Court Report: Time to sell Elton Brand?

Elton Brand's(notes) fantastic start to the season could mean that it's time to start shopping him, to see what the market might bear in return.

• Guess who’s tied with Chris Paul(notes) at #1 in per-game value? It’s not Kevin Durant(notes), LeBron James(notes), or Dirk Nowitzki(notes). It’s Elton Brand. He’s averaging 18.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 1.8 blocks on 58-percent shooting from the field and 87 percent from the line. It’s crazy how effective a slimmed down Brand has been in a post-Eddie Jordan world. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen so far, but I can’t say I’m fully on board yet. His value is being largely buoyed by his steals and field-goal percentage, and considering he has never averaged more than 1.2 steals or shot higher than 53 percent in his career, they are both rather unsustainable. With that said, even when you normalize them, Brand owners are still getting a nice return on their investment (ADP of 86.8). Sell high at your own discretion, but only if a manager is willing to pay a top-60 premium. One guy I am buying is Jrue Holiday(notes), who has come on strong after a sluggish start and dropped a career-high 29 points to go along with eight assists, three treys, and two steals. He’s getting all the burn he can handle, averaging 37 minutes in his last three contests. The buy-low candidate is closing fast and should be slam shut in another week at this rate. Andre Iguodala(notes) is day-to-day with an Achilles injury and will not play on Sunday against the Knicks.

• The Cavaliers and 76ers easily surpassed the century mark to the delight of fantasy owners, highlighted by a 76-point fourth quarter. Daniel Gibson(notes) scored 17 of his 22 points in that final quarter and continued his wild up-and-down scoring ride. His point totals this season, starting with the opener: 16, 9, 20, 6, 20. I’ll put his over/under for Saturday’s game at 12 points, just because he’s playing the Wizards. Anderson Varejao(notes) feasted on the 76ers frontcourt, hitting all 10 of his shots to finish with 23 points and 12 rebounds. With all the talk about J.J. Hickson(notes) being the star of this team, Varejao has still quietly put up the higher per-game rank of the two. Mo Williams(notes) was solid in his second game back (22 points, 7 assists, 3 steals), but efficiency is still a major concern with him. Expect him to hover around 40-percent shooting and three turnovers for the majority of the year. Jamison (knee) remains day-to-day and was inactive for the second straight game.

• The Bucks-Pacers game was best viewed from a distance as both teams shot under 40 percent from the field and combined for 35 turnovers. There were some bright spots though as John Salmons(notes) finally got on track (22 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 6-12 FG, 8-10 FT) after sputtering out of the gates. The slow start was to be expected though as a knee injury cost him all of preseason. Salmons used those first five games more so to get back into shape and find his rhythm. Now that he’s apparently found it, there’s no reason not to start him moving forward. Andrew Bogut(notes) (migraines) was a late scratch, thrusting Luc Richard Mbah a Moute(notes) into the starting lineup. Mbah a Moute did his best Bogut impression, flip-flopping Bogut’s average of 14 points and 11 rebounds for a 10-point, 15-rebound performance. Luc’s playing time had been wildly inconsistent coming into Friday’s contest, ranging from 10 to 34 minutes, and he hasn’t been very productive on a per-minute basis either (262 out of 371 in per-minute rank). In other words, don’t make too much of Friday’s double-double.

Danny Granger(notes) (19 points, 9 rebounds) and Roy Hibbert(notes) (14 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocks) put up some nice lines but were terribly inefficient in the process. They combined for 13 turnovers and shot a collective 10-for-28 from the field. The only thing that stands out there and may be a cause for concern is Hibbert’s field-goal percentage. He’s shot under 40 percent in four of five contests so far. The problem mainly comes from his attempts within 10 feet, down from 49 percent to 36 percent. We can expect some normalization there, but it’s clear that the increase in volume from that range (+1.9 attempts) doesn’t agree with him. Darren Collison(notes) came through with 19 points and five steals, but has still been a rather big disappointment for owners expecting top-40 numbers from him this year. The assists just aren’t there, and it doesn’t help that his team is shooting just 42 percent, good for 27th in the league. His shooting efficiency has also suffered big time and is down from every spot on the floor – down six percent at the rim, down 15 percent within 10 feet, down six percent from 10-15 feet, down 12 percent from 16-23 feet, and down 10 percent on threes. There is legitimate cause for concern here and it doesn’t look like owners who took him in the fourth round will be getting a positive return on their investment.

