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Case Study: Elton Brand

Coming into the year with a preseason ADP of 39.2 (Y! Sports), Elton Brand has been one of this season's biggest disappointments thus far with a per-game rank of 111 through 11 games. His market value is especially relevant at the moment as he is coming off his best performance of the season. Brand owners now find themselves in an interesting quandary, unsure of where to go from here.


It's been a rough five-year stretch for Brand as his per-36 minute averages will indicate:

2005-2006: 22.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 2.4 assists, 2.0 turnovers, 0.9 steals, 52.7 FG%, 77.5 FT%

2006-2007: 19.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 2.7 assists, 2.4 turnovers, 0.9 steals, 53.3 FG%, 76.1 FT%

2007-2008: 18.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 2.1 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 0.4 steals, 45.6 FG%, 78.7 FT%

2008-2009: 15.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.4 assists, 2.7 turnovers, 0.7 steals, 44.7 FG%, 67.6 FT%

2009-2010: 13.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.3 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 1.7 steals, 43.3 FG%, 79.4 FT%


Although Brand's steady decline has been fairly pronounced heading into this season, you still found many owners buying a strong bounceback effort of sorts as they clung onto his days as a top-10 asset. The slide in his per-game averages have continued this year, but things have seemingly taken a dramatic turn for the better in a 48-minute span.

Brand got the start at the 4 on Wednesday amidst all the controversy about him practicing with the second unit. He certainly made the most of it, playing a season-high 41 minutes against the Bobcats with a solid line to boot -- 19 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks, and three steals. That's season-highs in four different categories.

This certainly puts Brand owners in a tough spot. Do they buy this as a sign that things are legitimately turning around, or do they capitalize on this opportunity to sell high?

I'd recommend selling ... hard. We're not talking General Motors here, but I firmly believe that this was more of an aberration than anything on the heels of coach Eddie Jordan seriously considering benching him for Rodney Carney. This was a desperation effort as Brand was about one more mediocre 10/5 line away from riding the pine. In the end the scheme will win out, and there's no getting around that Brand is an awkward piece in the Princeton offense puzzle.

If you delve into his numbers you'll find that there is indeed a legitimate cause for concern. In an offensive system predicated on balance, Brand's usage rate is at a career low of 20.6%. Now I've heard the counterargument that Jordan will find a way to feature their $65 million man, but the 76ers already have their go-to leader in Andre Iguodala and formidable offensive threats in Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young. The injury to Marreese Speights opens up the door for more minutes and production by way of Brand, but there are also a pronounced downside to that -- we'll see more of Samuel Dalembert, who has ruined the offensive flow when he's been on the floor (76ers' offensive efficiency is 108.5 when he's off the floor compared to 102.1 when he's on).

What's been more surprising than anything is how much Brand's shooting has worsened over the past three years. He ranged from 47.6% to 53.3% from the field in his first eight seasons in the NBA, but has shot below 46% the past three years. The biggest area of decline has been in his shots within 10 feet. He's gone fromconverting 56% of those shots to 48% in 2008, 41% in 2009, and finally 36% this season. I've taken an in-depth look to see if there have been any sort of fluky outside factors that have been at the root of the decline, but haven't been able to find anything significant. The assist % on his attempts are a bit down and he's been shooting the ball a bit deeper into the shot clock, but nothing significant. At some point we have to realize that he's in the decline mode of his career with good cause (30 and coming off a serious leg injury).

There's a ton of red flags surrounding Elton Brand and it'd be foolish to begin ignoring them at the expense of one performance.


(Disclaimer: I fully expect Brand to make me look like a fool for the next week or so, but just give it a little time and he should revert back to his early-season levels)

Comments

By: Chris Liss
On: 11/20/2009 11:17:00 AM
How much of his decline is system related, and how much is physical? Because the latter is far more problematic than the former because it's less likely to change substantially for the better.
 
By: Justin Phan
On: 11/20/2009 8:50:00 PM
Agreed Chris, and if I was to divvy up percentages here I'd say it's 70% physical and 30% system. He was in decline mode even before he was put into this pro-style Princeton offense system so you can't chalk it up to his team situation.
 

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