Elton Brand isn't going to quell the recent stories of Dallas failed off season. Not even close.
Nor should he. The former All-Star with the Clippers won't make up for the departure of Tyson Chandler and the inability of Dallas to sign Deron Williams. But that doesn't mean Brand won't help. Just because Brand doesn't have the same game as he did when he came out of Duke years ago, doesn't mean Mavericks fans should turn their noses up. Brand is a good player.
Sneaky-good in fact. While he's no where near worth what he's paid (he's owed over $18 million next season), after the 76ers use the amnesty clause on him, team's will be able to bid on Brand, with that money going toward the remainder on Brand's deal (which would expire after this season.) So, in simpler terms, teams bidding for Brand would be bidding for one year's worth of Brand. This makes him especially more enticing.
Not only could Brand be had for relatively cheap, like mentioned earlier, he's sneaky good. After his two injury-plagued years in Philly, he's rebounded with back-to-back PERs of over 18. His offense isn't too balanced, as he relies on too many jumpers (83 percent of his attempts were jumpers last season) but he also finishes well at the rim, shooting 74.4 percent there according to hoopdata.com, a career-high.
The career-lows in minutes and points per game shouldn't be looked at as negatives, as some beat reporters have suggested. Brand is injury prone, so keeping his minutes under 30 a game sounds right to keep him fresh. His career-low in points per game had nothing to do with bad shooting, but fewer attempts. Brand only averaged 9.7 shots per game last season, a career-low. In the 76ers system, the ball moves around and isn't typically dominated by one player. The result? Fewer touches and iso opportunities for Brand. According to mysynergysports.com, Brand rarely isolated in the Philly offense, with a majority of his plays coming in the form of post-ups, cuts and pick and rolls.
Defensively is where Brand is really sneaky-good. Philly employed the league's third-most efficient defense last year, according to hoopdata. When Brand was on the court, the 76ers were a plus 6.2 points per 100 possessions last year, with their defense right at the top-of-the-league mark. When he was off the court? The 76ers defense got worse by about three points. Brand might not have the athleticism he had coming out of college, but he has the smarts. He positions himself well and uses a surprising wingspan to contest shots at the rim. He averaged 1.6 blocks per game last season, which would immediately make Brand the Mavs leading shot blocker and best rim protector, especially if Brendan Haywood continues his embarrassing decline.
Brand's also a better rebounder then Haywood. Who can forget Haywood's meager rebounding totals to end the year and then against the Thunder in the playoffs? The Mavs were crushed on the offensive boards by the Thunder and Brand would represent an upgrade or at least a much needed boost. Haywood's career rebounding numbers and rebounding percentages are better than Brand's but Haywood was a non-factor on the glass to end the season last season for Dallas (case in points: Haywood's seven total rebounds in two games and 48 minutes played against the Lakers and Jazz in late April. Disgusting.)
And perhaps the best quality tucked away about Brand is his "position." Most see him as a power forward and if brought here, would back up Dirk. While that might be true in the starting lineup if Brand signed here, I would bet Rick Carlisle would employ a Brand-Nowitzki front court to close out games, especially with his wavering confidence in Haywood. Brand also technically played more minutes at center last season and put up better defensive numbers at that position to boot. Philly's defense was also much better with Brand as the center, according to 82games.com.
Again, I can't help but track back to the offense. In today's NBA, it's even harder to have a five-man unit where any player isn't considered an average offensive option. Just look at the 2011 NBA Finals -- the Mavericks absolutely punished the Heat's offense whenever Joel Anthony and Mike Bibby, two worthless offensive options, were on the floor. It didn't matter that the Heat had the three amazing offensive players, the Mavericks were able to bottle those three up by taking advantage of the other two positions on the floor and whenever the Heat got reliable production from one of those other two spots, they generally rolled (hello, Game 5 of the NBA Finals.)
Which is one of the reasons the 2011 Mavericks were such an elite offensive bunch -- they employed lineups that often rarely had an offensive slouch, especially if DeShawn Stevenson was hitting three's. A lot of that had to do with Tyson Chandler, who gave the center position the biggest offensive punch in Mavericks history. Dirk was able to have more room from his bread-and-butter mid range spots and Chandler was able to take advantage of various double-teams thrown at Dirk. Haywood and Mahinmi were absolutely dreadful on offense in the Mavericks four game disaster against the Thunder in the 2012 playoffs and that reflected on the Mavericks team-offense as a whole. It's one of the reasons why Rick Carlisle did everything he could to get a clearly overwhelmed Brandan Wright into the lineup, because of Wright's ability to move off the ball and finish at the rim. The Mavericks were one of the NBA's worst shooting team's last year. Infusing Brand into the lineup and his efficient numbers should rectify that.
Brand would be a great fix and could play off Dirk quite nicely. He can also shoot free throws, so no more gasps and cries of anger when a Maverick center gets an opening at the rim to only be fouled and clank two free throws (looking at you, Haywood.)
It won't be a splashy move and it certainly wouldn't make the disastrous 2012 off season for Dallas change its entire fate. But it could help make the 2012-2013 Mavericks better than the 2011-2012 Mavericks. Isn't that really what an off season is about? To improve a team from one year to the next? Let's hope Dallas doesn't miss out.