Living the Fantasy: Back Off Brand

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By NBA TV's Rick Kamla

January 26, 2007

If you think Elton Brand is having a "down" season, you're wrong and you need to back off.

More from Living The Fantasy
Jan. 12: Bad Rotations
Jan. 5: Trimester Awards
Dec. 15: Many Healthy Returns?

Head to Kamla's Korner
Is he duplicating last year's signature season? No, he isn't. But you gotta keep two things in mind. One, EB spoiled the basketball public last season to the point where anything less than 25 and 10 is a letdown. Two, he's actually having a career year in the shooting department.

Entering Thursday's game against the Nets, Brand was the 16th ranked player across eight categories with averages of 20.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.0 steals, .557 from the field (career high), and .760 from the line. Not bad.

But in Brand's MVP-style season of a year ago, he ranked sixth overall in fantasy basketball with 24.7 points (career high), 10.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.5 blocks (career high), 1.0 steals, .527 from the field, and .775 from the stripe (career high).

No doubt about it, Brand had a career year in 05-06. But it's wrong for any of us to hold that against him this season.

And when you compare Brand's 06-07 numbers to his career stats, this whole argument crystallizes because you realize Brand is doing what he does every year. During his seven-plus seasons in the NBA, the 27-year-old stud outta Duke is averaging 20.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, .505 from the field, and .736 from the line.

Take it easy! Stay off Elton Brand's back.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
First of all, in breaking down Brand’s “down” year, he is exceeding his career averages in scoring, FG shooting, and FT shooting. Second, he's barely down in the other categories. Lastly, what we have here is one of the most consistent and durable players in the fantasy game, and it just isn’t right to call him “tired” or "underwhelming” or “underachieving” or anything like that.

Having said that, Brand is averaging a career-low with the 8.9 boards per game this season, and that isn't cool in any way, shape, or form.

Perhaps a non-stop offseason (FIBA World Championships + wedding) and preseason (NBA Europe Live Tour in Moscow) have sapped just enough energy from this 6-8, 250-pound beast to cause a reduction of about one rebound per game. In head-to-head leagues, that equates to 3-4 rebounds per week, which isn't a big deal. However, in roto leagues that equates to 80-90 missing rebounds during the full season, and that matters in the always-competitive rebounding race.

Also, in studying his year-by-year stats, I noticed that his shot attempts spiked significantly last season. For his career, Brand averages 7.7 field goal makes on 15.3 attempts. However, in 05-06 he averaged 9.6 makes on 18.2 attempts. That's a difference of two baskets per game, or four points. Not coincidentally, Brand is averaging almost exactly four fewer points this year.

The good news is that Brand's scoring and shot attempts are on the rise. He averaged 17.1 points on 13.6 shots in November, 21.9 points on 14.3 shots in December, and 23.3 points on 16.1 shots so far in January. Quite obviously, EB just needs more touches and shots, and Mike Dunleavy Sr. has done a solid job of getting his workhorse more involved as the season has evolved.

My advice is to hang in there with Brand (or buy low from a non-knowing owner) because the best is yet to come from EB and the Clippers now that Sam Cassell is back behind the wheel. Shaun Livingston has the tools to be a sweet player and that may happen in time, but the Clippers are a veteran team in need of Cassell's leadership and clutch shooting. To wit, since returning from a foot injury that cost him nine games, the 37-year-old Cassell is averaging 19.5 points, 8.5 assists, 1.8 threes, and 1.0 steals, and the Clippers are 4-2.

Livingston returned from an ankle injury on Tuesday against Milwaukee, but he came off the bench behind Cassell, which is now the setup until further notice. As such, Livingston is barely worthy of a roster spot, while Cassell is a must-starter in a four-game week and a considerable starter in a three-game week.

Other than Brand and Cassell, the Clippers have been extremely inconsistent this season. From Chris Kaman to Cuttino Mobley to Corey Maggette, the Clippers’ bit players are not playing with the urgency they did a year ago. All three are roster-worthy in fantasy leagues, but none of them does much for me.

Having said that, there is upside with Kaman, who has 23 points, 20 boards, and eight blocks in his last two games, and Maggette, who may return the realm of 20-point scorers following an imminent deadline deal. Stay tuned…

Blockbuster Fantasy Trade

Freaks, I'm happy to report that I splurged this past Wednesday and got myself into Dwyane Wade. The trade was Tracy McGrady, Ben Wallace, and Rip Hamilton for D Wade and Manu Ginobili. In the eight-cat, head-to-head league, I as commish, my starting six is C Andrew Bogut, F Kevin Garnett, F Joe Johnson, G Dwyane Wade, G Deron Williams, and either Manu or Rafer Alston as the sixth man. Entering this week, I was four cats behind Dr. A of Rotoworld and NBC Sports and tied for second place in what is known as League Freak.

The thinking behind the deal is that a) Wade just got traded to the 11th place team [12 teams] and he's now a fluid player so pounce on him before he settles in, b) Wade is my third favorite player behind Garnett and Steve Nash [you gotta have players you like and trust], c) he's the No. 1 player across 8 cats right now, and d) T-Mac and Ben are past their primes and oft-injured so trade 'em while they're still on the court.

I do not foresee T-Mac or Ben entering shutdown mode in the second half, but both players have back injuries and it feels like the DNPs are going to be a recurring buzzkill in the second half.

Conversely, I have unconditional faith that D-Wade will play through anything short of death and dismemberment in the second half. Now that Shaq is back (5 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block in 14 minutes in Wednesday's return) the Heat will take its collective game to the next level, and that will only make the game easier for Wade. And he’s been making the game look pretty darn easy sans Shaq, so look out.

