Veteran power forward Elton Brand is the ultimate mid-July free agent find. An intelligent, hard working player that can be signed for a relatively small number alongside the scads of All-Stars and potential All-Stars that dot the initial wave of the free agency signing period. Brand could have nestled in with a number of championship-worthy teams, but instead he’s decided to rock off to the Atlanta Hawks, according to HoopsHype, moving into a backup role with Atlanta in time for his 15th NBA season.
Here’s what Brand’s agent, David Falk, told HoopsHype:
"We think it's a great opportunity for him," Falk said. "I can see him playing 4-5 more years because Elton is serious about his conditioning and, besides, he plays more with his head than his body at this point. Atlanta is a good fit and Elton will be a good veteran presence there."
Yeah, the “four or five more years”-part of things seems like a bit much. Brand may be just seven years removed from a borderline MVP-level campaign in 2006, but he’s also six years removed from an Achilles tear, and he turned 34 in March. The idea of Elton Brand playing until 2018 is a little farfetched, especially when considering the undersized power forward tag that has dogged him since the weeks leading up to his first overall selection in a draft held in a previous century.
It’s hard to find a more respected player in this league, though. And if you’re disappointed that Brand couldn’t latch on with a championship contender in Miami, Oklahoma City, San Antonio or Los Angeles (the Clippers! What a world we live in!), one has to remind that even the finer teams are leaning up against luxury tax or rotation considerations that act as a hindrance to such ring-chasing.
The Heat may not amnesty Mike Miller or Joel Anthony this week, but 2014 is going to be a slashfest of the highest order. The Thunder has a large trade exception, created in the wake of the deal sending Kevin Martin to Minnesota, that they probably won’t use. The Spurs are considering dealing an undersized power forward of their own, DeJuan Blair, just to free minutes, and there’s no way in hell David Falk and Elton Brand are ever going back to Donald Sterling’s old school.
The Hawks have the similarly undersized Al Horford and Paul Millsap already on board, but neither can and should hoof it for 37 minutes a game, which is where Brand’s versatile play comes off the pine. Elton may line up an inch or two shorter than most players he guards, but his smarts, low end and long arms create all sorts of havoc for those trying to do their worst in the low block. And Brand’s anticipation in the screen and roll, to these eyes at least, still made him an effective defender in that realm with Dallas last season.
He’s a role player, at this point, finishing broken plays and putting an emphasis on clearing the boards (Elton averaged double-figure rebounds per 36 minutes of play last season for the first time in a decade). Better yet, his ability to set screens offensively will be a huge factor for a team looking to free up shooters like Kyle Korver and penetrators like Lou Williams and Jeff Teague. The Hawks may not be a championship contender, but they will be fun to watch next year, and Brand will be part of that action.
Four to five more years? Probably not. But this is a fine deal for both parties.