NBA Roundtable

Elton Brand = Bench Player?

In General NBA, Trade Talk on December 5, 2009 at 7:25 am

Kate Fagan reports

Obviously all the talk right now is AI, but getting lost in that saga has been the fact that power forward Elton Brand has been coming off the bench the last two games. He missed three games with a sore right hamstring, and since coming back, he hasn’t started — although he’s played well in both games.

Talked with Eddie Jordan today and asked him if he wanted to keep Brand coming off the bench and if he liked him there. He said, “Yes, to both.”

So look for Brand to come off the bench again tomorrow night against the Bobcats.

How has Elton handled the demotion?

A few minutes after talking with Jordan, talked with Elton Brand, who seemed less than pleased with coming off the bench (naturally, as a competitor).

You okay with coming off the bench:

“No, of course not. You know what I mean, it’s like … we’re not winning either way, so I’d rather be out there and give us the best chance.”

A few minutes after talking with Jordan, talked with Elton Brand, who seemed less than pleased with coming off the bench (naturally, as a competitor).

Here’s the conversation with Brand.

You okay with coming off the bench:

“No, of course not. You know what I mean, it’s like … we’re not winning either way, so I’d rather be out there and give us the best chance.”

Brand’s Performance

I haven’t watched the Sixers much this season — so if you’ve seen a fair bit of the Sixers and my observations are out whack here … please let me know — but in the few glimpses that I’ve gotten of them I have been disappointed in Brand’s play + in his health in particular. He just doesn’t appear to be moving well enough.

  • Career — 19.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1 steal per game on 50% shooting from the field with a true shooting percentage of 55.6%.
  • 2008/09 — 13.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.3 assists in 31.4 minutes. Shooting 45% from the field with a TS% of 48%
  • 2009/10 — 12.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals + 1.3 blocks, 0.9 assists in 29.7 minutes. Shooting 45% from the field with a TS% of 51.6%.


What bothered me the most about Brand’s performances when I’ve watched the Sixers play this season has been his defensive contributions. Negative contributions.

Elton Brand has been a below average man-to-man defender at both the power forward spot and the center position but it’s his team defense that worries me the most. The injury problems have robbed him of lateral quickness and he doesn’t appear able to defend players away from the rim. In particular, perimeter orientated power forwards + pick and roll situations + switches.

Brand has done his best work defensively when he’s allowed to stay near the rim and primarily play against opposing centers. He’s at least been a serviceable defensive player when used against centers. Some decent help defense and poor-to-decent man-to-man defense.


Last season, Elton Brand was pulling down almost 9 rebounds in 31-32 minutes a night. That’s very good board work which helped push the Sixers pound opponents on the glass while he was healthy + on the court last year.

However, those positives on the glass have all but disappeared this season with Brand pulling down only 6.6 rebounds in slightly less than 30 minutes. The lowest per minute rebounding numbers of his career (8.2 per 36 vs 9.9 last season).


It’s the defense + rebounding that I consider the main priorities here for Brand, so, I’m not overly concerned about the scoring.

I’m fairly happy with Elton Brand being a 14-16 point per game threat at this stage (considering injuries and all). If you add that solid scoring along with very good rebounding + solid-to-good defense you’d have a pretty big impact player. A somewhat similar version to Luis Scola from the Rockets. That type of contribution would be a large positive one and highly beneficial to the Sixers.

And, Elton Brand is pretty much already at that level as a scoring threat right now. He’s scoring 15.1 points per 36 minutes. He’s just not getting enough court time, largely due to his struggling defense + rebounding, to put up those type of numbers. It’s not like the Sixers are focusing a lot of their offense onto Brand either — not with touches, shot attempts or play calls.

So, considering his talent + relative opportunities, I’m fairly happy with where Brand is as a scorer. I’d like him to try and improve his efficiency some which he could probably do in a better environment but overall he’s close to where he’s likely to be offensively (so I’m happy enough). A third/fourth option (not convinced he can still be a primary or secondary option for a team offensively) who scores 14-16 points in 33-35 minutes a night playing time.


In summary, Elton Brand’s defense has been poor-to-very poor + his rebounding has been below average but decent (with clear room for improvement as the year goes on) + his scoring solid but inefficient, so decent scoring overall.

Unfortunately, I think the negatives defensively are leading to a negative individual contribution from Brand to the Sixers. Those contributions are further compounded by Phily’s lineup issues (Young/Dalembert + where does Brand fit) and have resulted in a large negative impact by Brand’s mere presence on the team.

