In the last installment of Roundball Mining Company’s Denver Nuggets midterm report card series, we’ll be examining the rookies. Since this group of players hasn’t received the type of playing time most of their teammates have, we decided to evaluate them separately. Since the All-Star break, Kenneth Faried has managed to claw his way into the rotation, while Julyan Stone and Jordan Hamilton still remain isolated on the furthest regions of Karl’s bench. This extra boost in minutes has allowed us to get a better understanding of who Faried is, yet Hamilton and Stone are still relatively unknown commodities, therefore their grades should be taken with a grain of salt.
Faried // GPA: 3.1 // Actual Grade: B- // Roundball Grade: B+
Assessment: No player on the Nuggets roster has been as polarizing as Kenneth Faried. Not since Chris “Birdman” Andersen burst on the scene back in 2008-09 have we seen such a meteoric rise and thus, fanatic following for a role player. The “Manimal” was long on Roundball Mining Company’s radar prior to being drafted with the 22nd pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, but it didn’t take long for the rest of Nuggets Nation to catch “Manimal Fever” once the season began. Even during the summer Faried garnered high praise across the NBA landscape for his athleticism and tenacity on the glass in pick-up games, so when it was time to play in real NBA games, fans were salivating. Unfortunately George Karl stuck by his strict “I treat all rookies like garbage” policy which kept the Manimal in chains for far too many games; however, when he finally got the opportunity to prove himself, Faried did not disappoint. His athleticism rivals former Nugget, J.R. Smith, and is some of the best in the entire NBA, while his passion and enthusiasm for the game he loves spills onto the the floor and into his teammate’s souls with every energetic play he makes. Faried has no doubt struggled in certain aspects, although this is to be expected from a rookie. In terms of the big picture, Faried has already exceeded sky-high expectations by raking Top 15 in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), while also ranking fourth in rebounding rate and second in offensive rebounding rate. And keep in mind, this is all as a rookie, in only limited time which often comes in an unexpected, fluctuating dose of minutes by the hands of George Karl.
Areas of Improvement: While he has no doubt been spectacular, Faried still has a lot of work to do. Even though he’s already one of the better rebounders in the entire league, Faried still has trouble fighting off more imposing big men. He easily gets pushed around in the paint and is frequently taken out of the hunt for a loose ball by guys who aren’t afraid to get dirty. This will likely disappear in time as Faried gains more confidence in his own abilities, but nevertheless, it is something he could work on now. Additionally, Faried needs to become more consistent with his defense. At times he’s the best defender on the floor while other times he’s completely lost. Adjusting to the NBA game can be a difficult undertaking and again, this is something that should improve as times goes by. One thing that could easily improve right now however, are Faried’s screens. They’re softer than a baby’s bottom and essentially do nothing but beg for a moving screen violation to be called. While Faried loves to smile at almost every waking moment of the game — which is beyond refreshing — adding a dimension of toughness to his disposition would do wonders for the undersized power forward.
Hamilton // GPA: 2.8 // Actual Grade: C+ // Roundball Grade: C+
Assessment: Hamilton falls in the same boat as Faried: He’s a rookie, and because of that, he will not get to play as often as he should — if at all. In the limited amount of time we’ve seen Hamilton hit the floor, there have been flashes brilliance mixed with an equal number of boneheaded mistakes. However, it’s important to note that Hamilton has been the furthest thing from a pure disaster this year. On Feb. 22 he scored a career-high 18 points on 6-11 shooting from the field against the L.A. Clippers, which was his trademark performance of the season, as he’s been unable to duplicate anything close to that all year long. That night, Nuggets fans caught a glimpse of who Hamilton has the potential to one day be, and boy was it intriguing. What’s perhaps most frustrating about Hamilton’s situation is the fact that he’s probably just as good, if not better, than Rudy Fernandez who Karl has grown extremely fond of. Yet while Fernandez is likely out of Denver after the 2012 campaign concludes, Hamilton will be around for the foreseeable future. Nobody is asking for 25 minutes a night, but if Karl just showed some confidence in Hamilton and allowed him the opportunity to prove himself on occasion, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t disappoint.
Areas of Improvement: Again, consistency is Hamilton’s unquestioned achilles heel. Even though his minutes have been erratic, Hamilton must find a way to become a more steady and reliable option if he desires more playing time. He’s clearly a more cerebral player than most had originally anticipated, so perhaps if he utilized this aspect of his game even more, Karl would take note. His rebounding and passing have been pleasant surprises, as is the case with his array of different scoring methods, but his jump shot is fairly inconsistent. Eliminating the amount of “rookie” mistakes he commits, followed by knocking down jumpers with more consistency would do wonders for Hamilton moving forward.
Stone // GPA: 2.8 // Actual Grade: // Roundball Grade: C+
Assessment: Of all the players we’ve covered in this series, Stone is without question the most mysterious of them all. He has occasionally seen a heavy dose of minutes in a few random games due to Rudy Fernandez or Ty Lawson being injured, and in those contests he has played well; but in general there is almost nothing to go off in terms of assessing where he’s at as a player. Like all rookies, playing time will be the most telling factor in determining what type of progress he’s made since coming into the league. What we do know, however, is that Stone is an excellent defender and can run the point with the attitude of a floor general. Because of these attributes many Nuggets fans have begged for Andre Miller to be traded so that more playing time could then open up for the defensive-minded Stone, however, that’s a tough sell that management probably would be hesitant to buy.
Areas of Improvement: We’ve known for a while that Stone has struggled with his jump shot and overall scoring ability, so this is an area of weakness that he’ll need to continue patching up in order to ensure he gets the shot he deserves at playing in the NBA. Coaches will always be hesitant to play a guy who has virtually no offensive weapons, so as long as Stone addresses this aspect of his game he should be fine.
That concludes our Denver Nuggets midterm report card series. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it!