Every year around this time ESPN introduces its annual #NBArank series codifying all 500 players in the NBA from least to most valuable. Last year Roundball Mining Company decided to get in on the action and began ranking each of the players on the Denver Nuggets’ final 15-man roster in the same fashion. We’ve polled all seven of our writers, asking them to arrange each player on the Nuggets roster from one to 15 (one being the best, 15 the least valuable), then we added everyone’s scores together to come up with a single, definitive list of the 15 “most valuable” Denver Nuggets. Kenneth Faried comes in at No. 4, maintaining his ranking from last year.
It’s hard not to love Faried, who in many ways has become the heart and soul of the Nuggets. With his unbridled energy and enthusiasm on the court, his fearlessness and ravenousness in crashing the boards against larger opponents, and his brazen joy for playing the game of basketball, he is truly a pleasure to watch.
Yet there is still plenty of room and need for the development of his game, and 2013-14 will be a pivotal season in Faried’s career. Now entering the third year of his rookie contract, the young fan favorite will endeavor to prove that he is worthy of a lucrative long-term extension. And in order to accomplish that goal, he will need to show more signs of improvement than he did last season.
Compared to his first year, Faried’s per-36 and advanced numbers declined in nearly every relevant statistical category – albeit not too dramatically. His true shooting percentage dropped from .618 to .573, his rebound rate from 19.8 to 18.3, his PER from 21.9 to 18.5, and his win shares per 48 minutes from .212 to .167.
Of course, to a certain extent this slippage is within the margin of what could be reasonably expected given his greatly increased role. Last season Faried played more than double the minutes and started in over twice as many games than he had as a rookie. As such, it would have been more surprising than not if he hadn’t come down to earth a little. But it does leave the door open to the question of how much more upside he really has left on tap.
This season he’ll have the chance to synthesize the best of his first two years by recouping his more elevated rookie efficiency while continuing his expanded role. However, with the arrival of J.J. Hickson and Darrell Arthur, he will be facing increased competition for precious minutes and the starting power forward job. In order to stay atop the depth chart at the four, he will need not only to at least maintain (if not improve upon) his current production, but also find a way to rectify some of his weaknesses and perhaps add a new dimension to his game.
Chris Dempsey reported in the Denver Post that Faried worked on addressing one such weakness over the offseason by focusing on improving his free throw shooting. It’s encouraging news, and if his efforts were to pay off it would be a great step in the right direction, as he could both improve his offensive efficiency and become less of a liability in late game situations. He will hopefully benefit as well from what appears to be Brian Shaw’s intention to shift away from the switch-heavy defensive schemes of George Karl, which Faried struggled to learn and execute, and towards a more conventional system.
If Faried can make even nominal improvements in these areas, he’ll be that much closer to locking down that big extension, and in the process will be able to contribute more significantly to the Nuggets’ success this season, and well into the future.
15. Anthony Randolph
14. Quincy Miller
13. Timofey Mozgov
12. Jordan Hamilton
11. Randy Foye
10. Darrell Arthur
9. J.J. Hickson
8. Andre Miller
7. Evan Fournier
6. Nate Robinson
5. JaVale McGee
4. Kenneth Faried