As a Sixers player, Elton Brand was always one of the most respected guys not only on the team but across the NBA. He was humble, worked hard at his craft, played hard and was a natural leader.
Sure, his five seasons in Philadelphia may not have lived up to the five-year, $82 million contract in which he signed as a free agent. He only averaged 12.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, while the Sixers made it past the first round of the playoffs just once.
But Brand was the voice behind the scenes to make sure young guys like Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday developed into the players they are today.
When the Sixers decided to name Brand as their general manager after the Bryan Colangelo fallout this summer, many looked at Brand as just a face to help repair the image of their front office circus. But in just a few short months, Brand has proved just like he did as a player that he’s as hard-working of a general manager as they come.
With his first move, in November, Brand sent Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton.
At the trade deadline this past week, Brand took a page out of former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s book by making a slew of moves.
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Brand sent Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, a 2020 first-round pick, Miami’s 2021 first-round pick as well as 2021 and 2023 second-round picks to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for sharp-shooting Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott. This trade would have been a win in itself, but Brand wasn’t done.
He then sent enigmatic No. 1 pick from the 2017 NBA draft, Markelle Fultz, to the Orlando Magic for some additional depth in forward Jonathon Simmons, a protected 2020 first-round pick (via Oklahoma City) and a 2019 second-round pick.
He also acquired wing James Ennis from the Houston Rockets in exchange for the rights to swap second-round picks in the 2021 NBA draft.
“We believe we are in position to contend now,” Brand said Friday at the Sixers’ training complex in Camden, N.J, (h/t ESPN) “and our moves reflect that belief.”
Brand is seen by many analysts nationally as the biggest winner of the trade deadline. The general consensus is that with the addition of Harris, the Sixers have the best starting unit in the Eastern Conference.
A lineup of Ben Simmons (16.9 points), J.J. Redick (18.6 points), Jimmy Butler (19.0 points), Harris (14.0 points) and Joel Embiid (27.2 points) will pose matchup problems for any team.
“[Simmons and Embiid] rapidly improved over the last season, so the window [of reaching the NBA Finals] is now,” Brand said. “The opportunity is now. So, once I saw that we discussed taking a shot at it now, because who knows how long that window is going to be open?:
Furthermore, the additions of Marjanovic, Simmons, Ennis, and Scott have made the Sixers bench unit stronger than it was a week ago. The hope is that 16th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, Zhaire Smith, can see the court this season as well as he’s been out recovering from foot surgery since August.
Brand may not have lived up to his playing contract in Philadelphia, but if his moves as GM turn out as well on the court as they look on paper, then the Sixers front office could finally become the talk of the NBA for the right reasons.