Dwight Howard(notes) got the best of Brook Lopez(notes) on Friday, posting 30 points and 16 rebounds to Brook’s meager 10 and 5 (on a miserable 3-of-17 shooting). Travis Outlaw(notes) led the Nets with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting, but remains a highly volatile and inconsistent option (as are most options on the Nets roster). Jameer Nelson(notes) dropped 20 points and dished out six assists, but turned his left ankle badly in the final minutes of the game. He is listed as day-to-day and will miss Saturday’s game – Chris Duhon(notes) will start in his place with Jason Williams(notes) assuming backup duties. Vince Carter(notes) is currently tied for 65th per-game value but is an ideal sell-high. His field-goal percentage is fluky-high (55 percent; 44.6 percent career) as is his three-point rate (52.9 percent; 37.6 percent career) while his shot attempts are down. He should be closer to 13 points per game by season’s end.

• If Toney Douglas(notes) is still available on your waiver wire, I highly recommend that you go ahead and grab him while you can. In his last two games, Douglas has averaged 24.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, four threes, and 4.5 steals in 30.5 minutes. Coach D’Antoni has not hesitated to play Douglas and Raymond Felton(notes) together for stretches, and he proved last season that he could produce across the board when given extensive minutes. Andray Blatche(notes) led the way with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting, while John Wall(notes) struggled big time (4-of-11 shooting, 9 turnovers). Gilbert Arenas(notes) was impressive in his season debut with 18 points off the bench, 14 of which came in the final quarter. I would be remiss if I didn’t somehow mention Wilson Chandler’s(notes) reverse dunk on JaVale McGee(notes).

Rodney Stuckey(notes) was benched on Friday after twice ignoring John Kuester’s call for him to re-enter Thursday’s game. He will reportedly play on Sunday against Golden State, but this is certainly a situation to monitor closely moving forward. Tracy McGrady(notes) and Will Bynum(notes) got extended run in Stuckey’s absence and were largely ineffective, so it doesn’t appear that there is any immediate competition for Stuckey’s job. In the midst of all of this chaos and drama, Ben Gordon(notes) has emerged as the Pistons’ go-to option, scoring at least 20 points in four of his six games. He’s just on the outskirts of the top-60 in per-game value, but keep in mind that his field-goal percentage sits at 56 percent, 12 percent above his career average.

• Boston relied on a pretty balanced attack in their 110-105 overtime win against Chicago, with seven players finishing in double figures. Ray Allen(notes) led the way with 25 points and came through with a big game-clinching dunk, while Rajon Rondo(notes) posted his third double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 assists. Of note is that Rondo is dealing with plantar fasciitis in both feet, with the left foot being the more troublesome of the two. He won’t miss any time because of it, but it is a rather painful injury to play through and may impact his speed and explosiveness if it gets worse.

Taj Gibson(notes) continues to score at a very efficient clip, and has converted over 60 percent of his attempts in each of his five games this year. He has averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds in his last two games. Joakim Noah(notes) is currently seventh in per-game value with gaudy averages of 16.2 points, 14.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 2.4 assists, and 1.2 steals. Those numbers will obviously come down once Carlos Boozer(notes) (hand) returns, but Noah should be a good bet for top-40 numbers the rest of the way.

Emeka Okafor(notes) had perhaps the best game of his career, hitting 12-of-13 shots on his way to a dominant 26-point, 13-rebound effort. Even with this performance his averages aren’t really out of line with last season’s numbers, and I can’t in good conscience endorse him moving forward. He’s back to blocking 2+ shots a game, which is good, but his shot volume has steadily decreased since his rookie year and his rebounding averages have also consistently dropped off over the past five seasons. Sell high if you can. Oh yeah, and the Hornets are 5-0 right now.

• The Hawks improved to an NBA-best 6-0 on the heels of strong performances from Jamal Crawford(notes) (22 points, 5 rebounds, 8-of-14 shooting) and Josh Smith(notes) (20 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks, 2 steals). Smoove is averaging a league-leading 4.2 blocks per game and sits at fourth in per-game value.

• There were quite a few positive/promising individual performances from the Timberwolves though. Wesley Johnson(notes) and Corey Brewer(notes) each dropped 18 points and should at least be on watch lists moving forward. Their field-goal percentage impacts really limit their value though, and have both currently sitting outside the top-120 looking in. Michael Beasley(notes) (hip) returned from a one-game absence to score 16 on a rather poor shooting effort (6-of-17), while Kevin Love(notes) finished with his fourth double-double of the season (18 points, 12 rebounds).

