PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 23: Elton Brand #42 of the Philadelphia 76ers tries to grab a loose ball away from Paul Pierce #34 and Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 23, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers won 82-75. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
The Mavericks picked up the former No. 1 overall pick as an amnesty waiver over the weekend. A conversation with a Philadelphia sportswriter about what he could do for Dallas.
To talk shop about the former 76er, we've brought in Bryan Toporek, a long-time Philadelphia 76ers fan who writes for Education Weekly and covers basketball around the interwebs. Follow him on Twitter at @btoporek.
1) What happened to him in Philly? How much of his statistical decline was the result of his injury and how much was it being emphasized less in the offense?
Not to totally cop out, but I'd say it changed each season. His first year in Philly, he still appeared limited by the Achilles' tear, then got KO'ed in February by season-ending shoulder surgery. In Brand's second year, new coach Eddie Jordan's ill-fated Princeton offense and lack of rotations caused the team to tailspin. It's hard to pin blame on Brand that year, given that the entire team was a 27-win disaster on both ends of the court.
The past two seasons, on the other hand, seem to be as much as you can expect out of Brand at this point in his career. The guy who could average 20-10 in a season has gone out to pasture. He managed averages of 15 points and 8 rebounds in the 2010-11 season before dropping down to 11 and 7 this past year. The Sixers had so many options offensively these past two years that they rarely called upon him to be a big scorer, but he's still able to drop 20 points in a given night on occasion.
I'd guess he'll average somewhere around 11-14 points and 6-9 rebounds per game for Dallas this season coming off the bench. In other words, he'll be everything Lamar Odom was supposed to be. (Too soon?)
2) Did teams typically assign their best interior defender to Brand? Would the defensive attention Dirk commands make him a better player?
Brand was pretty interchangeable between the 4 and the 5 last season, so he'd typically match up against multiple players each game. I don't have any fancy stats to quantify this, but when Spencer Hawes went down for two months in the middle of the season, the revolving door of Lavoy Allen, Nikola Vucevic and even Tony Battie allowed opponents to focus more on shutting down Brand.
I'd say it's pretty unquestionable that Dirk's presence on the floor will only make Brand a better player. Spencer Hawes isn't exactly Dirk Nowitzki, know what I mean? Brand's mid-range jumper will punish opponents who leave him unguarded, but 1-on-1 opportunities for Dirk typically don't tend to end well for opponents, either.
3) How do you think he'll work in Dallas as a third big man?
I wanted to see Brand do well wherever he landed, so I'm thrilled to see him end up in Dallas. Had the Mavs not signed Chris Kaman, a Nowitzki-Brand starting frontcourt could have been a disaster, but coming off the bench should prolong Brand's career another few years.
He'll be able to step in for either Kaman or Nowitzki when they need a breather, despite being relatively undersized for the 5. Brand isn't a three-point threat by any means, but nearly 90 percent of his shots last season were jumpers, so he's still a threat to stretch the floor.
Brand's coming off a season where he was four minutes away from being the starting power forward on a team in the Eastern Conference finals. He's not washed up yet by any means. Moving him to the bench and bringing him in as the main veteran on the second unit could be a huge asset for Dallas this season.
4) At this point in his career, is he better defensively as a 4 or a 5?
Personally, I'd say he's much better at the 5 than the 4 at this point. I'm not convinced that he still has the foot speed to keep up with all the tweener 4s in the league these days, especially guys who will hover out behind the three-point line like Ryan Anderson.
Brand's only 6'8", so he lacks the prototypical size of a center compared to Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard. That said, his 7'5" wingspan (according to DraftExpress) gives him the power to be a proficient shot-blocker, even in his old age. At somewhere around 250-260 pounds, his frame also allows him to bully his way into the post and not get pushed around, which the Sixers will badly miss this season. (Two words: Kwame Brown.)
5) How many more years do you think Brand will last in the NBA?
I'll be honest. For the first two years of his contract, I may well have been the biggest Elton Brand hater out there, and that's saying something. When you pay a guy $16 million per season and he's averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds a game, it's tough to swallow.
After these past two seasons, I've done a complete 180. The Old Chevy isn't the player he once was, but not every 32-year-old can maintain his body as well as Kobe Bryant. Doug Collins called Brand "the ultimate pro" on Friday, saying "every single night, he came and gave us every single thing that he had." In a league where guys often dog it during the regular season, you know what you're getting out of Brand each night, which is an invaluable asset for any team.
Brand won't ever be a superstar again, but I'd say as long as he stays healthy, he's easily got another 3-5 years in the league as a role-playing big man off the bench. I'm just praying he doesn't head straight to Miami after this one-year stint in Dallas, like every other ringless 30-something in the league is doing.