Andrew Bynum has played nearly 300 games over five seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers. He has won a title, has a massive contract, and has been garnering attention as a potential perennial All-Star. Yet he has not put together a complete season in the NBA. After a big Game 5 against the Thunder, things could change.
As a rookie, Bynum played sparingly, averaging 1.6 points, 1.7 boards, and shooting just 40%. His playoff experience was limited to two minutes in a blowout elimination loss. He missed his only shot. Typical production from a Phil Jackson-coached rookie, to be sure, but just as surely, it was unfulfilling for Bynum.
Bynum's second season saw a complete regular season (82 games) with averages of 7.8 points and 5.9 boards, on 56% shooting. Huge strides from season one. The postseason was a huge disappointment, however, as Bynum averaged just 11 minutes per game, averaged 4 points, 4.6 boards, and played more than 15 minutes just once (in a blowout loss). Regular season progress is great, but the Lakers measure success in terms of banners, and in terms of the effort required to raise it to the rafters.
The 2007-08 season was Bynum's regular season breakout. He nearly doubled his averages from the previous season, in just seven more minutes per contest. He averaged a double double with 13.1 points, 10.2 boards, and shot a ridiculous 64% from the field. Coming off a monstrous 25-point, 17-rebound performance against the Bucks, Bynum was injured, narrowly missing a double double against the Grizzlies. More disappointingly, the injury forced Bynum to miss the remainder of the regular season and the duration of the playoffs, which included a blowout elimination loss against the Celtics. LA fans finally witnessed what the giant was capable of, but they were denied seeing it at the highest stage.
Last season, Bynum averaged 14.3 points and 8.0 rebounds, shot 56%, and again missed significant regular season time. He returned, however, for the playoffs, but was clearly not the player who had averaged roughly a double double for the past two seasons. Limited by injuries, conditioning, and foul concerns, averaged 17.4 minutes, 6.3 points, 3.7 boards, and shot 46%. Bynum scored in double figures five times, topping out at 14. He walked away with a ring, but he had to be disappointed by his inability to put together a successful regular season with a successful postseason.
This regular season saw Bynum's highest scoring average, at 15 per contest. He added 8.3 boards and shot 57%. Despite missing 17 games, Bynum established career highs in minutes, points, and rebounds. Then the postseason came. Lakers fans may be surprised to know that Bynum had zero postseason double doubles entering the series against Oklahoma City. He now has four in five games, including a 21-point, 11-rebound effort in Game 5. As things stand, Bynum is averaging 30.2 minutes, 13.2 points, 10.0 boards, and is shooting 58%. The postseason has already been Bynum's best overall. This could be the arrival of the beast Lakers fans have been waiting for since The Big Aristotle went MIA. A double double average in the playoffs from a young seven foot center plus a championship could go a long way toward making Buss feel good about the millions he has invested in this team. And it could certainly make the Lakers faithful forget that other guy.