Elton Brand Has Earned His Roster Spot

Mar 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Elton Brand (42) lands on the scorers table after saving a ball from going out of bounds against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Hornets won 100-85. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Elton Brand was signed for more than a 20th player on the Philadelphia 76ers roster. He is likely to make the roster.

In the NBA, there is a customary blending of seasoned veterans and energetic youth which places a team on a road to consistent success. However, in the recent past, the Philadelphia 76ers had virtually abandoned that mix in efforts to accelerate developing a multitude of young players.

That effort reached its apex in the 2015-2016 season when a rehabbing power forward Carl Landry was virtually the only long term veteran on the team. Ultimately, Landry would appear in just 36 of 82 games, and would start in 12 of those contests.

When the team reached an agreement with executive Jerry Colangelo, that changed.  He persuaded the team to trade for veteran point guard Ish Smith and to sign power forward Elton Brand to the team.

But the team lost their front court veteran presence when the team did not retain Brand, and eventually waived Landry.   Surprisingly, to fill the void left by Landry, the team returned Elton Brand to the roster on a one year deal.

And so, the speculation has begun in terms of just what role will Elton Brand play on the team this season? Would you be shocked to learn that it may be for the 15 man roster?

Apr 2, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Elton Brand (42) dribbles against the Indiana Pacers at Wells Fargo Center. The Indiana Pacers won 115-102. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Brand New Season

Elton Brand was signed to a Philadelphia 76ers contract in January 2016. His first playing time did not occur until a home game against the Miami Heat on March 4, 2016. In 13 minutes of playing time, he scored eight points and pulled down four rebounds. That was his first game back from “retirement”.

Retirement in the NBA is a curious state of being. For some players, the desire to compete fades and they retire to seek new challenges in life. For others, the maturing body can no longer compete effectively in the physical sport. Despite strong desire to play, the athlete retires out of necessity.

Elton Brand fit neither condition. His retirement was more a matter of making room for younger players. In essence, he vacated his seat in the NBA for a younger man to sit there. But the Philadelphia 76ers had other ideas.  They brought him back to mentor younger players, after he had ceased competitive sports.  In doing so, he was at a complete disadvantage.  He had forgone training and workouts, decelerating into the next chapter of his life.

Coming back this season before it begins affords Brand the chance to ramp up his endurance and skills.  With 17 games played in 2016, he was an insurance policy for the team.  But this year, there is much more opportunity for him as a 76er.

Mar 4, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Elton Brand (42) reacts to his score against the Miami Heat during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Miami Heat won 112-102. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Learning How To Win

Elton Brand is a 17 year veteran of the NBA. So it’s safe to conclude that he’s seen it and done that.  Much of the value of the seasoned veteran is the leadership by example.

His poise, determination, and production over his 17 years are stellar.  He was the first pick of the 1999 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls.  In his first season, he averaged 20.1 points and 10.0 rebounds.  Those are the types of numbers many fans fear to hope for from Ben Simmons.

But it would be incredible if our first pick of the 2016 NBA Draft could deliver those types of statistics.

Brand joined a poor Chicago Bulls team, a team which would finish 17-65 that season.  He would not play on a good team until the 2005-2006 season where he led the Los Angeles Clippers to a 47-35 record.   Eventually, he would join the Philadelphia 76ers and play alongside  Allen Iverson.

During that time, his team struggled, but he excelled. It’s that fortitude that he brings to the Philadelphia 76ers team. But there is a trade off

Jan 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Elton Brand (42) prior to action against the Phoenix Suns at Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia 76ers won 113-103. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Off

Elton Brand will not carry the team this season. That role will be filled by Jahlil Okafor, or Joel Embiid, or Nerlens Noel, or even Ben Simmons. What Brand brings is poise, focus, efficiency. That will promote the team in many ways, but it does come with some drawbacks.

Whatever the case last season, the Philadelphia 76ers are loaded in the front court.  At this moment, the power forward position could be filled with Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Richaun Holmes, Shawn Long, Ben Simmons or Elton Brand.  In a pinch, even Jerami Grant or Robert Covington could slide into that role.  Of twenty roster spots, ten players could address the four spot.  Ultimately, the team will need to pare that down.

If the team acts as expected, Brand will make the 15 man roster.  Certainly some players will fill other line-up needs such as center or small forward.  Still, in the end, to remain at the roster ceiling, the Philadelphia 76ers will likely look to waive a younger player who has not delivered up to expectations.  That will be bittersweet to some young hopeful.  If that player waived succeeds elsewhere, it will evolve into a controversial move.

In the end, its a decision that can either turn this team towards success, or veer away from it.

Jun 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo during an introduction press conference at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

But Why Bryan?

A trademark of a Colangelo team is the culture.  It’s more than building a roster, it’s about building a cohesive team with a winning attitude.

Elton Brand delivers that 100 percent each day.

In the NBA season, teams can dress 13 players per game.  Ultimately, two players must sit it out.   In the past three years, the 76ers had a rehabbing player fill one of the two reserve spots. However, last season, those injuries swelled the ranks to a point where the team activated Brand to play, and even start.

The roster this season should have less risk of multiple injuries.  So the team, and head coach Brett Brown, will need to make the tougher decisions about healthy scratches.  Elton Brand affords the team that opportunity.

Apr 1, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward center Elton Brand (42) catches an inbound pass during the second half of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Hornets win 100-91. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Chip Player

There is no lack of potential talent on the Philadelphia 76ers this season. In fact, the team is bursting at the seams with talent. In this off-season, the team has added the equivalent of a new five man starting lineup. In the worst case scenario of injury to one of these young players, the team will need a sure-footed seasoned vet to

But he’s more than that spare player to carry. Even with little preparation, he chipped in 4.1 points per game.  Entering the season prepared, he could approach a respectable 9.0 points per game. Is that enough to warrant a roster spot?

Perhaps not. But he will be the perfect 14th or 15th player on the team.  Brand has proven his basketball skills, and as such will no longer need to get playing minutes to showcase his stuff.  In effect, he transforms into a pseudo player/coach.  Becoming that voice of wisdom from the bench, he will accelerate the development of the three centers on the team, particularly during the time when Joel Embiid will be joining him on the bench.

Elton Brand is a quality player: both on and off the field. While the team may miss an opportunity to develop a younger player, that is more than offset by the chance to mold their young talent into a player like Brand.   And that is worth taking a risk.

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