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Bleacher Report: Four reasons the Lakers should trade Andrew Bynum

January 25, 2010 |  2:11 pm

Bynum From the Bleacher Report

4. Roster depth/bench quality

After Kobe Bryant -- who's playing 38-plus minutes per game -- the Lakers have Derek Fisher (a 35-year-old in a walk year), Sasha Vujacic (a complete disappointment who is averaging 8 minutes per game and owed $5.4 million next year), Jordan Farmar (a seldom-used point guard who shoots more than he passes -- and he's a poor shooter) and Shannon Brown (a limited energy guy who has become a fan favorite due to his explosive dunks).

What if Kobe's broken finger gets worse? What about next season? Kobe can't keep playing 40 minutes per game much longer. The Lakers need a Devin Harris or Caron Butler or Jamal Crawford-type of combo guard to take the pressure off Kobe and upgrade a weak bench. This is their Achilles' heel, not their front court.

3. Injury history

Andrew Bynum is injury-prone and has played in only 61% (125 out of 206) of Lakers games the past two and a half seasons due to knee problems. There is absolutely no injury scarier and more devastating to an athlete than one involving a knee. Already this season we have seen Greg Oden, Blake Griffin and Michael Redd go down for the count thanks to recurring knee injuries.

Redd's career could be over, and Oden isn't too far off from joining him. It's not like Bynum is an aging veteran playing 36 minutes per game. He's a kid who has averaged 28 minutes per game the past four seasons. And he can't stay healthy?

Mitch Kupchak has to be worried. Wouldn't you be?

2. Window of opportunity

Let's be honest here: This is Kobe's team.

Kobe turns 32 this year, and while that may not seem old, consider he started in the NBA 14 years ago and has logged nearly 1,000 games and 36,000-plus minutes since. Other players in that realm of usage include Shaquille O'Neal, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Michael Finley, Rasheed Wallace, Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, Juwan Howard, and Tim Duncan. How many of these guys are still playing at a peak level? None.

It may not seem as if Kobe has lost a step -- thanks to the gaudy numbers he continues to put up -- but he has undoubtedly begun his decline. Thus, the Lakers are designed to win now -- why else do you think both Lamar Odom and Ron Artest signed on for well below market value?

Realistically, the Lakers have this season and the next two to contend, and then the dismantling and rebuilding begin. Three years from now, Bynum will still be only 25 and developing. Sure, if he holds up, it would great to have him as a building block in 2013, but the Lakers need the help NOW.

Ask yourself this: Come 2013, when Kobe and Pau Gasol are no longer top dogs, do you want a 25-year-old Bynum leading the team or an in-his-prime Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Al Jefferson or Andrew Bogut?

1. Money, money, money

The Lakers currently have the highest payroll in the league at approximately $91 million. Because they're significantly over the salary cap and the luxury tax level, they will have to pay an additional $21 million to the league.

Their estimated $83-million-plus payroll for next season is certainly going to rise with Kobe's pending extension; it might even reach $100 million, which means a $30-million-plus luxury tax penalty. They're in the same boat for 2011-12.

Now, along with the New York Knicks, the Lakers are the richest club in the NBA and can afford the luxury tax without much issue. However, the problem lies with the salary cap; where it is now does not afford them much flexibility when it comes to player personnel.

Kobe, Gasol and Bynum alone will make close to $60 million next season, which is about $6 million over the salary cap and more than some teams' entire payrolls. This means two things: One, the bench is very thin. Two, an injury to one of these players would cripple their title hopes.

If Bynum, who is owed $29 million over the next two seasons, gets hurt, the Lakers lack the financial flexibility to maneuver around the situation. Think Allan Houston with the Knicks -- he got hurt and the team couldn't move him and his mega-contract because they were $70-million-plus over the cap. As a result, the Knicks were stuck and screwed.

That would be the situation in L.A. if one of these guys got hurt. With Gasol locked up through 2014 and Odom through 2012, it would make more sense for the Lakers to spend Bynum's $14.5 million per season on two quality players who fill needs. This way, if something goes awry, the Lakers will have the depth and flexibility to deal with it better.

-- You can read more at the Bleacher Report.

Photo: Andrew Bynum, right, tries to get past San Antonio's Tim Duncan during a game on Jan. 12. Credit: Bob Pearson / EPA