CLEVELAND — If Andrew Bynum is healthy, the Cleveland Cavaliers have signed one of the NBA’s top two or three centers for $6 million with a team option at the end of the season.
Actually, if Bynum is healthy and productive, he’s expected to earn $12 million in 2013-14. Then the Cavs can pick up the option, which reportedly will pay him another $12 million.
If you’re no good with numbers or money, just know Bynum has 18 million reasons to be the player the Cavs want him to be.
And if you were starting to have your doubts about Cavs general manager Chris Grant … well, just know he pulled off a pretty big basketball coup.
The Cavs wanted to make a splash this offseason. They made a ripple by reaching an agreement with free-agent guard Jarrett Jack last week. Before that, it was a not-bad drip with free-agent forward Earl Clark.
Now comes Bynum. He’s a 7-footer with a wide frame and big game. At least, he’s all that when his knees are functioning.
Two years ago, they were just fine. Last season? Not so much.
So he’s a risk. Grant and the Cavs know that, and it’s why they protected themselves. But imagine if Bynum pans out. Imagine him in the middle, with Kyrie Irving at point guard, Dion Waiters at shooting guard, Tristan Thompson at power forward, and center Anderson Varejao and Jack coming off the bench.
Now imagine Mike Brown, a defensive-minded workaholic of a coach, tirelessly putting it together.
And we haven’t even mentioned No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett or some of the others.
If it all works out, we’re not going to be wondering if the Cavs are a playoff team anymore. We’re going to be wondering if they’re a top four or five seed.
But let’s start with Bynum, because that truly is where this all begins.
You probably know the story by now. Last summer, he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of a four-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. Interestingly, those talks involved the Cavs.
But instead of getting shipped to Cleveland, Bynum landed in Philly. He hurt his knees and never played a minute.
Now, Sixers fans aren’t exactly wishing the best for Bynum. He walked around the arena with wild hair and an expensive suit. He supposedly didn’t love the game. He said he hurt one of his knees while bowling.
That’s some funky junk right there.
But it’s junk the Cavs were willing to overlook — provided Bynum could see it their way. Don’t play and you still get paid, was the Cavs’ message. Do play, and you get paid more. Do play a lot and play well, and man, this is gonna be awesome for everyone, kid.
Bynum also visited the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks. Both basically told him they really liked the idea of having him on the team. But no way could either match the pitch made by Grant and the Cavs.
OK, let’s play worst-case scenario for a minute. Let’s say Bynum didn’t come to Cleveland. What else could the Cavs have done for $12 million? Signed two or three more everyday players? Hold on to it for another year while they won 35 games or fewer? Try to convince another team to make a deal, then take on an overpaid (and probably disappointing) type?
The last option was probably the most realistic.
Or how about this: Let’s say Bynum isn’t healthy enough to play. That’s not a terrible thing for the Cavs, either. They spend $6 million and say goodbye. Then they have an extra $12 million (or more) to play around with next summer.
You can try to spin it however you want, but you’ll just keep coming back to the idea that the Cavs can’t lose here. And if Bynum gets it together, and keeps it together, he can’t lose, either.