Bench Role

As for the bench role, I think it’s a good thing for Philadelphia. Without Elton Brand having a more positive impact defensively + on the glass, I see no reason for the Sixers to continue treating him as a building block to their roster. The level of performance just isn’t there and it looks unlikely to ever return.

It’s better for Philadelphia to move on and play the best lineup that they can put out there. That lineup has Dalembert and Young as their starting bigs and has Elton Brand as their key backup big man. Brand can be the focus of the offense when he comes off the bench and should have a good impact as 6th man. The Sixers roster will regain some of it’s lost balance + cohesiveness and they should begin to climb the standings.

Trading Brand

Can the Sixers trade Elton Brand?

  • Including this season Elton Brand has a total of $66 million left on his contract over four seasons. That’s a an average of over $16 million per annum. In his final season, Brand will earn $18.16 million.
  • Elton Brand has played only 35 games in his previous two seasons
  • Brand does not appear to be healthy this season. Far less quickness and it’s significantly hampering his performance. It’s unknown, plus doubtful, whether he’ll ever get healthy in the future.
  • Brand is currently having a negative impact on the Sixers both in terms of individual contribution + on the Sixers as a collective.
  • Brand no longer appears capable of defending the power forward position. It looks like his coach, or future coach(s), will need to cater his minutes towards matchups where he can defend (1) a center (2) a non-offensive threat (3) an interior PF. Otherwise, Brand’s poor defense will (more often than not) end up hurting the team despite his contributions elsewhere.
  • Brand is still a big name player with a big reputation … it’s shrinking with each passing day but …

With this in mind, can Philadelphia trade Elton Brand?

Yeah, but they’re going to get nothing in return. No talent, no youth, no picks, no expiring contracts.

(1) If Phily can get a contract that expires in 2012 they should be happy with that.

A 2011 expiring contract would be a great acquisition but may not be possible so a 2012 one looks like a solid scenario for the Sixers.

(2) Another option may be for a partial expiring + a very bad contract. For example, say an expiring deal (0r 2011 expiring) plus a contract like a DeSagana Diop.

(3) Philadelphia can trade for talent under one circumstance — that they agree to take back another very bad contract, possibly worse, that last’s just as long if not longer than Elton Brand’s contract.

Those type of offers are what I expect the Sixers to be able to muster up in the trade market.

What type of teams will be interested in Brand?

Teams who are desperate. Teams who have poor trading assets and have limited options. Teams who want veterans and are trying to win in the present tense.

Not rebuilding teams. Not contending teams — too large a financial commitment.

They’ll be those teams in the 32-to-54 win range that do not have a real plan for how to improve and are acting out of desperation + impatience.

It’s very likely that the acquiring team will be poorly managed by it’s front office.


(1) I think the Sixers are making the right decision to send Elton Brand to the bench at this time. His recovery from injury has been disappointing, his level of performance poor, and he hasn’t fit well in that starting unit.

(2) I think Elton Brand will be more successful off the bench. He’ll be able to play more minutes at center, to match up with lesser offensive talents defensively, and he’ll be able to get more touches + shots while coming off the bench where he can be a main focus of the offense.

(3) The Sixers should be strongly trying to trade Elton Brand.

Philadelphia has two building blocks in Iguodala and Young, and possibly a third in Dalembert (dependent of finances on next extension), and the Sixers should begin moving on and trying to build around them.

(4) I’m doubtful that Brand can get enough of his physical capacity back (return to health) to be a high end player once again.

The days of being a perennial All-Star are gone. The question is whether he can get his defense + rebounding together well enough to still be an impact player out there (14 and 9 plus solid D type). So far, the answer to that is no … but Brand still has time to get that together.

If the Sixers trade Brand they risk losing that possibility + gain very little in a prospective trade due to his low trade value … but given the young ages of their main players (Iggy + Young) plus a few of their other young players (Lou Will, Speights, Smith … I believe the Sixers will be better off by beginning their retooling process as soon as possible and thus giving themselves their best opportunity to build a contender around the talented players that they already process.

Final Note — Signing Allen Iverson hurts the Sixers ability to re-tool their roster since his impact will hurt their draft position + he’s only a stop-gap signing but won’t be a main cog to their future teams.

That said, even while it’s a bad medium-to-long term move, I’m very excited about Iverson’s return to Philadelphia and he should have a fairly large positive effect on the team in the short term (this season).

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