Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Kenneth Faried: A Nuggets Dilemma

Once upon a time during an NBA all-star weekend, quite like the one we are having currently, Denver Nuggets sophomore Kenneth Faried scored forty points in the Rising Stars Game. He earned the honorary MVP award, and also grabbed ten rebounds. Among other young talents including Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and Derrick Williams, he looked like a complete steal being drafted twenty-second the season prior in the 2011 draft.

After a collegiate career where he surpassed Tim Duncan as the NCAA’s top rebounder of all-time, he came to the Denver Nuggets as a raw, athletic forward who exerted more energy than a nuclear reaction. A combination of his facial features (in my opinion), and his style of play has led to his coined nickname, the “Manimal”. And much like most animals, his game features a lot of barking. Large leaps, powerful rebounds, and dunks that bring the house down are most of his selection. But even with his flamboyant and exciting gameplay, analyzing his effectiveness has begged the question: does he have much bite? The answer determines his future.

Currently the Denver Nuggets are three games below .500, and six games behind the eight-place team, Golden State. And according to a projection method created by Memphis Grizzlies general manager, John Hollinger, they only have a half of a percent chance of making the playoffs. They are a team that is halfway through a bike race, with a flat tire in the middle of a desert. Not only can they not go on, but they can’t go back either. Stuck in the middle of the standings, their only hope resides with a broken New York Knicks season, in which the Knicks would give Denver it’s first round pick in the 2014 NBA draft, a lasting piece of the long forgotten Carmelo Anthony trade. And that pick is currently eighth, a position where Denver could draft a decent starter, but not the game-changer it needs in order to get in out of the mediocrity desert.

This unfortunate position complicates the decisions needed to be made about Kenneth Faried, who’s career also can be described as being stranded in the middle of a desert. Once a budding force in a run-n-gun offense created by former head coach, George Karl, he is now a common liability on an injury-plagued team running a sluggish hybrid half-court scheme. He is in a perpetual “B” team roster rotation thanks to season ending injuries to the team’s arguable best scorers and playmakers. Without Nate Robinson, Danilo Gallinari, disgruntled Andre Miller (the lob king), and even JaVale McGee, his source of players who could provide him the ball in prime locations, has dwindled down to Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler. And because of the injuries, their quality of play has been affected as well. The only step forward has been guard, Randy Foye, stepping up to create scoring opportunities.

So with limited resources to drive in, and kick him the ball, he has regressed statistically. With a guy with a rebounding reputation, he has only averaged 7.5 rebounds a game, down from last year’s 9.2. His scoring has also been affected, where he is averaging 1.1 points less a game than last year. Granted he has average three minutes less a game this year, but that is a result of mediocre play, something that coach Brian Shaw has been on top of this season.

There are also some encouraging numbers associated with Faried. In the advanced categories, he is second on the Nuggets in win shares per forty-eight minutes played, and first in offensive and defensive rating differential. He tends to play with the best players, however, so Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, and Randy Foye could influence some of that. He is also fourteenth in the NBA in double-doubles, with twelve.

The biggest factor on Kenneth Faried, is development. Even with great athletic ability, and good instincts, he is a 6’8 player matching up against 6’10 to 7’0 opponents. Therefore, he needs to develop a jump shot to add versatility and another option when he has the ball. After a while, teams can contain him reasonably if he can only lay it in, or use a skyhook. And because he is a player who relies on physicality and limited finesse, he needs to show improvement in production. Without improvement, his game and promise will deteriorate over time because of age, opponent adjusting, and lowered potential. Over his three seasons, his true shooting percentage and rebounding rates have decreased steadily, confirming opponent adjusting, and perhaps physical fatigue.

To the dismay of many Denver fans, Faried is expendable. He is still only twenty-four, and attracts the eye of many general managers. With the direction the team is going with Brian Shaw, and half-court players like Darrel Arthur, Randy Foye, and J. J. Hickson, Faried needs to change his game, or change his venue. All season, there has been trade rumors involving the Knicks player Iman Shumpert and Faried, which would be a possible and fair move for both teams. Shumpert is an excellent perimeter defender, and is a guard, which is a position of dire need currently for the Nuggets.

Unless Faried shows significant growth in production and development, he has a good chance of playing somewhere else come next season. He is still a player of considerable potential, and shipping him away only to become the next level of player, would fit the script of recent Nuggets decisions. Or it could be a good move on a biting time. Either way, it’s time for Kenneth to, as he likes to say on twitter, “unleash the Maninal”.


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