Is Andrew Bynum worth a max offer this summer from the Phoenix Suns?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The most talented free agent potentially ready to move to another team this summer is former Lakers C Andrew Bynum, who has missed this entire season with knee issues.

If I simply post a poll asking for knee-jerk reactions to this idea of the Phoenix Suns signing Andrew Bynum this summer, I am pretty sure the results will be the same as if I spent six hours researching and writing an impassioned article about it.

So I'm going to split the difference.

The sitch

Bynum will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after being traded to Philadelphia last offseason in the Dwight Howard trade. He has not played a single game all year while recovering from knee issues, and just last week had season-ending surgery to clean up both knees.

The statistical history

Andrew Bynum is a huge man. Clean 7'0", 285 pounds and arms so long they might just touch his kneecaps without bending at the waist. He is a major presence defensively and on the glass, and his ability to catch-and-flush on offense without dropping the ball below his head is quite remarkable.

The stats don't tell the whole story on Bynum. He is a major force, a top-3 NBA player at his position and a likely All-Star in any season he's healthy.


The injuries

Only once has Andrew Bynum made it through an entire NBA season without missing a game due to injury, and that was six years ago.

Last year was his second-most healthy season, playing 60 of 66 games and making the All-Star team in the West.

The big injury is this year, and it's made Philly a little frustrated.

The cost

Here is the problem. While every NBA team would love to offer Bynum a make-good contract that doesn't guarantee much money, the trick will be to outbid the next-closest team in a league full of owners that want to outbid each other.

Someone will likely offer Bynum a max guaranteed contract, which would start at $16.4 million and could be as long as 4 years with 4.5% raises.

The only team that could offer the 5th year is Philadelphia, but I am skeptical that they would offer a full-guaranteed contract for five seasons to Bynum. With the new CBA, that's less than Amare got three years ago.

But let's speculate for a bit here. Bynum will likely be un-insurable for his knee issues, same as Amare was. Let's guess that no team will offer the max.

Here's what a team CAN do to lower it's guarantees:

  • Offer some of the $16 million a year as "un-likely" incentives. "Unlikely" incentives (a) do not count against the cap and (b) only get paid if the player reaches that goal. This gets tricky. "Likely" is anything the player has done recently. "Unlikely" is something he has not done recently. Unlikely bonuses can only be 15% of the player's salary in any one year.
  • Make year 4 a team option (each contract can only have 1 option year on a vet contract). This would make the commitment shorter if the team were ready to cut ties after three seasons.

Here's what a team CANNOT do to lower it's guarantees:

  • the team cannot make year 1 or 2 a team option; the option can only be the last year of the contract.
  • the team cannot offer a big bonus over and above the max salary in any one season
  • the team cannot offer a mutual option (both have right to terminate)
  • the team cannot have more than one option year

In the end, all it takes is one max, guaranteed offer to trump all these shenanigans.

Should the Suns outbid their brethren to get their All-Star caliber player? Should the Suns be the team that offers the fully-guaranteed contract?

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