Andrew Bynum will clear waivers and become a free agent in any minute now, and he could likely be signed to a new team by tomorrow. I was planning to go team-by-team through the available destinations examining the fit and the available money, etc. But then I saw that Rob Mahoney did exactly that at SI.com more effectively than I ever would have. So do me a favor, go read what Mahoney wrote, and then come on back here and I'll give you my take on it.
Bynum has, according to reports, expressed an interest in playing for either the Heat or the Clippers. As far as I know, those are the only team names that have emanated from his camp. That does not mean that those are his only acceptable destinations, nor does it even mean that he actually feels that way or said those things, press reports being press reports. So take it for what it's worth, but supposedly he likes the idea of playing for the Heat or the Clippers.
Reports since he was waived have indicated that at least eight teams have expressed an interest in acquiring the starting center for the Western Conference from the 2012 All Star Game. We can probably assume that the Heat, Clippers, Nets, Knicks, Hawks and Mavs have at least expressed some interest -- various press reports have indicated as much. Supposedly there are at least a couple of other teams sniffing around. Mahoney's list is as good as any.
The only teams I've added to the table above that were not on Mahoney's list are Indiana and San Antonio -- the Pacers are there strictly as a "sign him so Miami can't" passive-aggressive strategy. I don't for a minute think that's what they'll do, but I thought I'd throw it out there; it's an interesting possibility at least. As for the Spurs, they're a contender, they have been known to do surprising things, and Tiago Splitter is out for up to a month. So they're on the list.
In yesterday's espn.com report, Bynum's priorities were said to be to "playing time, the club's chances for playoff success and money." Of course, those are more or less every player's criteria in every situation (market being about the only other thing to even consider) so the only question is how he is actually prioritizing them. If money is the top priority, the Clippers aren't in the discussion.
We don't truly know Bynum's priorities (and there's at least a decent chance that they're effed up, because, hey, we're talking about Andrew Bynum here). But it seems as if several of the teams on Mahoney's list aren't realistic alternatives -- at least not if he's got better destinations to choose from. So let's say that New York, Charlotte and New Orleans are out because there's little reason to believe they could get beyond the first round of the playoffs (if indeed they can even get in). And eliminate the Pacers because they're not going to actually do that, nor would Bynum sign there just to be shelved.
Brooklyn is probably in the not-a-contender boat, but the Nets and Bynum could have a shared delusion that adding him to the roster could make the difference, and Brooklyn does have money to spend in the form of a salary exception in the wake of Brook Lopez' injury. But reports have indicated that the Nets are not interested at the end of the day. Bear in mind that because they are so far over the luxury tax, anything they offer to Bynum would cost them something in the neighborhood of four or five times more after adding in all the penalties.
From a Clipper-centric standpoint, the teams that matter most are the teams who have more than a vet's minimum contract to offer. The Clippers have been non-committal concerning their interest in Bynum, but even if their interest is sincere, they can't outbid other teams. They have the pro-rated veteran's minimum and only that to offer. So if Bynum wants money and another team wants to give it to him, that's all she wrote for the LAC.
Miami is the big mystery here. They're on Bynum's list, they're the defending champs so obviously they offer the highest likelihood of playoff success, they have need of a big man at LEAST in a playoff series against Indiana, and they have money to offer. Presumably if they made an offer above the minimum, Bynum would take it. BUT -- Miami could have waived little-used Roger Mason, Jr. on Wednesday and freed up a roster spot, yet they did not. Mason's contract became guaranteed for the season when the Heat kept him this week, and I can see no logic in keeping Mason if the Heat have ANY interest in Bynum. They certainly have other options -- they can waive a player and eat the money, they can try to move an unused player to a cap-space team, etc. But those other options all have downsides AND most have contingencies that could fall through (i.e. what if they can't reach a deal with a cap space team to move someone before Bynum signs elsewhere?) This is a team that amnestied a player who played significant minutes in last season's playoffs to save on their tax bill. They seem to like their team, and they don't seem interested in spending a lot of extra money to push them over the top (because, hey, they're already at the top). The only way I can make sense of all this is if they've completely given up on Greg Oden -- then they could waive Oden's guaranteed contract to make room for Bynum. Short of that, Miami tipped their hand by keeping Mason, and won't make a play for Bynum.
Oklahoma City is an interesting case. They've clung tenaciously to the useless Kendrick Perkins over the years when they could have amnestied him, and now they have Stephen Adams who looks like a keeper. Depth is an issue for the Thunder, but so is culture. It's hard to imagine Sam Presti letting Bynum into his locker room. But the Thunder could certainly put together the minutes/money/contender trifecta that Bynum seeks.
Atlanta is the other team with some money, a big role to offer and at least a winning record. However, even with Bynum added to the roster, it's difficult to see the Hawks getting past the Heat or the Pacers, and almost impossible to imagine them getting past both. This is a team barely above .500 in the East -- unless they're adding second team All Pro Bynum (and probably even then) they're ceiling remains second round in the playoffs because the Heat and Pacers are so much better.
When you get to the teams with only minimum salaries to offer, the Clippers appear to be Bynum's best option. They have a very specific role to offer -- let's face it, Bynum won't have to do much to beat out the likes of Antawn Jamison and Ryan Hollins, while in Golden State, for instance, he might lose out to a healthy Jermaine O'Neal or Festus Ezeli. And he happens to fill the most glaring need on the roster, and he could reasonably say "That's a legitimate NBA Finals team if I go there and I could be part of the reason." It's worth noting also that Bynum and his agent surely knew that the Clippers could offer no more than the min -- the fact that LAC was listed as a preferred destination seems to imply a willingness to accept the min right off the bat.
The Spurs are the wild card here. There's nothing more than speculation as to San Antonio's potential interest in Bynum, but they would certainly use another big body, at least until Splitter returns. Culture is important in San Antonio just as it is in OKC, and Bynum would be a poor fit in that regard -- but the locker room and coach are so strong, they may believe they have a chance to get the talented but troubled Bynum to toe the line. And if not, they wouldn't hesitate to cut him loose at any time (as they did with Stephen Jackson before the playoffs last season).