Beyond the big-name moves that make it the frenzied free-for-all it is, free agency boasts another, similarly compelling undercurrent: aging veterans looking for one last shot at a title.
Add Elton Brand to that list.
According to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Brand intends to return for what would be his 16th NBA go-round next season, telling the paper he “feels good” and is “already training for next season”:
Brand said he started his preparations for another season with Hawks strength and conditioning coach Jeff Watkinson and is currently working out in Pennsylvania in preparation for another year. The NBA free agency period begins July 1 and players can sign contracts starting on July 10.
A two-time All Star, Brand’s already exemplary resume might’ve been even more stellar had it not been for a slew of injuries sustained earlier his career.
But there’s just one bullet Brand will likely be looking for now: his first NBA ring.
Given his solid productivity for the Atlanta Hawks last season, Brand will certainly have plenty of suitors. Whether Brand is willing to take a pay cut to play for a contender, however, remains to be seen.
And while it’s likely too early to rule out the Hawks, the return of All-Star center Al Horford, coupled with the team’s young, unproven roster, doesn’t exactly scream “championship contender.”
In his year-end player review, Peachtree Hoops’ Brad Rowland illustrated the behind-the-box score impact exacted by Brand:
There are endless accounts of Brand's impact in ways outside of the stat sheet, but perhaps the greatest example came during a dire stretch in late February and early March. The Hawks were in the midst of their disastrous losing skid, and as you may recall, it was almost wholly motivated by injures. Enter Elton Brand, who averaged nearly 35 minutes per game (basically his age) over a seven-game stretch, and he topped 40 (!) minutes in back-to-back games against the Knicks and Bulls in a heroic effort to save the frontcourt from disaster.
Regardless of what you think of the "win shares" statistic (and there are varying opinions), Brand measured out as one of the most valuable players on the roster, even in his supporting role. Elton finished 3rd on the roster, behind only Horford and Paul Millsap, in win shares per 48 minutes, and even when accounting for total contributions, he landed 5th behind four starters in Millsap, Korver, Carroll and Teague.
Expect Brand to fetch a number of looks—and possibly a few offers—this summer, just as the veteran forward did one year ago. In spot minutes, Brand’s consistency and efficiency can be a much-needed boon for squads looking to bolster their overall depth.
On the right team, he could even help push their Finals fortunes over the top, much like P.J. Brown did for the 2008 Boston Celtics.
The Heat seem like the most compelling fit at this point, particularly considering the prospect for a four-peat heading into next season. At the same time, there are plenty of free-agent dominoes yet to fall, so Brand may well take his time in making what could be his last NBA move.
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