Dallas Mavericks on the Rebound? What Elton Brand Brings to the Mavs
Somebody's gotta say it....
Bennie. Bennie. Bennie. Bennie and the Jets.
Thanks, I'll be here all week.
Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's talk about what Elton Brand can do on the court as I have no idea whether he can sing or not.
There's not much to dislike about the newest member of the Dallas Mavericks. Still, I was personally against their attempting to grab him off waivers after the Philadelphia 76ers exercised their amnesty rights.
I've been a consistent proponent of giving Brandan Wright more playing time. Wright has huge potential but has battled injuries most of his career. Only in his fourth year, Wright had a breakout year in 2011-2012 with a PER equivalent to Dirk Nowitzki and shot 61.8 percent, the highest field goal percentage of any rotation player.
Wright played mostly center last year, and with Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi gone and Kaman and rookie Bernard James on the roster, I hope he will get a chance to play more of his natural position since it is generally acknowledged he doesn't have the bulk to guard big centers.
In addition, with Luis Scola being waived by the Houston Rockets, there seemed to be an available veteran with a more mixed arsenal of inside and outside moves than Brand, perhaps capable of playing at the three as well, coupled with the fact that Scola seems to be a younger 32 than Brand is 33, the latter having battled injuries and posted career lows last year.
Nevertheless, Brand was indeed claimed off waivers by Dallas while Scola is heading to the Phoenix Suns, so the die is cast.
Here's a rundown of what he brings to the table:
Experience, Leadership and a High Basketball IQ
Experience is a valuable commodity. Teams often put a high value on veterans who still got game, can provide leadership and mentoring and a steadying influence for younger players.
A 13-year NBA veteran, Brand had a high pedigree coming from Duke where he won National Player of the Year honors while taking his team to the Final Four. After that, he became the first pick in the 1999 draft and took co-Rookie of the Year Honors in 2000.
Hovering around 20 points and 10 rebounds for the duration of his time with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers, he has played in the All-Star game twice. He has also been to the playoffs three years and played with Team USA in the FIBA championships and/or Goodwill games three times.
In Dallas, Brand will be reunited with Chris Kaman, his teammate in L.A.
Together, they took the Clippers to the franchise's only playoff appearance in the last decade prior to the current incarnation.
He is still generally regarded as a very smart basketball player capable of utilizing the tricks of the trade to maximize his presence on both ends of the floor.
In addition, Brand is considered a "good guy" and mentor. He was awarded Sportsman of the Year honors in 2006 and has his own foundation which supports worthy causes. This is all great to have, although he isn't coaching, so it's still important how he performs on the court.
Since joining the league, Brand has been considered an elite post player. He was a virtual 20/10 lock through 2008. Since moving to Philadelphia, injuries have started to slow him down, but even last year when he recorded career lows in scoring and rebounding, he still had a very respectable 18.0 point PER, fourth best on the team.
He is generally regarded as a hard worker who plays hard day-in and day-out. If healthy, there is little doubt that he should be able to contribute even if not in a starter's role.
With Dwight Howard out of the mix for the time being, the Mavericks' attention shifted to Deron Williams and subsequently Steve Nash as their top priorities, the loss of whom snowballed into Jason Kidd leaving as well.
Ironically, it has been my contention all along that while point guard has certainly been an area in need of an upgrade, the most pressing need since Tyson Chandler's departure (and perhaps even before his short stint in Dallas), has been help in the low post, most notably on defense but certainly not without a definite upside to finding some scoring in the paint.
On offense, both Chris Kaman and former running mate Brand are a significant upgrade to anyone on the Mavs' frontline in recent years. Solid on defense but with potential huge dividends on the offensive end.
While Brandan Wright is a talented and blossoming young talent, Brand is a multi-faceted offensive machine who has an impressive arsenal of post moves along with an effective mid-range game.
Draftexpress reports that while injuries have affected his game, he is still an effective post-up threat but adds the ability to pick and pop, catch and shoot, hit a turnaround jumper or hook shot and make things happen in a number of ways with smarts and physical prowess.
He has good hands, moves well with or without the ball and is extremely effective in the half court or one-on-one, basically a very reliable and well-rounded offensive player.
As much as Kaman and Brand will help on the offensive end, they provide much needed assistance on the defensive end.
Brand has typical size for an NBA power forward at 6' 8" or 6' 9", but his wingspan is a whopping 7' 5" which helps him on both ends of the floor. While injuries, again, haven't helped, Basketball Prospectus still nominated him to their All-Defensive Second Team last year.
Draftexpress continued in 2008:
"one of the League’s most talented post defenders before he got hurt. Showed uncanny development as a shot blocker. Few players are as adept as he is at blocking shots one-on-one in the paint. Used to have the lateral quickness to surprise some offensive players on the weak side as well. Wouldn’t get pushed around by almost anyone on the block. Didn’t mind fighting for position and can bang on the inside without tiring. Displayed the footspeed to keep up with most post players when defending the high post. Has all sorts of skills defensively, but his body may not let him use them as effectively as he once did."
That pretty much says it all and with little to celebrate down low defensively before the arrival of Tyson Chandler and after his departure, any presence in the paint is a welcome addition. Brand will also be an excellent mentor for rookie Bernard James, widely regarded as a beast on the defensive end but needing some work on offense.
Between the two of them and Kaman, it is quite possible that Dallas will have an unprecedented and totally unexpected renaissance in interior defense when the 2012-2013 season begins, perhaps even exceeding any past Mavericks team. With Shawn Marion, Dahntay Jones and a possible return of Delonte West, Dallas could end up being one of the strongest defensive teams in the league.
Shawn Marion is an outstanding rebounder for his size, but when he's the one leading the team in rebounding at seven to eight per game, something might be missing.
The Mavericks weren't totally inept on the glass in 2011-2012, but it was certainly a Board of Directors without a Chairman. As mentioned previously, Brand was a 20 point, 10 rebound lock for most of his career and while his time diminished in Philadelphia, he still put up very strong rebounding numbers. Although he had career lows in minutes (28.9) and scoring (11.0), he still grabbed a very respectable 7.2 rebounds in the time he was on the court.
His presence in the paint is textbook. Draft Express continues:
"Has the strength to muscle his way inside, get and maintain position, and fight for offensive boards. Wouldn’t get pushed around by almost anyone on the block. Didn’t mind fighting for position and can bang on the inside without tiring. Boxes out on every play. Great rebounder. Can go out of his area to recover misses due to his anticipation and length. "
The bottom line is that in virtually every area, a healthy Brand provides something that has been lacking on the Dallas front line. In addition, despite not being a true center he played a little more at the 5 last year and seems to be comfortable with it. With Brandan Wright needing to spend more time at power forward and the exodus of Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi and possibly Yi Jianlian, the Mavs may need more help at center and Brand seems willing and able to do so.
-- Craig Berlin
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