The return of Andrew Bynum to the Lakers lineup over the last week has been very profound. After sitting out the first four games of the season due to a suspension, Bynum has returned to the court with a vengeance.
After an off-season that was swirling with trade rumors, Bynum has brushed it all aside and turned into the force in the middle that the Lakers have been expecting him to be ever since they drafted him back in 2005.
His numbers so far this season have been very impressive, and other members of the Lakers are certainly beginning to notice the impact he’s having.
Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant stated that Bynum’s score-first mentality is something that the team needs right now.
“Andrew is thirsty to score and he can score. He has more of a scorer’s mentality [than Gasol], so we’ll take advantage of that.”*
However, that doesn’t mean that the Lakers aren’t getting production out of Gasol. In fact, the 7-foot Spaniard is still putting up very strong numbers so far this season. He is averaging 17.1 points per game, but is doing so at a very efficient rate. Gasol is shooting over 57 percent from the field, which has allowed him to score 154 points while only attempting 110 shots from the field.
Andrew Bynum’s presence obviously has a strong ripple effect on the rest of the team, but it is most evident when you look at the impact it has on Gasol. While there are times it would be nice to see Gasol attack the basket and use his length to his advantage, he is still one of the most productive mid-range players in the league. And, with Bynum taking care of things in the paint, that’s something that the team doesn’t need as much of from Gasol.
Pau Gasol’s role with this Lakers team is still crucial to their success, but there’s no doubt it has changed with the emergence of Bynum. Gasol is now used to help the team spread the floor and find spacing on the offensive end. He is also crucial to the team’s ball movement, which was much improved on Saturday night against Golden State. When Bynum gets the ball in the post the defense will usually be forced to collapse on him, leaving players like Gasol open for an easy jump shot.
With Andrew Bynum assuming control of the Lakers’ second offensive option, it actually frees up Gasol to play a role he’s more comfortable with. And in the end, that benefits the team as a whole.