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Elton Brand Stuns The Masses & Leaves LA for Philly
By Clayton Ruley
 

The 6-8 power forward comes with his lunchbox to the floor every night putting up an average of 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for a career.Only active players named Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett can say they have done that from the time they stepped into the league.

All are certain hall of famers and they set themselves apart from Brand in that they all have rings while Brand does not. Brand hopes to do that in a Philadelphia Seventy Sixers from now on.

The 10, 9, 8, 76ers (corny right?) signed the 9 year veteran for five years and 82 million United States dollars. This blockbuster move opens the NBA's free agency signing period with a bang and gives one of the NBA's most historic franchises a chance to rebound to the land of the title contenders.

Born and raised outside of New York City, Brand comes back to the northeast corridor and the NBA's Eastern Conference with hopes of getting further in the playoffs than the second round loss in 2006 NBA Playoffs while with the Los Angeles Clippers. That has been his only playoff appearance. Brand, a number one overall pick (1999) of the Chicago Bulls, out of Duke (where he was an Oscar Roberson, Adolph Rupp, James Naismith and John Wooden Award winner). He played two season with the Bulls before being traded to the Clippers where he has spent his last seven seasons. He was the co-rookie of the year (along with Steve Francis) in 2000 and is a two-time NBA All-Star.

The move is a shock to many in the NBA because the Sixers were courting Atlanta Hawks restricted free agent Josh Smith for most of last week while Brand was deciding to either stay with the Clippers and play alongside Baron Davis, a recent verbal signee to the team or replace Davis in Oakland with the Golden State Warriors.  The Warriors made a serious push for Brand after Davis opted out of his deal to pursue free agency and verbally agreed to a deal with the Clips.

Brand supposedly had a handshake agreement that he would opt out of his Clippers deal to re-sign with the club and would make less money to bring someone like Davis in. Whether that was the truth is questionable but Brand being a Philadelphia 76er isn't. Brand provides the Sixers with the low post presence that they have lacked since Charles Barkley almost 20 years ago (damn that is sad and serious).

Josh Smith is young and can jump out the gym but can't create his own shot (as of yet) and doesn't have the low post game and smarts a player like Brand has. In the playoffs, as shown many times over, is about half-court sets and Smith doesn't flourish there yet. Smith is a great shotblocker for his size but is not the right fit for this team if they want to make that next step towards legitimacy. Brand at 29 years old is that step and could lead to a lot more!

Brand at 76ers Press Conference (David Mallett/ Philadelphia Daily News)

A willing defender, the undersized Brand holds his own on defense and has an ability to send some opponents shots if prompted to (career 2.1 blocks per game). Brand has a good motor and is multi-skilled on offense. Brand can run the floor as a trailer on a fast break and get some garbage points and also has the ability to flourish in a half-court set. That last part is something the Sixers have desperately needed. Last season's starter at the power forward, Reggie Evans, averaged 5 points a game! Evans is a energy guy and will be a valuable substitution in a playoff rotation but the Sixers needed more scoring from its frontcourt and Brand can provide that.

Brand will help others too not only because he's an unselfish player but because he commands a double team on the block. This lets Andre Iguodala (provided he is still here) be a very good number two option and also helps him avoid the debacle of a series he had in the Sixers first round loss to Detroit Pistons. The Sixers have a 2008 first round pick in Maureese Spieghts that now has an on the court mentor in Brand. Brand also helps Samuel Dalembert realize his potential as a weakside shot blocker and allows his to shoot that little jumper he wants to shoot occasionally because Brand can bang down low and get second chance rebounds and buckets. The Sixers will now look to add a three-point shooter.

Ironically they gave one up in Kyle Korver when they traded Korver to Utah mid-season last year but the trade netted the cap relief and 1st round pick that netted Brand. When you couple that move with the recent trade of guard-forward Rodney Carney, center Calvin Booth, cash considerations and the first rounder (via Utah) you basically got Brand for a aging veteran and a young player in a position you already have the player for in Thaddeus Young.

If they can add a player it will likely come via the trade as they basically used all their cap signing Brand but many including this writer agree that it was a bold move that needed to happen and also that the Sixers will be much improved with him on the team. If nothing else happens this will still be a great off-season for the 76ers.

A starting line-up of Dalembert, Brand, Young, Iguodala and Andre Miller (in a contract year) is one that should compete with other starting lineups in the east. Miller certainly will love having a big target to pass to inside and Brand has worked on a nice mid-range game that includes dribble drives and a spot-up jumper.

76ers General Manager Ed Stefanski gets credit for pulling the trigger on this deal. 76ers fans should also thank Billy King for not signing any more mediocre players to bad contracts and for seriously doing a very good job to secure talent in the draft. If not for those players this deal doesn't go down.

I personally think King, if still employed by the team would have went after Brand anyway because he is a fellow Duke guy like Brand but that's neither here nor there!

Brand is Philadelphia's go-to guy and one more move or step up game from players like Willie Green, Louis Williams (provided he's here) and Jason Smith could send them to the conference finals. A far cry from the trade of city icon Allen Iverson and the assumed long rebuild process less than two years ago.

Any questions, comments, suggestions email Clayton at clayton@geoclan.com.

Elton Brand

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