#NuggetsRank No. 4: Kenneth Faried

After just a single shortened season in the NBA, Kenneth Faried surges to the No. 4 spot in Roundball Mining Company’s #NuggetsRank series. The near-unanimous verdict around the league is that the Manimal, selected by the Nuggets with their No. 22 pick, was the steal of the 2011 NBA draft. This perception was further validated by the fact that he received the third most Rookie of the Year votes despite his comparatively low draft position.

On February 11, Nene injured his calf in Denver’s game against the Indiana Pacers, and went on to miss nearly a month of action. Prior to that night, the Nuggets had played 27 games, but Faried had only seen the court in seven of them, averaging 13 minutes. Opportunity knocked for him when Nene went down, and he emphatically burst through the door and started making an immediate impact. Faried would finish the season with the team’s highest PER (21.9), offensive rating (123), true shooting percentage (.618) and total rebound rate (19.8). He averaged 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and a block per game (translating to 16.4/12.2/1.6 per 36 minutes) and had 12 double-doubles.

Beyond filling up the stat sheet, Kenneth showed that he had the ability to change games with his explosive energy. It’s difficult to avoid slipping into hyperbole and cliché on this front (“he always plays above the rim”/”his energy is contagious”/etc.), but anyone who watched the Nuggets last season understands that these descriptions flow somewhat naturally from the truly intense level of activity he brings to almost every game.

But his big splash has already been made, and Denver will require more from him this season. He joined JaVale McGee in Hakeem Olajuwon’s training sessions in August, but it remains to be seen whether he really has the ability to develop a more diverse offensive skill set. His efficiency last season was largely a result of taking the large majority of his shots at the rim when cutting, putting back offensive rebounds, or scoring in transition. In preseason games he seemed to be making a concerted effort to put up some mid-range jumpers, and generally focus on his offensive game. But this seemed to come at the expense of his aggressive crashing of the boards and energetic hustle play, and if this continues into the regular season it could arguably be counterproductive if it takes the edge off his greatest strengths.

Which brings us to his greatest weakness: defense. Faried is strong, and he’ll probably continue getting stronger working with Steve Hess. But it’s not likely that he’ll be getting any taller than his current 6’8”, and so he faces a somewhat daunting future of being on the tougher end of mismatches when guarding the league’s bigger power forwards who have the ability to shoot over him. He will need to work on doing a better job of not allowing his assignments to get to their spots, and in my opinion George Karl should consider switching him and the taller Danilo Gallinari in cases where it could create more favorable matchups. If the Nuggets are able to improve their team defense as a whole with a refocused effort and some help from the leadership of Andre Iguodala, it should help Faried to stay on a positive learning curve defensively in his sophomore season, but for now he’s till got a ways to go.

From the moment he scored his first basket in the Pepsi Center (the dramatic alley oop off Rudy Fernandez’s no-look over the head backwards pass), the Manimal became an instant fan favorite and a new face of the Nuggets franchise. He arrived NBA ready, and it will be hard to outdo his superlative rookie season. But the key should be fairly simple. If he just keeps crashing those boards and playing with boundless energy, and keeps improving his defensive fundamentals to earn Karl’s trust in keeping him on the court for bigger minutes, he should continue to have an increasingly important and valuable role on the Nuggets, and attain recognition as one of the league’s top rebounders.

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  • Chris Lindgren

    Kenneth was the man here at Morehead State for 4 years and you can thank Donnie Tyndall for having him ‘NBA Ready’ as you put it.

  • Ban Johnson

    We’ve seen some guy named Faried, but haven’t seen the Manimal this preseason. Here’s hoping we see him for 82 games. Critical.

    (sidenote: Harden trade opens things up a little for the Nuggets. OKC looking less scary this year. Nuggets with a 1 or 2 seed isn’t inconceivable, but they have to start putting it together fast.)

  • NGC

    I completely agree. I hope that the preseason loss streak is just a result of GK trying to get a feel for this team. But man I am excited about this trade for the Nuggets. Chemistry matters, and Harden was an Olympic gold medalist, I really think this was a huge mistake by the Thunder. Kevin Martin will not want to come off the bench as a sixth man in a contract year. Jeremy Lamb is unproven and we all know whether draft picks work out especially in the NBA depends on the year. I think this could be what the Nugs need to overcome the Thunder.