Freaks, it's going to be a fun ride with D Wade down the stretch, and hopefully it culminates with my first League Freak title. I know the Heat Nation is looking for back-to-back titles, but I see the Suns beating the Heat 4-2 in what will go down as The Sunscreen Series.

Random Observations

Isiah, why aren't you starting David Lee?
(Chris TrotmanNBAE/Getty Images)
What is wrong with Isiah Thomas? Why does Jared Jeffries start the game and play five minutes, as he did on Wednesday, while David Lee comes off the bench for 17 and 14 in 34 minutes? Jeffries hasn’t scored for three straight games (38 total minutes) and the Garden Crowd is now booing Isiah’s “defensive stopper.” On the other hand, Lee is already a fan favorite.

Isiah, stop clinging to what's left of your pride in the wake of another bad free agent signing and stop punishing Lee. The funny thing is, the criticism that Isiah will receive for benching his “prized” offseason acquisition will be mitigated, at least equally, by the fact he drafted Lee 30th overall in 2005.

Isiah has a keen eye for talent, I'll give him that. Renaldo Balkman has the look of a defensive beast, Channing Frye is one of the most sought after young bigs in the game, and Lee is already one of the best hustle players in the league. Yes, Zeke passed up Marcus Williams to take Balkman (and that will go down as a gaffe), but that decision isn’t as embarrassing as drafting Frederic Weis over Ron Artest in 1999. Sorry, Knick fans. I truly am sorry.

Lee is one of nine players to average a double-double this season, and it won't be long before Isiah relents and starts the active big man out of Florida. I can see the backpage headlines now: Some Savior … Wrong Again, Isiah … Lee Is Free.

-- I realize Luke Ridnour is a liability on the defensive end, but Bob Hill's benching of the US National Team member was a desperate move by a desperado. It was the proverbial move-for-the-sake-of-making-a-move…move. Freaks, Earl Watson is a nice backup point who can change tempo and shoot you in (or out) of a game, but he is not a better player than Cool Hand Luke. Period.

Obviously, Hill has ruined Ridnour's numbers this season, as he's averaging 14.5 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.3 steals in 35 starts as opposed to 8.6 points, 2.9 assists, and 1.0 steals in seven games off the bench.

However, now that Earl Watson is questionable for Friday's game with a bruised right shoulder (suffered in Wednesday's practice), Ridnour may get his starting job back—the wrong way. It shouldn't take an injury for Rid to start (and no one in this space ever cheers for injuries…very bad karma), but it is what it is and Rid’s fantasy owners (myself included) will take it.

If Rid has been dropped in your league, it's time to pick him back up because if Watson misses time and/or Ridnour gets the starting job back, we are talking about an every-week fantasy starter. Especially with Rashard Lewis still on the sideline.

-- New coach in Minnesota, same crappy rotation. I'm starting to think that it's a mandate from above to treat Randy Foye with kid gloves and limit his minutes. If that is NOT the case, then Dwane Casey didn't get it and Randy Wittman doesn't get it either. After averaging 20.1 minutes in 40 games under Casey, Foye played 22 minutes in his first game under Wittman (five points, five rebounds vs. Portland).

I don't care if the minutes come from Ricky Davis or Trenton Hassell or Mike James or Marko Jaric, you have to find 10 more minutes per game for Foye.

You owe it to Foye, who is already one of the best penetrators in the league. You owe it to Kevin Garnett, who needs Foye to develop as quickly as possible. And you owe it to the fan base that has hung in there through all the mistakes during the years. The Wolves made another mistake in trading Brandon Roy for Foye, but Foye is nice, and simply has to see more of the court. Even if it means diminishing returns or more points for the player he tries to guard.

The good news is that Foye’s minutes are on the rise, climbing from 14.6 in November to 19.6 in December to 27.2 in January. But freaks, if his burn isn’t in the 30s by February, we will revisit this line of questioning, and I will not be Mr. Nice Guy.

-- Chucky Atkins had 29 points and 15 assists in 46 minutes off the bench on Wednesday as the Grizzlies upset the Jazz 132-130 in overtime in one of the best games of the year. And when you consider the miracle three Chucky hit from the corner at the end of regulation to force overtime, that has to rank as one of the best bench performances of all-time.

-- How about Matt Barnes getting slapped with a DNP-CD on Monday and then bouncing back with a 14-10 double-double in 23 minutes in Wednesday’s win over the Nets. Welcome to Nellie's World. With his quick trigger finger and mysterious lineup changes, Nellie is the NBA's answer to Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan—and that isn’t always a good thing.

Unless your name is Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Jason Richardson, Al Harrington, or Andris Biedrins (the starting lineup with everyone healthy), Nellie is going to mess with your minutes. That includes Barnes, Mickael Pietrus, Stephen Jackson, and Sarunas Jasikevicius, who do nothing for me from a fantasy perspective.

Speaking of Richardson, the latest on the two-time Slam Dunk Champ is that he will re-enter the starting lineup upon his return from a broken hand. Team doctors are estimating that J-Rich should be back right after the All-Star Break, so hang in there with him if you can afford to carry some excess baggage.

-- Andrei Kirilenko went off for 18 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks in the aforementioned overtime thriller at Energy Solutions Arena in Utah. All three starters on Utah’s frontline had double-doubles that night, with Carlos Boozer freaking out for a career-high 39 points and 15 rebounds and Mehmet Okur bombing his way to 27 points and 11 boards.

That's the good news. The bad news is the sad fact that it was AK47's first double-double since Dec. 15. Maybe Jazz owner Larry Miller was right...


Rick Kamla is NBA.com's resident fantasy expert. Rick Kamla will be here all season long to give you his insider analysis on the fantasy basketball world. Kamla is the heady host for "NBA Fantasy Hoops Presented By Toyota," a seven-nights-a-week, one-hour studio show that has become the ultimate guide for NBA fantasy basketball players.

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