When the Atlanta Hawks signed Elton Brand in the offseason, GM Danny Ferry believed the Hawks were getting a player who could bring veteran leadership and energy on the defensive end every game.
Early in the season, Brand had a tough time fitting in with the team as he struggled to figure out his role coming off the bench. At first, he was not asked to do too much off the bench if Atlanta wanted to win games, and I think this affected him mentally more than anything. However, it did not take long for the big man to become accustomed to being a big time role player who can come in off the bench in order to provide the Hawks with a physical presence on the defensive side of the ball. Especially when Al Horford went down with a season ending injury, Brand really took it upon himself to be the guy who could fill the void with his production.
Just look at some of the performances he has turned in this week with the Hawks. In the first game against the Brooklyn Nets, it was Brand’s play that helped keep Atlanta in the game despite suffering a close loss at the hands of the Nets. He recorded 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes of play in a great effort for the veteran coming off the bench. Even though the Hawks lost the game, his effort on both ends of the floor illustrated the type of player he can be going forward with the team. Brand provides the Hawks with a defensive presence who never backs down from any opponent, as illustrated by his ability to rebound and shot-blocking skills, but he can also contribute offensively with his ability to hit the mid-range jumper. He proved this ability in his next game, where he posted eight points and four rebounds in limited minutes off the bench to propel the Hawks to a huge victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Brand’s secret weapon may be his ability to hit the mid-range jumper, but his strength is his defense, as illustrated by his most recent performance. Against the Houston Rockets, Brand made a huge impact on the outcome of the game due to his high level of play. Coming off the bench, he provided the Hawks with 11 rebounds and three blocks in limited action in order to get the big win over the Rockets at home. His physical presence down low against Dwight Howard and the other big men for Houston really limited their chances to grab offensive rebounds and get second chance points. To put his performance into perspective, he matched Howard in rebounds in the game despite playing 13 minutes less than the All-Star center.
Hopefully, going forward Brand can continue to provide the Hawks with big minutes off the bench. If he does, Atlanta will definitely make the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference and could even hold on to their No. 3 seed as well.