• After the season opener I was initially concerned about Dwyane Wade’s(notes) value, but as time has passed and the sample size has grown six-fold, the focus has clearly shifted to Chris Bosh(notes). He grabbed just one rebound in 33 minutes of action in Friday’s loss and was out-rebounded by Eddie House(notes). How is that possible? Floor location, for one. He was either pushed too far away from the basket because of the Heat’s pick-and-roll offense, or was stuck underneath the basket in bad rebounding position. On top of that, it’s also a matter of effort. Bosh gets caught watching others go up for rebounds far too often. Amongst power forwards playing at least 20 minutes a game, he ranks 45th of 52 in rebound rate. Last season he was eighth. I would be legitimately concerned as a Bosh owner moving forward, and would try to sell him to an owner willing to pay top-40 market value. He was just dealt for Al Jefferson(notes) in one of my leagues, an absolutely coup for the Bosh owner.

Marco Belinelli(notes)/Marcus Thornton watch: 8 points and 3 assists for Belinelli in 31 minutes of action; 5 points and 3 rebounds for Thornton in 10 minutes.

• It took the Suns and Grizzlies two overtime periods to decide Friday’s matchup, so players came away with more inflated stat lines than usual. Jason Richardson(notes) led the way with 38 points (to go along with 8 rebounds, 6 treys, and 4 steals), upping his scoring average from 19 to 22.8 points per game. He has clearly emerged as the go-to scoring option in Phoenix; leading the way with 18.4 shot attempts per game (Steve Nash(notes) is second at 15.6, Grant Hill(notes) third at 9.6). Nash continues to be highly turnover-prone, finishing with at least five turnovers in three of his five games. Channing Frye(notes) and Robin Lopez(notes) put up duds, combining for one point in 45 total minutes of action. Marc Gasol(notes) and Rudy Gay(notes) led the way for Memphis with 26 a piece, while O.J. Mayo(notes) poured in 23 in a rather poor shooting performance (6-of-17). Zach Randolph(notes) didn’t look right in his first game back since the season opener, but put up a useful 12 points and 14 boards. Mike Conley(notes) continues to impress (16 points, 7 assists, 5 steals).

• The Clippers-Nuggets game ended up being the antithesis of the earlier Bucks-Pacers matchup, with both teams shooting over 50 percent from the field. Carmelo Anthony(notes) got some treatment done on his sore right elbow and it paid dividends as he led all scorers with 30 points. Al Harrington(notes) once again did a good job picking up the slack for the Nuggets' frontcourt, which has been without Nene Hilario(notes) (groin strain) for two games. Harrington's averages through five games are eerily similar to his '09-'10 line in New York. Arron Afflalo(notes) has scored in double digits in every game so far this season.

Eric Gordon(notes) is averaging 23.7 points and 6.7 assists in his last three games. Whether or not he cracks the top-50 this year depends on his free-throw percentage, which has dropped off dramatically since his rookie season. Baron Davis(notes) is injured, out of shape, and now apparently on the trading block. Eric Bledsoe(notes) at least warrants consideration in standard leagues and should be rostered in all deep leagues. He's averaging 14.5 points and 10.5 assists in his past two games. Another game, another double-double for Blake Griffin(notes). He sits at 178 in per-game value because his free-throw percentage is the second largest categorical deficiency behind, you guessed it, Dwight Howard's free-throw percentage impact.

• The Warriors playing defense and rebounding? What? That's exactly what they did on Friday, holding the Jazz to just 78 points, the fewest the Warriors have allowed since November of 2006. They've improved from 29th in defensive efficiency to 10th this season. They've also gone from dead last (by a wide margin) in offensive rebound rate differential at -10.51 to fifth at +3.91. Incredible. Andris Biedrins(notes) and David Lee(notes) combined to grab 35 rebounds as the Jazz were out-rebounded 52-46. Stephen Curry(notes) looked shaky to start but finished strong (20 points, 6 assists, 2 steals) in his return to the court after missing two games with an ankle injury. He's been wearing a noticeable brace on the ankle to keep it stable. Monta Ellis(notes) continued his strong performance with a team-high 23 points, but more noteworthy is the seven steals he added. Al Jefferson (16 points, 15 rebounds) and Paul Millsap(notes) (12 points, 11 rebounds) both double-doubled.

• No surprises for the Lakers in their win over the Raptors as Kobe Bryant(notes) (23 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) and Pau Gasol(notes) (game-high 30 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) led the way. Lamar Odom(notes) posted his first dud of the season, going 2-of-10 from the field, but finished with seven points and nine rebounds anyways. The Raptors relied on a balanced attack in this one with six players scoring in double figures, led by Leandro Barbosa(notes) (17 points, 15 in the second quarter). Barbosa has been very hit or miss so far, and with his bad wrist, it's hard to be very optimistic about his value moving forward. Amir Johnson(notes) was very effective in 24 minutes off the bench, putting up 12 points and 15 rebounds on 4-of-8 shooting. More importantly, he only picked up two personal fouls during that stretch. With that said, his foul rate has actually increased from last season (up from 6.3 fouls per 36 minutes to 6.8).

Photos via Getty Images

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