Dallas Mavericks Player Previews: Elton Brand

Jim Rogash - Getty Images

Elton Brand "the enforcer" profiled here in the continuing Dallas Mavericks Player Previews series.

It's a bit of a two-pronged sports hangover day for DFW fans, and maybe this is perfect reason to look to the Mavericks, who enter the month of eternal basketball hope and optimism, October. Every fall new faces arrive in town for most of if not every team, and the Mavericks are certainly no exception, with several well known veterans getting the star treatment on media day last week.

One such new face is the subject of this Dallas Mavericks Player Preview: Elton Brand.

Elton Brand is likely known to most casual basketball fans, having been a standout for Duke in his teenage days, a #1 overall pick, and a two-time All Star with the Los Angeles Clippers(and if not for a historic glut of Western Conference power forwards he likely would have earned more selections). This version of Elton Brand is, well, 33 years old. He hasn't made an All-Star team in six years and he's almost certainly not going to make any more.

However, Brand's game has a way of flying a bit under the radar. For years he was held in stat circles as "the unappreciated superstar", strange as that may sound for an athlete who called Los Angeles home, and for the last few seasons with the 76ers he's been "the unappreciated still-pretty-good player", though the biggest reason Brand didn't receive his due is probably because his annual salary was still in the superstar range. If not for that salary, he would most likely still be in Philadelphia, and not here. Though he's suffered the somewhat dubious distinction of having been amnestied, Elton Brand still has something to offer a basketball club, and I don't think there's any doubt that the Dallas Mavericks expect him to be one of their best players in the upcoming season.

Season Age Tm Lg G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
1999-00 20 CHI NBA 81 80 37.0 7.8 16.1 .482 0.0 0.0 .000 4.5 6.6 .685 4.3 5.7 10.0 1.9 0.8 1.6 2.8 3.2 20.1
2000-01 21 CHI NBA 74 74 39.3 7.8 16.4 .476 0.0 0.0 .000 4.5 6.4 .708 3.9 6.2 10.1 3.2 1.0 1.6 3.0 3.3 20.1
2001-02 22 LAC NBA 80 80 37.8 6.7 12.6 .527 0.0 0.0 4.9 6.6 .742 5.0 6.6 11.6 2.4 1.0 2.0 2.2 3.2 18.2
2002-03 23 LAC NBA 62 61 39.6 7.3 14.5 .502 0.0 0.0 .000 3.9 5.7 .685 4.6 6.8 11.3 2.5 1.1 2.5 2.6 3.3 18.5
2003-04 24 LAC NBA 69 68 38.7 7.0 14.2 .493 0.0 0.0 .000 6.0 7.7 .773 3.9 6.4 10.3 3.3 0.9 2.2 2.8 3.3 20.0
2004-05 25 LAC NBA 81 81 37.0 7.8 15.4 .503 0.0 0.0 .000 4.5 6.0 .752 3.7 5.9 9.5 2.6 0.8 2.1 2.3 3.0 20.0
2005-06 26 LAC NBA 79 79 39.2 9.6 18.2 .527 0.0 0.0 .333 5.6 7.2 .775 3.0 7.0 10.0 2.6 1.0 2.5 2.2 2.9 24.7
2006-07 27 LAC NBA 80 80 38.5 8.1 15.1 .533 0.0 0.0 1.000 4.4 5.8 .761 3.4 6.0 9.3 2.9 1.0 2.2 2.5 3.0 20.5
2007-08 28 LAC NBA 8 6 34.3 6.5 14.3 .456 0.0 0.0 4.6 5.9 .787 2.6 5.4 8.0 2.0 0.4 1.9 2.1 2.6 17.6
2008-09 29 PHI NBA 29 23 31.7 5.6 12.6 .447 0.0 0.0 2.5 3.7 .676 2.7 6.1 8.8 1.3 0.6 1.6 2.3 2.7 13.8
2009-10 30 PHI NBA 76 57 30.2 5.4 11.3 .480 0.0 0.0 .000 2.3 3.1 .738 2.4 3.7 6.1 1.4 1.1 1.1 1.7 3.1 13.1
2010-11 31 PHI NBA 81 81 34.7 6.2 12.1 .512 0.0 0.0 .000 2.6 3.4 .780 2.9 5.4 8.3 1.5 1.1 1.3 1.2 3.0 15.0
2011-12 32 PHI NBA 60 60 28.9 4.8 9.7 .494 0.0 0.0 .000 1.4 1.9 .733 2.4 4.7 7.2 1.6 1.0 1.6 1.1 2.9 11.0
Career NBA 860 830 36.3 7.1 14.2 .501 0.0 0.0 .125 4.0 5.5 .739 3.5 5.9 9.4 2.3 1.0 1.9 2.2 3.1 18.3

