bynum continues to confound and intrigue teams around the league because he has what can't be taught -- and that's size. But you can't teach passion, either, and only he knows if his is a genuine passion that yearns to succeed. Trading for Bynum would be a risky proposition for the Celtics but not nearly as risky as it could be for other teams. Sometimes you have to take a shot.
Warren Shaw is a NBA contributor to Dime Magazine and co-host of the weekly basketball podcast "The Baseline". He has covered various sporting events live while also conducting one on one player interviews. His passion for basketball is seconded by boxing and his work can be found on shawsports.net.
Follow him on Twitter @ShawSportsNBA
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