Few teams know how to rally in the wake of a plan broken like the Dallas Mavericks; the same system of contingency that netted the Mavericks Tyson Chandler in 2010 has struck again, this time with the expected acquisition of Elton Brand for the unexpected sum of $2.1 million, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com. That’s a quality get at a staggeringly low cost, and the latest in a series of moves that has returned Dallas to, if nothing else, competitive respectability. That’s miracle work considering where this team stood just a few days ago, and a strong endorsement in a front office that’s had a bit of a tough off-season. Losing out on potentially acquiring Deron Williams could still set this franchise back a few years, but the Mavericks front office has proven themselves more than capable of handling the interim with vision, purpose, and the utmost creativity.
Considering that Dallas has other interests beyond keeping their books clear of long-term investment, that’s a valuable bit of consolation. Brand will be a true unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and in the meantime, Dallas will pay a paltry sum for one of the best reserve bigs in the league. He may not be the shot-creating and glass-cleaning monster he once was, but Brand’s fade from stardom has brought him into a comfortable supporting role. The lift that once made Brand such a terror from the high post was stolen away by a ruptured Achilles, but his shooting stroke remains (Brand converted a well above average 45.6 percent of his shots from 10-15 feet last season and an equally solid 43.0 percent of his looks from 16-23 feet, per Hoopdata), and he’ll play nicely off of primary offensive action as a spot-up shooter and pick-and-pop alternative.
Yet where Brand more clearly shines is as a versatile team defender, a capacity that seals the value of his $2.1 million acquisition. Nowitzki is a decent defender in the right context, but isn’t quick or consistent enough to succeed without the benefit of a strong frontcourt counterpart. Brand could be just that; as Tom Haberstroh detailed in a late-season column for ESPN.com, Brand played out the 2011-2012 campaign as one of the most underrated defenders in the biz, and a primary reason for Philadelphia’s staunch and spectacular work on that end of the court. The man knows his way around the post and the pick and roll, and while his addition doesn’t make the Nowitzki-Kaman duo any less shaky on D, it does support its inevitable breakdowns with team-anchoring play. Brand isn’t likely to start, but he’s played enough minutes as a functional center to expect him to work alongside Nowitzki plenty, likely in the most effective lineups that this season’s Mavs can muster.