  • Z

    Joke a big JOKE 3rd best player on this team with NO SKILL SET just hustle cant shoot undersized and cant pass when its time for him to be paid you’ll see his value around the league had a good 66 game rookie season though the league will adjust to him now we will see what he does maybe 8 pts and 8 reb maybe

    • dynamo.joe

      No one ever said he was an offensively skilled player and that he had a 7 tool kit like Kevin McHale. But what you apparently fail to understand is it doesn’t matter if all you can do is dunk, as long as you keep dunking.

      Tip in, dunk, lay up, fade away jumper, up and under, dreamshake, they all count for just 2 pts.

    • https://twitter.com/denbutsu Joel

      Keep in mind that in making these rankings we are evaluating where things stand *right now*, and not projecting into the future. Given the huge impact Faried had on helping the Nuggets win games last season, placing him any lower would be downright criminal.

      Also, I really think “no skill set” is not a fair knock. Limited? Not diverse? I’d accept those. But rebounding, blocking out, speed and athleticism are skills. And I also agree with David Thorpe and Kurt Helin that energy is a skill (see: http://goo.gl/WndQ3) that Faried brings to the table in droves (as does Brewer, which is part of the reason he ended up ranked above players like Mozgov and Koufos — he brings ALL of it to every game he plays). As dynamo.joe said, nobody expects him to turn into McHale, but having even a narrow range of skills can be enough for success in the NBA provided the player really excels in those areas. And when it comes to Faried, he does.

  • DAN

    Z stick around my man. I want you to come back on here after the season and see what you have to say.

  • Landry

    I think our entire season is based entirely on how well Kenneth Faried can guard the post. If he can improve his passing sweet… but Iguodala is hurting for an enforcer in the paint. Say what you want about Elton Brand, but that dude was a big part of AI9′s 8.9 PER on SF last year. If Kenneth steps up his post defense, we’ll be able to get out of the first round.

  • Eddie

    Faried is smaller than the best 4′s in the league. I am worried that they will push him around and shoot over him. Hopefully he can develop into a strong defender, but size means a lot in the NBA.

    Charles Barkley was undersized and he had a pretty good career, so I am not giving up hope.

    I have been a Nuggets fan too long to give up hope. Remember the Westhead era? I sure do.

  • CJP32

    This PS, David Lee, Blake Griffin and Michael Beasley all killed Faried with jump shots. He needs to be able to know when to body up, or when to give space. He needs to sometimes ‘rough em up’, he seems a little to caring for me on the court.

    Denver isn’t relying on Faried to take them all the way, but when he plays hard and gets rebounds, blocks shots, good things happen. If he can develop a 15 footer, look out. But as long as he runs, defends, rebounds, dunks, thats all we need him to do right now.

  • Jeff

    I don’t think he’s a bad passer, and his IQ is higher than some people expect from a hustle player. But yes, he needs to work on defensive fundamentals.

    • https://twitter.com/denbutsu Joel

      I’m actually more concerned about his catching than his passing. IIRC it was Jeremy who first brought to my attention that he sometimes has pretty bad hands and fumbles some passes. It’s kind of strange, actually. He sure doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with the oops, but when he receives a pass in the low post, for example, he’ll botch some of those. When he turns the ball over, that’s the situation more often than not. Hopefully it’s more of a “rookie adjusting to the speed of the game” thing than a natural limitation, but I guess we’ll find out this season.

  • OriginalJakeSauce

    He’s equally enigma to JaVale. He’s young and positively impacts lots of games, but when he negatively impacts it’s in a whimpering fashion. I want him to foul hard. Dennis Rodman 2.0 is good enough for me. But if he developed a regular 10-15 foot spot up set shot he’s becomes really dangerous.

  • ben

    i’m not going to pretend like i think i know more about ball than the bloggers here at roundball, but this is just wrong. kenneth may be our 4th maybe 3rd most important piece for our future, but there are more than 3 better players on our team right now. he may make the plays that inflate his PER, but he consistently shows us that he doesn’t know where he is supposed to be on the floor, doesn’t know where the ball is when it’s being passed around the perimeter, and he doesn’t know what his teammates doing in a play. this goes for both ends of the floor.

    thats to be expected from a player, even an exceptional one, coming off his rookie season. but if he learns the mechanics of team ball and gets comfortable with the ball in his hands in the post, he’ll easily earn one of the top spots in the roster.