Awkwardly, Andrew Bynum Becomes the Lakers’ Best Player

Andrew Bynum has been brilliant amid his self-generated madness, possibly even eclipsing a "vintage" Kobe Bryant performance on Wednesday night. The big is ascendent and falling all at once. I’m not entirely sure if media narratives can handle such a rise. He has almost perfectly timed on-court superstardom with a notoriety for behavior both flaky and petulant. Since media narratives tend to work backward, explaining an athlete’s rise as some grand morality fable that we all can learn from, Andrew leaves us wrong-footed with a confluence of great play and poor “character.” 

Earlier in the season, Shaquille O’Neal cited Bynum as the league’s best center, which was likely part of his never-ending passive aggressive assault on Dwight Howard’s reputation. It sounded preposterous at the time, a comical example of how personal feelings can cloud analysis. Today, it doesn’t sound that crazy. While I would still favor Howard for his defensive mobility and indestructibility, Bynum has a case. The Lakers' center trails Howard in PER by less than a point, but leads him in Win Shares per 48 minutes. Bynum’s churning out this fantastic season despite shooting almost half as much as one teammate, and sharing positional duties with another.

And while a case for Bynum>Howard would still be tough to make, it would be quite easy for me to argue that the big man has become the Lakers' best player. He leads the team in PER, Win Shares, Offensive Rating, and not by a little. It's not just that one of these "advanced statistics" love Bynum--they all do, save for the noisy plus-minus metric that merely likes him.

Perhaps it's too early to declare this a trend, and perhaps you still favor Kobe's shot-heavy approach, but Andrew Bynum is performing like LA's true superstar. He's playing 35 minutes per night, which once seemed inconceivable. He's playing nearly every game, which once seemed unlikely...

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