Analytically inclined NBA fans and pundits often poke fun at the notion of "veteran presence" as something that a player can add to a roster.
Elton Brand added veteran presence to the 2014-2015 Atlanta Hawks.
The former number one overall pick completed his 16th NBA season in 2014-2015, and for the most part, he was a "bit" player for the 60-win Hawks. Admittedly, this did not come as a surprise, as Brand openly weighed the option of retirement in advance of the season, before signing a one-year, $2 million contract to provide experience, leadership and a "break in case of emergency" option in the paint.
The now 36-year-old Brand appeared in only 36 games, making 4 starts, and he played only 13.5 minutes per contest before fading into relative obscurity down the stretch of the campaign. The numbers are largely insignificant, as Brand averaged just 2.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game, and for the most part, he was deployed simply as a defensive stopper/enforcer in situations that required the Hawks to clamp down on a prominent interior player from the opposition.
Because the concept of "pace and space" is something that Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer values on the court, Elton Brand isn't an ideal basketball fit. The team's elder statesman is capable of stepping out to knock down a mid-range jump shot when asked, but he was also the only player on the 2014-2015 roster that did not possess range out to the three-point line, and with limited athleticism and explosion at this point in his career, the up-and-down nature of this season's team didn't fit his strengths.
With all of that as background, Elton Brand fulfilled the role that was asked of him. The Atlanta Hawks were fully aware of Brand's limitations, and it is virtually understood that the two sides came together with the understanding that Brand would only be deployed when needed. That is, of course, a realistic path for a player of his age and experience level, meaning that any evaluation of Brand's on-court performance should be couched versus expectations.
There were times when Hawks fans (myself included) would have preferred more of Elton Brand instead of less, and that is a testament to his contributions. Still, Brand's locker room presence is something that each member of the team has acknowledged at one point or another, and it is intrinsically valuable to have a former 20-10 guy with more than a decade and a half of high-level NBA experience in the trenches on a nightly basis.
Stats and the "eye test" can't properly value what Elton Brand brings to the table at the age of 36, but if 2014-2015 was indeed his final NBA season as many estimate, he did what he came to Atlanta to do.