Can Andrew Bynum Replace Kobe Bryant As the Face of the L.A. Lakers?

Eventually the time will come when Kobe Bryant ceases to be the Los Angeles Lakers' top player, but when that moment arrives is there another player on the roster who is capable of filling Bryant's enormous shoes?

The obvious choice would appear to be forward Pau Gasol, but by the time Bryant's current three-year contract ends Gasol will be 33 years old, and presumably just out of his prime.

Could the responsibility of carrying the Lakers' franchise into the future fall on the shoulders of Gasol's front court mate Andrew Bynum?

Bynum has tantalized Lakers fans with his tremendous potential for the past several seasons, but his inability to stay healthy has most observers hesitant to crown him as the NBA's next great center.

If Bynum can manage to make it through an entire season healthy there are several reasons to feel optimistic about the mantle of supremacy being passed in his direction.

For instance, the lack of true, talented centers in the NBA places Bynum in a rare category in the league, and an even rarer category within the Western Conference.

Bynum is arguably the top center in the West, with the only real competition coming from oft-injured Portland center Greg Oden, and maybe Phoenix Suns center Robin Lopez.

Bynum's game is more advanced than either Oden or Lopez, and he has had the advantage of learning the nuances of the center position from one of the best to ever play the game in Kareem-Abdul Jabbar.

Jabbar's instruction shows up in Bynum's low-post footwork, his ability to spin to the basket with either shoulder, and his jump hook, which is still a work in progress.

Bynum's game has steadily progressed each season, but just as he appears to be on the cusp of realizing his potential, critical knee injuries have surfaced and Bynum seems to regress after each setback.

Last season Bynum suffered yet another knee injury in the postseas...

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