PR 2011: Elton Brand

Elton Brand, schooling some nameless Net. Credit: NY Post

Elton Brand’s turnaround from last year to this year has been remarkable given his age and the way he played last year. In Eddie Jordan’s doghouse from the beginning, Brand wasn’t used effectively. Much of that was of his own doing, because as Doug Collins said, on a losing team players look out for themselves and their numbers. Brand’s steadfast refusal to pass when double-teamed or pressured cost the Sixers games last year. He didn’t play on offense and didn’t try hard all that much on defense. He looked done, his contract seemed to be an albatross, and the future did not look good with him on the squad.

Then this year happened. Brand has looked almost as good as he was with the Clippers. He looks energized and rarely has taken a play off. He sometimes takes off on defense, which can be necessary due to his minutes and age. He’s our leading scorer, our best interior defender, and arguably our most valuable player this year.

OFFENSE

Shooting

52.1% FG, 0% 3FG, 78.4% FT

Elton has a great jumper – he’s very good within 15 feet and can hit shots from up to 18. Elton is listed at 6’9″, which to me is about two inches taller than he actually is, since it looks (on TV) like he’s slightly shorter than Thaddeus Young. He usually has to shoot over taller defenders, which throughout his career has been a moot point since he has a high release point and had good elevation on his shot.

Since his Achilles tendon injury however, Brand has not had the same lift on his shot as he had earlier in his career, which hampered him over the last 2 years. This year he’s been slightly better in that regard, but mostly he’s used his size (and veteranness*) to create space for his shooting. He’s also shooting near his career-high in free throw percentage.

*Veteranness is not a word. I just felt like using it.

Scoring

15.3 PPG, 12.0 FGA, 3.6 FTA

Brand has some post game, both in the high post and low post. He’s not ‘that’ effective in the low post but can score well enough, as I mention again that he uses his size and strength effectively to create space with a plethora of post moves. His best set up though is in the high post as a pick-and-roll guy, as he can shoot it well from that range and has to ability to go to the rim from that area. When he does go to the rim, he normally goes right. He also usually finishes with his right hand, though he’ll dunk with his left on occasion.

He doesn’t get to the line all that often, as the majority of his scoring comes from jumpers. He’s almost never fouled on jumpers, but will be fouled on offensive rebounds and other hustle plays. He hits a very good percentage of his foul shots, for a big.

Passing and Ball-Handling

1.4 AST, 1.4 TO

I used to believe Elton was unable to physically pass the ball out of a double team. I called him the “Black Hole” more than once, in that his teammates would never get the ball back from him. And while he’s gotten better at giving the ball up, he still is stubborn when it comes to “getting his” shot attempts. This year, though, it’s not a bad thing, since he’s hitting a higher percentage of shots.

He will pass the ball on the perimeter within the offense, and as such will tally assists that way. When looking it up, I was amazed with how he actually has more assists than turnovers, which tells me more about how he takes care of the basketball than it does about his passing ability. On this note, one of the reasons that Doug sticks with Andre in crunch time, I believe, is his lack of turnovers. While you don’t want Brand to handle the ball coming down the court, he doesn’t end possessions with turnovers all that often, and I’d be OK with going to him late in games to ensure that a shot is taken.

DEFENSE

Rebounding

8.6 RPG, 3.1 ORPG, 5.5 DRPG

Elton is, by far, the best overall rebounder on the team, with his offensive boards being a huge reason why. 3 offensive rebounds per game is nothing to sneeze at, as it’s seventh in the NBA. Overall, among qualified players, he’s in the top 20. He really does fight hard for offensive boards, while he’s good but not great on the other end. He fights hard there too, but is impeded by his size more defensively.

Individual Defense and Team Defense

1.1 BLK, 1.1 STL

Brand works hard against bigger guys in order to make up for his size difference, and is much better overall compared to last season. He plays center late in games, when our defense has actually been very good.  His steal numbers have gone down as the season has progressed – early in the year, he would show hard on screens and get some steals on smaller guys. Recently, he pretty much stopped doing that, as Brand has started just to contest the screen to get back into position on his guy defensively.

The words might not do the last idea justice, so just think about it this way: Brand, as a smaller big with long arms, was able to run out to the ball-handler on pick-and-rolls, stop their progress, and occasionally reach in to force steals, which is sometimes called “flashing”. However, the Sixers need him to protect the rim, and flashing takes him out of position to contest shots at the rim. So more recently, instead of flashing Brand will stay behind the screener and try to help out until the primary defender gets back into good defensive position. So as a result of this change, the Sixers have better defense at the rim (a huge weakness at the beginning of the year) at the expense of Brand’s steal totals.

Brand is the best rim-protector, getting some blocks but also through just being physical, which is a problem for some of our other bigs. Overall, Brand might be our second best defensive player, which me at this time last year would have thought impossible.

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