What's the next step for Bynum?
There is a lot to consider and digest, but Bynum is a 7-footer, has proved he still can play at some level and has a contract situation that is rare and valuable under certain circumstances. Here's what is in play:
• Bynum signed a two-year contract for $24.8 million with the Cavs, but only $6 million of it is guaranteed before Jan. 7. After that date, the full $12.25 million this season is guaranteed. Next season's $12.5 million is not guaranteed until July 10.
In short, there is no other contract like this in the NBA at the moment. Not only has Bynum proved in spurts this season that he can be effective, but the Cavs also signed him to a contract that gives them or any team that trades for him lots of flexibility. He can be an instant money saver if the Cavs or a team that trades for him waives him before Jan. 7. He can be a rental for the rest of the season. Or he can be a trade chip heading into the draft and next summer because he can act as a salary purge option.
With so many teams wanting to clear cap space or save on luxury-tax payments now, Bynum will create interest. This involves much of the league, and that's why the Cavs will get plenty of calls in the next week. Whether it equals a deal remains to be seen.
As an example of how Bynum could be used in a deal, the Chicago Bulls are currently about $7.5 million over the luxury-tax line. They could trade free agent-to-be Luol Deng for Bynum and immediately waive him, which would save about $8 million off the cap and get the Bulls out of the tax. Such a trade would save the Bulls almost $20 million in salary and tax payments.
Sources said the Bulls remain determined to hang on to Deng and hope to re-sign him even though the Cavs are interested. This is just how a trade for Bynum might work and what the motivations would be.
• If the Cavs are not able to trade Bynum by Jan. 7 and his contract becomes fully guaranteed, Bynum will most certainly want to be released so he would be free to sign with any team. The Cavs, however, are not assured to do that. Bynum would still be a trade asset from now until July 10 because of how his contract is structured. The Cavs would likely still try to move Bynum by the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
If Bynum is traded and waived, there would be plenty of interest in him as a free agent. The Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat are two teams on the lookout for size. Even with Greg Oden's long-term project in Miami, Bynum is much farther along in his recovery and would likely entice the Heat if they could clear a roster spot.
• Several times this season, Bynum has mentioned he is not sure how much longer he wants to play because of lingering pain in his knees. There is a chance he could retire in the near future.
However, while he often sounds pessimistic in interviews, his actions show something different. He was highly engaged in workouts and rehab after signing with the Cavs. He lost more than 25 pounds and diligently worked to build his stamina. Less than a month into the season, the Cavs doctors cleared him to start playing in back-to-backs, a strong signal he was improving.
Though he's been inconsistent and struggled with his shot, Bynum has four games where he's scored 15 or more points and nine where he's had seven or more rebounds. Those types of players at his size are extremely rare.
• No other team offered Bynum a contract that even had the $6 million guaranteed the Cavs offered him last summer. Part of that was concern over his attitude and his knees, and this washout in Cleveland does not help that reputation. Getting Bynum at a prorated cost, especially if he becomes a free agent, is another matter entirely.
If Bynum wants to keep playing, he will have numerous options.
• Bynum most likely has played his final game for the Cavs, though it is possible he will be on the roster for months and get paid. The Cavs can't suspend him without pay for the rest of the season for conduct detrimental to the team.
• Bynum has been sulking recently because his playing time and touches have dwindled even as he's at times showed he can still be a significant contributor. During the Cavs' double-overtime loss Thursday to the Atlanta Hawks, Bynum was benched in the third quarter and never returned. He spent the rest of the night at the end of the bench and appeared to be sulking.
• On Friday, Bynum met with coach Mike Brown, sources said. It isn't clear what happened in that meeting, but it's possible he was told the Cavs might go a different direction with the big man's minutes. Afterward, the Cavs decided to suspend Bynum and not take him on their team flight to Boston on Friday afternoon. By Saturday, the team had him on the trade block.
• Bynum has a point and so do the Cavs. The team's guards generally did a poor job of getting him the ball consistently, even when he was running hot. Guard Kyrie Irving openly admitted he had never played with a post player like Bynum and didn't know how to best take advantage of it. There were games when Bynum was dominating his man but couldn't get a pass in position or with any time on the shot clock.
Meanwhile, Bynum wasn't able to move well enough on his knees to help the Cavs defensively most of the time. He shot just 42 percent when he did get the ball, as he clearly was trying to adapt to shooting without having any lift. The plus-minus numbers showed the Cavs were better when Bynum did not play.
• Irving has been branded a ball hog by teammates and fans this season. At times this is undoubtedly true; Irving tends to try to do everything by himself in a trait that is common with inexperienced but talented players.
However, the Cavs haven't helped him out by playing big men who are effective pick-and-roll players with him. Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson are all limited shooters, and opposing teams have attacked Irving with double-teams and blocked passing lanes. One of the reasons the Cavs may have been moving away from Bynum is because they want to play young big men Tyler Zeller and Anthony Bennett more. Both are jump shooters who could be a better match with Irving and guard Dion Waiters.