Is Bynum the best option the Mavs can hope for?

DALLAS – The Plan B portion of the Dallas Mavericks’ offseason has been set in motion, and former Lakers behemoth Andrew Bynum might be the centerpiece. That is, unless you’re thrilled of the backcourt tandem of Jose Calderon and Devin Harris.

At his best, Bynum (7-0, 285) can be nearly as effective as Howard.

Of course, Bynum’s rarely been at his best because of recurring knee injuries. He had surgery on both knees last March and ended up missing the entire season for the Philadelphia 76ers. But at the tender age of 25, he’s still too intriguing to ignore in free agency.

His representatives insist he’ll be ready to go for training camp, but he hasn’t been willing to go through a workout during the free-agency period.

The Cavs already have a two-year, $24-million offer on the table that is full of incentives, according to Yahoo! Sports. Cleveland wants a quick answer, but that didn’t keep Bynum from leaving town for a visit with the Atlanta Hawks. And yes, the Mavs are also waiting to meet with Bynum. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported Tuesday that Cleveland was most worried about losing Bynum to the Mavs.

Maybe that’s a tiny bit of consolation to a fan base that has become accustomed to being spurned by top free agents each summer.

The Mavs believe they have a built-in advantage when it comes to their medical staff. And Bynum’s health is much more of an issue than what Dwight Howard has encountered. History doesn’t provide a lot of examples of big men being able to flourish while battling chronic knee pain.

Wilt Chamberlain, who carried just as much weight as Bynum, continued to be effective after knee surgeries. But of course we’re talking about one of the greatest centers of all time. Bynum doesn’t belong anywhere close to that discussion.

He’s only two years removed from having a remarkable season for the Lakers. He averaged more than 18 points and 11 rebounds per game in 2011-12. Bynum also blocked nearly two shots per game.

The Mavs have a habit of trying to sign players who’ve given them fits. And even Tyson Chandler offered little resistance when Bynum was healthy for the Lakers. The Mavs will try to field a competitive team while maintaining the financial flexibility to swing and miss at superstars such as Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.

It appears to be an exercise in futility, but Mavs owner Mark Cuban seems committed to this plan. If Bynum could have a huge bounce-back season next to Dirk Nowitzki, it would take some of the sting away from recent offseason failures. But it would be really unwise to offer a lot of guaranteed money to a player who just missed 82 games.

Bynum would like to make big money on a one-year deal and then have another go at free agency at age 26. Is he worth that type of gamble? Well, it depends on how desperate you are. I know for sure that Nowitzki is sick and tired of this “big fish” strategy. Like a lot of Mavs fans, he wanted to keep the core of the 2011 title team together and try to make another run.

Cuban decided that the age of those players and the new collective-bargaining agreement made that scenario prohibitive. So the Mavs have wandered into the free-agent wilderness. With Nowitzki in place, the Mavs are too good to tank the season and too bad to compete for another championship.

This is that no-man’s land that Cuban was able to avoid for so many years. And ironically, winning a title set all this in motion.

Hanging your hat on a player like Bynum isn’t the way to build a championship contender. But if you’re trying to remain in the playoff picture, it might be your best move.

That said, I’d at least make the guy get in a layup line during his visit.