Will Andrew Bynum pass Howard?

Bynum still has at least four or five years of improvement, which bodes well for the Lakers. Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire

After nearly losing to the Denver Nuggets and digging themselves into a 2-0 hole versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 2012 Los Angeles Lakers are exactly who we thought they were: a second-tier team doomed to struggle against elite contenders. The TeamRankings.com projections currently give Los Angeles only a 6.2 percent chance of advancing to the next round of the playoffs based on where they stand.

Those slim remaining odds rest squarely on Andrew Bynum's shoulders. After struggling with injuries the past four years, Bynum has emerged as an All-Star-caliber center. For the Lakers to defy the odds and beat the Thunder, he'll have to dominate the Thunder's Kendrick Perkins.

Bynum has had an up-and-down playoffs. He's blocked more than three shots a game, but his field goal percentage is down a significant amount (.054) from his season average. For L.A. to advance, he must reverse that trend and become the powerful scoring option Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant have failed to be so far.

The jury's out on whether Bynum is good enough to take over a series, though. He's clearly talented, but is he as good as the league's best centers? If not, will he ever be, or has the young big man already peaked at age 24?