We're down to our final two Sixers in the Predicting 2010 series. I saved these two for last because the question of whose team is this looms large. Elton Brand, paid big money to come in here and take this team to the next level, or Andre Iguodala. Brand goes under the microscope after the jump.
So many questions revolve around Elton Brand. Basically, two years lost to unrelated injuries, he's an afterthought to any outside observer at this point. An injury-prone big whose prime has ended. I'm sure there are Sixers fans who feel the same way after his disappointing first season in Philly.
If you're interested in the glass half-full take on things, Brand is a 30 year-old power forward in name only. All those missed minutes could add some time onto the end of his odometer. He's been working out like a mad man this summer, determined to prove the Sixers didn't make a mistake in signing him. He'll be playing in a system that should play to his strengths. Neither injury was part of a chronic problem, what are the odds of three freak injuries in three years? (Don't answer that.)
On the negative side, who knows if he'll regain the lift he lost due to injury and/or rust. Who knows how he'll handle the up-tempo team he's surrounded by.
Finally, no matter what kind of shape Elton's in, no matter how much explosiveness he has left in his legs, no one really knows what his role will be on this team. I believe he'll do whatever is asked of him. If they need him to morph himself into a rebounding/defensive specialist who controls the paint, and a supplementary player on offense, I'm sure he'd do it. I just don't think that's the role they need him to play. It's also anyone's guess as to how a true post threat will work in Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense. From everything I've read and seen, he likes his bigs to work in the high and low posts, and move the ball to cutters and shooters. The PO could very well alleviate the doubles that seemed to give EB problems last season, at least that's the hope, but no one really knows. Jordan didn't have a post player deserving of plays or touches the whole time he was in Washington.
The stumbling block at the beginning of last season was a philosophy that the Sixers had to get Brand going whenever he was on the floor. He had to be fed the ball in the post, and the rest of the guys had to stand around and watch him. In fact, the ball should really be walked up the floor and then dumped down to him. I don't, for a second, think that thought process will worm its way into the game plan this season, but at some point we're going to have to figure out the true identity of the team. For the Sixers to play their best, I honestly think Brand is going to have to take a back seat on offense. He cannot be their identity. Thad and Iguodala are the most important guys on that end of the floor. Brand will get touches, he will make shots, and in certain circumstances, he will be able to take over the game, but if they're sitting around waiting for him to drop 25 every night, it's going to be a long, disappointing season.
Here are my projected stats:
Productive, but not dominant on offense. Exceptional on the glass an on defense. If the Sixers can get that out of Elton Brand, I think they have a chance to show drastic improvement this season. Anything more, and we should be talking home-court advantage in the first round, provided it doesn't come at the expense of Iguodala and Thad.
Thoughts in the comments, full series here.