Taking a closer look at the Andrew Bynum Effect

We've been doing a whole lot of praise singing for Andrew Bynum over the last couple of weeks.  He's been the primary subject of a vast majority of our game recaps, editorials, Player of the Week awards, and comments.  There's no doubt Drew has earned some time in the spotlight because his play since the All Star Break has been inspired, but one can't help but wonder if we, as a blog and as a fanbase, are going a bit overboard.  I mean, sure we can see how Drew is changing games with his defense and rebounding.  We know his stat line of 12 points, 13 boards and 2.6 blocks per game is pretty much exactly what the Lakers dream of getting from Bynum on a team that is not short on offensive talent.  We can be proud of the fact that AB is finally reveling in his role as anchor of the defense.  But just how much effect, actual measureable effect, is Bynum really having on his team's play?  Sure, all the blocks and rebounds he is accumulating are highly visible, and we know that the Lakers defense has been much improved since the All-Star break, but how much of that is actually due to Bynum's presence on the floor?  Does his newfound dominance in our hearts match any kind of newfound dominance on the stat sheet, outside of his increased individual numbers?

Yes.  Oh dear God, yes.  I took a look at just how much better the Lakers defense has been with Drew on the court since the All-Star Break, and the numbers are as shocking as they are heartwarming.  And they certainly provide all the justification that we've never really needed to be as bullish on Andrew Bynum as we want to be.

I went back through all the Laker play by plays over the last 11 games, and separated out the points, possessions and minutes from when Bynum was on the court vs. when he was off the court.  Using these numbers, and the legendary statistical collections of one Dexter Fishmore, I was able to create a snapshot of how the Lakers have performed defensively since the break with Drew, without Drew and overall.  Starting with the broad view, the Lakers overall have been pretty fantastic since the break, allowing just 1 point per possession over the last 11 games.  And this is not a matter of playing a bunch of scrubs or poor offensive teams, either.  You already know the Lakers competition post All-Star Break has been strong, but the teams the Lakers faced also have an average offensive rank of about 14.  In other words, the Lakers defensive performance over the past 11 games is against a fairly representative sample of the league's offensive prowess.  Pretty impressive, but how much of a role has Andrew Bynum played in all this?  Prepare to be blown away.

 

W/ Bynum

W/O Bynum

Total

Difference

Atl

0.73

1.08

0.88

0.35

at Por

1.18

0.92

1.07

-0.26

Clip

0.98

1.26

1.07

0.28

at OKC

0.94

1.06

0.99

0.11

at Minn

0.78

1.05

0.90

0.27

Cha

0.75

1.20

0.92

0.45

at SA

0.95

0.98

0.97

0.02

at Atl

0.95

1.33

1.05

0.38

at Mia

0.94

1.75

1.13

0.81

at Dal

0.99

1.26

1.05

0.28

Orl

0.90

1.15

1.00

0.25

Overall

0.92

1.14

1.00

0.22

That table is so much win.  In eleven games, the Lakers have been better with Andrew Bynum on the court in 10 of those games.  They have been more than .2 points per possession better in eight of those games (which, incidentally is a difference which is nearly twice the overall difference between the leagues' best defense and its worst).  In four games, that difference is .35 points per possession or higher.  The sample size, both on an individual game basis and overall, is way too small, but these numbers are ridiculous.  With Drew, the Lakers have been better than the best defenses in the land ... by 8 points per 100 possessions.  Without Drew, the Lakers have been the worse than the worst.  Maybe per possession stats aren't your cup of tea, so let me break it down simply.  Andrew Bynum's defensive presence would have the Lakers allow about 20 points less per game over an entire 48 minute contest.  That might just be responsible for the Lakers winning 10 of the last 11, no?

Some of these games aren't the best sample, because garbage time played a role in driving the "defense without Bynum number" up, but take a look at the highest difference in that table ... the Miami Heat.  In the one game the Lakers have lost over the past month, they lost because Miami killed the Lakers in the time that Bynum was not on the court.  Bynum played nearly 37 minutes in that game, meaning that the game was effectively lost by 11 poor defensive minutes in which Bynum required rest.  Ladies and gentlemen, that's your game changer right there.

On the season, 82games.com has it that the Lakers are averaging 5.3 less points per 100 possessions with Bynum on the court.  That number hasn't been updated since March 5th, so you can expect that the difference would be a bit higher today.  However, since the All-Star Break, the difference is stunning.  Kevin Garnett, probably the greatest defensive player of this generation, leads the league in average defensive rating (which is what I calculated for Drew times 100) at 94.5.  Dwight Howard nips at his tail with 94.9.  In the past 11 games, Drew is at 92.2.  Add in the blocks and the rebounds, and these aren't breakout numbers, they are Defensive Player of the Year numbers.  Obviously, Drew would need to do this over a full season, and sadly we've yet to see Drew do anything over a full season, but there can be no question of Drew's capability as a game changing defensive force, and the Lakers just won two championships more or less without his services.

The coaches have taken notice of Drew's presence.  Everyone has.  Phil Jackson has been steadily increasing Bynum's minutes over the past week or so, with Drew playing 35, 37, and 37 minutes respectively before being limited with foul trouble yesterday and playing 28.  But he's still not getting the most important minutes of all, those crunch time minutes at the end of the fourth quarter.  In those situations, unless the Lakers have been up more than a couple points, PJ has preferred a Lamar Odom Pau Gasol foundation.  It's tough to argue with having those two guys on at the end of games.  After all, Pau Gasol is the most efficient offensive threat we have most nights, and Lamar Odom provides everything you could possibly want in the end game: sterling help defense, ability to run the offense, and top notch leadership.  I honestly couldn't tell you who Drew should replace when the Lakers find themselves in a tight contest, but if Drew keeps playing like he has, I just don't know how you can keep him off the court when it matters most.

After all, the offense isn't quite as smooth when Andrew Bynum is on the court, but you don't need to score very much when the other guy isn't scoring at all.

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