NBA Top 50: Elton Brand (No. 14)

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FanHouse's Tom Ziller argues his ranking of the
top 50 players in the NBA .

Elton Brand huge

The backlash against the ZOMG 76ers #1!!! hysteria has come on two sincere but misguided prongs. The first: Brand was injured last year, so he's not worth the cash or the hype. Wrong. Lots of players -- almost ALL of them get injured at some point in their career. Most recover. Studies have shown the idea of the injury-prone NBA player to be mostly a myth. On average, a player is expected to miss one game for every six games missed the previous season. That's not a big correlation. Brand hurt himself, yes. But he's been a heavily durable fellow through his career, and he's only 29 years old.

The second line of attack against Philly's move: Brand is a career loser, and he doesn't make his team better on the whole. A scourge of punditry, the "he can't win" slander. As a life-long Shareef Abdur-Rahim devotee, I'm appalled at your baseless theory. Brand hasn't won much because he has played on some quite bad teams. Are Michael Olowokandi, Darius Miles, Yaroslav Korolev, Shaun Livingston's knee injury, Chris Kaman's ADD misdiagnosis, Mike Dunleavy's lack of offensive imagination and Elgin Baylor's improbably long tenure ... are those all circumstances Elton Brand's fault? I didn't think so.

So once you drop (any day now) your ridiculous claims Brand can't win, what are you left with? An unstoppable scorer on the block who doesn't miss, one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, an efficient shooter who gets to the line a decent amount, a fine protector of the ball who can hit the open man out of the double team, and one of the best pound-for-pound post defenders out there.

Brand's defense gets overlooked more than any other asset. One of the first words a critic will bring up in discussing Brand's weaknesses is "undersized." What does undersized even mean? That he's too short to score 20 points a game or rack up double-digit rebounds? For a little guy, he sure does block a lot of shots: 2.1 per game for his career. He has finished top 10 in the league in total blocks in five of his nine seasons (one of the exceptions coming in last year's injury season). Brand is no. 35 on the all-time career block rate ranking. So yeah, he's smaller than other power forwards. It doesn't matter one bit. He still rebounds, defends, blocks shots better than almost every 6'11 fellow out there.

I get excited when I think about Philadelphia '08-09. Brand fits the roster so comfortably, as an offensive juggernaut and a defensive anchor (next to Samuel Dalembert -- those two will simply smother the opposition). And while his stoic, bullish game might not fit the high-flyin' orchestra act of Andre Iguodala, Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young, there's beauty in boot-stomping determination and power. That's Brand, and that's the jigsaw block Philly has needed.

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