An additional benefit to Bynum returning is taking the load off Gasol, who is the only Laker averaging the highest amount of minutes played. Then there’s the issue of rebounding, particularly on the defensive end, which has become a growing concern for the coaching staff.
As of Tuesday, the Lakers posted the 5th worst defensive rebounding percentage in the league. This doesn’t bode well for the team who can make the claim that they won their 16th championship on the strength of their rebounding alone. A couple of nights ago, an undersized Minnesota Timberwolves team out-rebounded the Lakers 54-42. While they did an excellent job holding the Trailblazers to just two offensive rebounds during the entire first half of Sunday’s game, last Friday they were out-rebounded 49-31 by the Raptors. It’s an un-settling trend and needs to be nipped soon, before it becomes bad habit.
Perhaps part of the blame for the lack of defensive rebounds can be put on the Lakers not being able to maintain motivation and focus, that’s another issue altogether, in the case of Bynum, he will provide that extra man to body-up and prevent the opponent from getting second chance point after point.
In terms of the offense, the Lakers may see a dip in their offensive numbers, which at an average of 112 points per game is a league-best. Indeed, it’s a different offensive flow when Bynum is in the starting lineup as opposed to Odom, but the trade-off on defense is much more vital to the Lakers success come mid-June. Besides, much of the offensive struggle’s the Lakers endured last season was due to poor perimeter shooting. The team should already be looking to add a greater number of high-percentage shots to their offensive repertoire, and if my memory doesn’t fail me, Bynum has no problem scoring in the paint.
It’s not going to be pretty at first. Fans have been down this road with Bynum before. Upon his return, he’ll likely be slow to run down the court, his timing is sure to be off, but should only come in eight minute spurts until he reaches close to 100 percent. After starting the pre-season with constant inquiries about his decision to post-pone surgery, then pushing back his return date, Bynum will want to prove that all his hard work rehabbing the knee has not been in vain.
When Bynum fully recovers, keeping him healthy come play-off time will be imperative for the Lakers. Should that happen, there’s little that can stop them on the road to three-peat.