For Brand, as you can tell in that video, the bread and butter is the midrange jumpshot. Infact, Brand has been so deadly from 10 feet out that apparently Rick Carlisle has asked Elton to practice his corner threes, which is a terribly interesting idea that we'll have to wait to see has any chance of being utilized in games.

While it is easy to see how this could fit right into the Maverick offense we've seen for years, it should be noted that Brand's shooting has evolved largely because his age and history of injuries have taken quite a bit of burst and lift from his legs, making his playing closer to the basket difficult at a slightly undersized and now floorbound 6'8. Brand shot close to 50% from the field, but posted a middling true shooting percentage because his jumpshooting tendencies don't get him to the line that often. If a halfway effective three point shot is being added to his arsenal, Brand's efficiency could see an uptick.

Another consequence of age and injury has been that Brand's once strong rebound rates have slipped to merely adequate levels(37th out of a qualifying 86 power forwards). I am a little uneasy of how well a tandem of Brand and Dirk, which we are definitely going to see a lot of, will rebound against bigger opponents. It's going to make the rebounding efforts of Shawn Marion and perhaps Jae Crowder that much more important.

I wanted to get the shooting and rebounding issues out of way first, because the rest of Brand's game is great, and has me very excited to see him in a Maverick uniform. Brand's low-mistake play(right next to Dirk at #11 in turnover rate last year) is a great fit for a team that will be in need of a veteran stabilizing force to counterbalance a young backcourt that will have some growing pains learning Carlisle's flow offense. Brand is a smart, capable passer(top third among power forwards in assist rate) who will also be one of many pick and pop targets for Darren Collison and O.J Mayo to find off dribble penetration.

On defense, Brand is probably one of the most underrated players in the league. The 76ers, essentially while no one was looking, were one of the league's best defensive teams, and Elton Brand was a big reason why, helping his team allow an astonishingly low 98.9 points per 100 possessions while he was on the floor, and ranking on Synergy's list of top defensive players, at any position. The numbers may overstate Brand's case a little, since he is not exactly a premiere shut-down one on one defender, but they do illustrate how crafty a team defender Brand is. Though he can't run or jump particularly well anymore, Brand ranks in the top third of forwards in blocks and steals thanks to his long arms, quick feet, and a terrific understanding of where to be. Brand will be a pleasure to watch on defense(especially next to Shawn Marion), and on a subjective note, he appears a little slimmer since last year, which may help his stamina and allow him to stay on the floor.

Now, when will he play? Well, as has been brought up on this site, as well as others, Brand figures to be the backup center first and foremost, a position that he has played in the past and is capable of playing still, despite his lack of height. The question that has become perhaps more pertinent now in light of the reported Kaman non-serious injury, is will Brand eventually be asked to start next to Dirk. I'm slightly less bullish about that as a long-term solution(long-term in the context of the full, long season). The ideal scenario is that, with 96 minutes a game to go around between the power forward and center positions, the outstanding trio of Dirk, Kaman and Brand will share the bulk of that time, in whatever combination, and that Brandan Wright, Bernard James, and perhaps Shawn Marion will take the leftovers and emergency time. Should an injury take Kaman, or Brand away for longer than a few games, suddenly the center position could become a really, really troublesome spot.

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