FanShot

ESPN--A case for Elton Brand as DPOY

Now, Brand might have lost a step or two after Achilles surgery, but he simply has a knack for the ball thanks to his sharp instincts and airplane-like 7-foot-5.5-inch wingspan. In fact, among NBA players, only Bismack Biyombo has a longer wingspan at Brand's height, according to DraftExpress' pre-draft measurement database. And night in and night out, his length continues to catch opposing players by surprise despite his 12-year track record in the league. Synergy Sports Technology, a video tracking service provided to NBA teams, tracks every possession of every game played in the NBA and slices each game into play types. One of the plays Synergy tracks is the post-up; it analyzes how many points a player allows in those situations. So where does Brand rank in points allowed on post-up plays? First. Nobody is better this season. Not Howard. Not Andrew Bynum. Not Kevin Garnett. In fact, according to Synergy tracking, there are 39 players who have defended at least 100 post-up plays this season, and Brand ranks first in points allowed per post-up play (0.582). And it's not really close. The distance between Brand and the second-ranked player Marc Gasol (.664) is the about the same distance between Gasol and the 13th-ranked player Samuel Dalembert (.750). Opponents going against Brand in the post have shot an abysmal 31 percent on their field goals, but more importantly, Brand plays them clean, as they earn a trip to the free throw line only once every 20 tries. For reference, players going against Howard go to the line four times as often as Brand. So, let's recap. Team dominance? Check. Blocks and steals? Check. Post-up effectiveness? Check. Plus-minus impact? Check. What's holding Brand back? Minutes and reputation. Because of the condensed season and his age, Brand plays just 29 minutes per game, which puts him in the same boat as Kevin Garnett. But if you're going to include Garnett or Serge Ibaka (27.3 minutes per game) as a candidate, it doesn't make sense to leave out Brand. As for reputation, few labels are tougher to shed than the "overpaid star" label. His coach Doug Collins recently went on record to state that over his 40-year career in the league, no one has been more professional than Brand. But even lofty praise like that can't remove the stink from his near-$20 million salary. What's more, it doesn't help Brand's case that he plays for a team that hasn't been in the national consciousness since Allen Iverson retired. No, Brand shouldn't be the favorite for defensive player of the year; he simply hasn't played enough to warrant top consideration. But considering all the evidence suggesting he's one of the league's top defenders, starting for the league's top defense, Brand should at least be in the conversation. Yes, that Elton Brand.

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