A murmur slowly turned into a roar at the Quicken Loans Arena when Andrew Bynum was headed for the scorer’s table with 3:40 to go in the first period.
Playing his first game since May 21 2012, Bynum finished with 3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks while committing a foul and turnover. Not bad at all for a player who underwent bilateral arthroscopic surgery on both knees in March.
Yes I know he just played 7:34 minutes, but he showed flashes of exactly what the Cavs can expect him to give them in greater quantity as the year progresses. He has certainly not lost his touch, finishing a three point play in the second quarter for his only points and swatting away a pair of shots.
His return has analysts and experts changing their predictions of the Cavs. The expectations of the fans have risen. So what exactly are the changes in the team’s expectations that we can credit to his return?
More Depth for the Cavs in the Front-court:
Now that Tristan Thompson is a bonafide starter with 18 points and 9 rebounds in the opening game against the Nets, the idea of fielding of Bynum and Anderson Varejao together on the floor in the starting 5 should not be put into implementation.
His return to health and the line-up allows Mike Brown to rest Anderson Varejao for longer stretches in the game and make sure he is healthy for crucial games and the inevitable run the Cavs will have to make heading into March next year to not just make the Playoffs but to clear the first round.
Except the unusually constructed Miami Heat, every other title contender in the Eastern Conference is loaded with front court talent.
Although a healthy Anderson Varejao along with Thompson and first round pick in this year’s draft Anthony Bennett can win games for the team, they would definitely not mind Bynum’s assistance on both ends of the floor.
It’s far too early to guess who the Cavs would face in the Playoffs, in fact it’s too early to assume the Cavs would make the Playoffs next April but Bynum’s return certainly improves their chances.
Presence in the Paint:
His performance in his last season with the Lakers was enough to show what he brings with his length on both ends of the floor.
After the game was over, Cavs shooting guard Dion Waiters in an interview when asked about Bynum, said, “It’s a big body out there blocking shots. He changed the game. He changed the momentum.”
2 block shots and 3 rebounds in 7:34 minutes in his first game from serious knee injuries should be a preview of what he is capable of when he is healthy. With his sheer size Bynum has made a positive defensive impact every year he has spent in the NBA.
His last season with the Lakers was when Bynum became widely mentioned along with Dwight Howard as the top center in the NBA.
He grabbed 30 rebounds in a game against the San Antonio Spurs, had his first 20-20 game of his career and recorded a triple double of 10 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots against the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the 2012 Playoffs. Averaging a double for the first time in his career for a season earned him his first All-Star selection.
Do you see now what he is capable of once fully healthy?
Despite not being fully healthy, his impact in the paint and to the team was on full display against the Nets. Cavs went on a 19-11 run with him on the floor, and the Brooklyn Nets shot only 28.6% from the field while he was patrolling the paint.
How Cavs’ chances change?
If Bynum is part of the rotation – playing just 15-20 minutes – the Cavs would join the New York Knicks in the middle of the pack ahead of the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference. If he regains his Los Angeles Lakers form towards the end of the season, don’t be shocked if Cleveland will be fighting for home court above both New York based teams.