'Elton The Enforcer'? The Facts: Mavs Donuts

Elton Brand is drawing some attention for some recent comments. Is he the Mavs' new 'enforcer,' ala Tyson Chandler? Is he a dirty player? Is he boasting about something he cannot do? We examine all the numbers, the quotes and more in Tuesday Morning Mavs Donuts:

DONUT 1: Will Elton be the "Defensive Anchor?" ...

Elton Brand is following a script that, over the last decade, has been fairly uncommon in the Mavs locker room. He's talking boldly about "defensive anchoring,'' about "toughness,'' even about being a flagrant-foul giver.

Certainly Brand is saying all the right things as a newcomer and as a player entering the final stage of his career. And he is in terrific shape, maybe more buff than we've seen him before. But can he really anchor the defense? Can a 6-foot-9 aging backup have the kind of impact necessary to spearhead an top-notch defense?

Brand is widely regarded as one of the league's best interior defenders, and sports a gaudy 1.9 block per game average (half-a-block better than Chandler's career average). So it really shouldn't be a question of ability; the guy has already proven he has the stuff. However, as a likely bench player, will Brand be on the court a sufficient amount of time to be able to make good on his "enforcer" promise?
In Carlisle's system, the short answer is yes. As we've seen, the starter/backup distinction means little to Rick, who takes the longitudinal view of playing time over who is on the court when the ball is tipped. Brand will certainly have the opportunity to be the defensive anchor, a la Tyson Chandler, and don't be surprised if Carlisle leans on Brand early in the season to set the sort of defensive tone the disciplinary Carlisle craves.

DONUT 2: Flagrant Bragging? ...

"I'm not proud of it, but I led the league in flagrant fouls,'' Brand said ... proudly.

This quote has been taken by some as bragging. but should it be?

I do know that "Brand brags about having the most flagrant fouls in the league," is exactly the type of headline that draws traffic to your website. (Fish, why aren't we doing this!?!)

Whether or not Elton was bragging, his quotes demonstrate a toughness, both verbal and in action, that have been conspicuously missing around here from a front-line/big-time player since Tyson Chandler departed. They also point toward a whatever-it-takes-to-win attitude that is so often necessary to succeed at the highest level.

See, saying all the right things.

DONUT 3: Piece-by-Piece ...

If you've been following DB.com over the summer, you will remember my summer-long Piece-by-Piece series. (See DB.com Archives.) In it, I compared each Mavs' newcomer to his departed counterpart. I had originally planned to conclude with a deep stats comparison of Elton Brand and Lamar Odom, as both serve a "third big-man" role. However, I decided to shelve the project as it wouldn't really be fair given Odom's uncharacteristic last season and it would eventually have spiraled into dog-piling on a guy who's probably had enough already.

That said, there are many interesting statistical nuggets to be gleaned from a study of Brand's career numbers.

DONUT 4: Deep defensive stats ...

It's no stretch to say that Brand is no longer the player who was the top overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft, Rookie of the Year and two-time All Star. However, that's a far cry from saying he is no longer an impact player. Since we are focusing on his defensive abilities, we will start there.

Aside from his career 1.9 blocks per game, he also sports a career 104 defensive rating (similar to Chandler's career average of 101), and had a career-best rating of 96 last season. (Note: defensive rating is an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions. Its an imperfect metric to be sure, but still useful.) Also, last season, the 76ers defense was nearly three points better per 100 possessions with Brand on the court than off.

DONUT 5: Rebounding Numbers ...

A key to closing a successful defensive possession is securing the rebound, and Brand's numbers in that department sparkle.
For his career, Elton Brand sports a 9.4 rebounds per game average. As expected, that number has trended downward from a peak of 11.6 nearly a decade ago, but amazingly, his defensive rebound percentage, an estimate of the available defensive rebounds secured by a player, has been remarkably steady, meaning his decline in total rebounds is mostly due to a decline in minutes, not a deterioration of skill. Indeed, he snagged 18.3% of defensive rebounds last season, just a shade off the 19.75% he averaged in his All Star seasons.

DONUT 6: What about the other end of the court? ...

Brand is no slouch on offense either, averaging 18.3 points per game for his career. Though it's highly unlikely he will approach that level in Dallas, he certainly doesn't lack for ability. Indeed, even though last season he averaged a career-low 11.0 points per game last season, he still sported a very-efficient 18.0 PER despite attempting the fewest shots per-game of his career. Yes, his scoring ability is in decline, but he still represents an upgrade for the team.

Furthermore, he can even help out on the boards. He arrives with a serviceable 3.5 offensive rebounds per game average for his career, snagging nearly 10% of available offensive rebounds.

DONUT 7 Corner 3's? ...

There are even whispers that Brand may be taking a few corner threes this year. (Note: He's never attempted more than three in a season and never made more than one, so its unlikely that this will be come a significant portion of the offense.

DONUT 8: Better without Dwight and D12? ...

"You say Dwight Howard and Deron Williams,'' EB noted. "I know we as a team, with the pieces we've put together, I feel we could match or get close to matching what they would've brought. But individually, I'm not Dwight Howard any more."

There will be plenty of time to debate the merits of this statement later, and the results of such. Brand is right; he is no Dwight, individually. However, this offseason, Dallas' players are allowed to believe the organization may have put together a more versatile and complete team than they otherwise would have had the dream of 3D been realized.

Versatile. Complete. Maybe not "better,'' though.

DONUT 9: Brand role ...

As of now, Brand is slotted as the third big man, and likely 6th or 7th man who will play significant minutes off the bench. (We say that even as Carlisle is telling us no such thing is set in stone.) No matter how many plays he has called for him, he should still be expected to be very effective on offense while providing top-level interior defense.

DONUT 10: Help is on the way ...

Right now in camp, EB really is doing a lot of these things by himself. Why? Centers Chris Kaman and Brendan Wright remain on the Mavs' day-to-day injury list. (While B-Wright was not spotted as a participant at the Monday workout, Kaman did finish on the floor for some shooting.)
Still, Brand is carrying the load until his mates heal up.

DONUT 11: Chemistry on the course ...

Today is the Mavs' team golf tournament -- always good for a million laughs. Follow DB.com on Twitter at FishSports and on DB.com Boards and we'll caddie you through the day! We'll see how Elton swings the sticks ... and we bet a day on the links, leading up to the team trip to Europe, will do wonders for chemistry and the emergence of leadership from people like Brand.

DONUT 12: Brand season outlook ...

He will snag plenty of rebounds on both ends of the floor and provide grit and a mean streak that has been missing among impact players since Chandler departed. He should earn the occasional start, but will still finish among the top seven Mavericks in minutes played. Elton Brand won't be the Dallas Mavericks' Dwight Howard, but he will help strengthen Dallas on both ends of the floor on a much friendlier contract.

And "strengthen'' is close enough to "enforcer'' for us.

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