The writing had been on the wall after the Nuggets offseason; Kenneth Faried may be expendable.
After all Denver brought in JJ Hickson, Darrell Arthur and a coach who liked to play in a system that doesn’t fit the skills that Faried has.
Finally on Monday afternoon Zach Lowe made it public that the Nuggets had been shopping Faried behind the scenes and made a prediction that Denver would in fact move the Manimal before the end of the season.
On the surface the idea doesn’t make a lot of sense.
After all, Faried absolutely impacts a game more than Hickson and Arthur even without the skillset that either player possesses. Faried is also the face of the Nuggets, the best player Denver has that is willing to be marketed since Ty Lawson likes to stay quiet and under the radar.
But a deeper look reveals a few things that make the idea of trading Faried at least understandable and many of them have to do with the way Brian Shaw and Josh Kroenke are shaping the Nuggets organization.
Make no mistake the Nuggets are done running up and down the floor like they had in the past, instead Denver will be playing slow and through the post. Shaw hasn’t hidden this idea at all and a few of his quotes from this preseason have made me wonder what his feelings on Faried are.
Take for instance these two paragraphs from Matt Moore of the Eye on Basketball blog, including a quote from Shaw:
Shaw was asked after the game if there’s a point where Faried’s energy and raw ability to make things happen with his play overcomes the gap in his polish. Shaw responded by talking in general terms instead of singling out Faried, but…
“I know that’s the main thing our bigs can bring,” Shaw said, “our energy. We’re not as polished as a lot of bigs in the post in terms of throwing the ball to them with their back to the basket and them going to get a bucket for us. But that’s the way we have to play, and they just have to get used to doing it that way, because that’s how we’re going to do it.
That doesn’t exactly reek of Shaw being a Faried fan, or even someone that thinks Faried can work in his system. And in all honestly Faried probably doesn’t.
The Manimal gets his offense in one general way, running at the rim and hoping the ball finds him once he gets there. According to mysynergysports Faried got 65.7 percent of his offense from a combination of three ways: 29.2 percent off cuts, 19.9 percent on offensive rebounds, and 16.6 percent in transition. Every single one of those things takes a similar skill for Faried to be successful, an ability to find open space, but in Shaw’s offense that won’t be his role. Shaw wants his bigs to play in one of two spots, the elbow or the block and use some type of isolation style move to get themselves a bucket. Faried can’t.
When those transition opportunities dry up, and again they will, where does Faried go for offense? Last season he posted up on only 5.1 percent of his possessions and shot a dreadful 35.9 percent in those situations and this preseason he hasn’t exactly looked more comfortable in the post. Defensively things aren’t much better as Faried struggles to make the proper rotation often, and gives up his fair share of big nights to opponents.
Yet despite all his flaws there isn’t a power forward on the Denver roster who can change a game in the way Faried can, as he showed in the third preseason game when he went back to doing the things he is successful at and went off for 22 points in 10-12 shooting with nine rebounds in only 20 minutes.
The problem for Faried is that most of the trade rumors probably are less related to his production and more related to two big, looming questions.
First, what exactly is Kenneth Faried worth? That is the question Denver has to figure out an answer to and soon, as Faried is due for a contract extension in the next year and according to Steve Kyler of Hoopsworld he is looking to cash in with a “monster contract”. The Nuggets need to decide if they value Faried as much as he values himself, while also trying to keep long term flexibility.
Right now entering the 2016-2017 season the Nuggets have two players under contract, Ty Lawson who would be entering the final year of his deal, and Evan Fournier, who would be a restricted free agent due at least a qualifying offer. So Denver ultimately needs to decide who is more important to their future between JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Faried. Can they tie up massive long term money in a player they aren’t sure fits the way they want to play and is ultimately best situated to be the third or fourth best player on a good team?
The other part of the Faried decision isn’t about Faried at all but instead about how willing Kroenke would be to accept and admit a mistake. It is clear now that a big part of the reason George Karl was fired is that he wasn’t willing to play JaVale McGee a lot of minutes. So Josh pushed him out the door, giving the keys of the organization to Shaw and in all reality McGee.
That is a big problem for Faried. It is well known and documented that since the two players arrived in Denver the Nuggets have had very little extended success with both players on the floor together. What happens if that trend continues this season? Does Josh push Faried out the door so that he can have more time to prove that JaVale was worth all the chaos and upheaval?
That is what makes this question so hard to answer. In the end the decisions to be made aren’t about the impact Faried makes this season, it is what Denver thinks he can become, what he is worth and ultimately what they think the answer to the Faried/JaVale question is.
The trade may not come this year, as there just isn’t one that makes a lot of sense right now, but I’m not sure Faried lasts in Denver past next season because I think the Nuggets ultimately choose the player they have already significantly backed in McGee.
So enjoy Faried for every minute he steps on the floor this season, it may just be his last in powder blue and gold.