Faried is doing his thing at the World Cup and that’s good for the Nuggets

As some of you may have noticed, the FIBA World Cup is currently in full swing in Spain, and Team USA has, at the time of this writing, won its first four games. Apart from a subpar first half against Turkey, the US has rolled relatively pain-free through these games, despite having lost a lot of big names in the build-up to the tournament.

One player who has particularly benefited from players like Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin bowing out of this summer’s USA squad is the Denver Nuggets’ very own Kenneth Faried. Originally predicted to be an outsider for the 12-man selection, he became all but a lock for the team once the biggest stars started dropping out of the squad, each for their own reasons.

But Faried was suddenly thrust from possibly being a bit player – if selected at all – into a starting role on a squad seemingly made up of a B or C-selection of players. His job description had quickly changed from being “The Energy Guy Off The Bench” to “Principal Low-Post Player”.

But four games in, Faried is thriving. And what’s more, he’s done so through doing what he always does; hustle, run, rebound and hustle some more.

Even though this US squad is not the Dream Team reincarnated, it’s still made up of a tremendous amount of talent. The veteran leadership is provided by former MVP Derrick Rose, the backcourt is led by two of the game’s best shooters, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson along with an energized Kyrie Irving, while budding superstar Anthony Davis holds court down low with Faried and talented headcase DeMarcus Cousins. Then there is offensive phenom (and defensive black hole) James Harden, the criminally underrated DeMar DeRozan, the criminally overrated Rudy Gay and promising youngsters Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee.

But let’s focus on Faried.

Watching the games has been a fascinating experience for a Nuggets fan like myself, because Faried doesn’t seem to care where he is or who he’s playing with – or against. He goes out with that seemingly endless energy and goes all Manimal on the opponent until he’s pulled off again. While most other players on the team are used to being the focal point of the team, and therefore have had to adjust their game with Team USA, Faried has had the advantage of just going out and doing his thing. He sets picks, gets offensive rebounds (4.0 per game so far, thankyouverymuch), provides effective low-post defense, closing lanes on defense and opening them on offense, waiting to pick up the scraps or getting a handoff whenever he gets open.

And he’s done all that extremely effectively. True, the opposition isn’t NBA Playoff-level (or NBA level at all at times), but the way he compares to his teammates still provides a measuring stick for Nuggets fans. It’s been abundantly obvious that he’s a much better player than Andre Drummond at the current point in time, he is more reliable than Cousins and thrives especially well with a tall player next to him in the low post. Seeing him lurk around Anthony Davis, diverting defenders off him or getting open whenever Davis is double-teamed shows how well he can work with a tall center next to him. While Timofey Mozgov will never be another Anthony Davis, this interplay shows an essence of things Brian Shaw should be noting down.

He’s also being more composed, however that’s possible, in his seemingly manic, disruptive style on the floor. He breaks down defenses not by crossovers or post-up plays, but by off-ball screens and backdoor cuts, with increasing regularity. One particular instance from the game with Turkey shows a subtle evolution in Faried’s game as well, where he blocked a layup, but instead of swatting it into the stands, he bounced it off the backboard, picked up his own rebound and immediately passed it up-court. He then sauntered down the weakside sideline, dived in behind the defense, received a pass and finished an acrobatic reverse layup with extreme finesse and a soft touch.

He does have the luxury of only having to play for 20 to 22 minutes a game so far, but he is using the World Cup to show he’s becoming an even more efficient player than before. He knows his strengths, and plays to those, while subtly expanding his game. And against Turkey, when USA found itself down at half-time, Faried was an outright leader in bringing them back and finishing the game off in impressive fashion.

He’s the team’s second-leading scorer with 14.8 points per game and the leading rebounder with 7.8 rebounds per game. He’s shooting a mind-bending .784 from the field (those are mostly dunks, of course), and has hit the only free throw he’s taken so far. He has the highest efficiency rating of anyone on the team.

What all this will mean for his upcoming extension is still unknown, but he’s certainly not hurting his stock. He hasn’t been perfect, mind you. I’ve seen him miss defensive rotations and he still struggles with positioning at times on both ends, but he is visibly working on his fundamentals, showing good footwork and honing his shark-like talent for rebounding. Also, he seems to be a good student, as his team awareness on defense seems to be improved under Mike Kryzewski and Tom Thibodeau on Team USA.

Faried will face a tougher test in the coming week, as stronger opponents lie ahead, especially if they get into what will very likely be a Spain-USA showdown to decide the title. There he’ll get the unenviable task of slowing down the Gasols and Serge Ibaka, something he’s struggled with so far in his career.

If he shows the same sort of effort and efficiency throughout the World Cup as he has so far, it will be very difficult for Josh Kroenke and Tim Connelly to keep his next contract under $10 million a year, though, something that has been mentioned as a potential problem for contract negotiations. But even if he’ll get $10-12 million a year, I believe he’ll be worth it. He’s proving himself as an effective scorer who doesn’t need any plays drawn up for him, standing tall among players who have often been rated above him in the NBA pecking order and showing tangible leadership on a young USA team. He’s also showing himself to be the sort of personality who won’t go for a delusional Bledsoe-type contract hunt, so I believe he’ll take a contract at $10-12 million. Even if he’ll be deemed too expensive for whatever plans the Nuggets have in a year’s time or two (for whatever reason), his reputation is becoming such, through his showing at the World Cup, that trading him for very valuable assets should prove very easy.

But if this World Cup has told me anything so far, it’s that I don’t want to trade him at all. Not even at $12 million a year.

Have you been following the World Cup? What’s your impression of Team USA and Kenneth Faried? Tell us.

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Erlingur Einarsson is a sports fan, a Denver Nuggets follower since 1991 and a proud writer for Roundball Mining Company. He is also a culture blogger and reviewer in his own online kingdom, weirtopia, as well as a Production Editor for Imagine Publishing. At any time of day, you can find him digging through NBA box scores on his laptop, watching a bad film in a half-empty cinema, trying to be clever on Twitter (@erlingureinars) or ranting about books, films or music on weirtopia.com to no one in particular.

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  • wij

    If he was ever to get traded I’d probably have to include myself in the trade and start following a new team. Seems like a good kid who plays for all the right reasons. He’s a joy to watch and be a fan of.

    • Bobo

      I for one wouldn’t follow the nuggets half as closely were it not for faried. I have no local teams to follow, watched 10 minutes of a morehead state game his senior year, and I was hooked. It’s great to watch somebody who looks and plays like a maniac, without playing a dirty game.

  • GRRR

    if gordon hayward can get the max, faried can get the max

  • jonnyb

    I had my sons 9 month picture taken two weeks ago, and he is sporting his brand new 1 year old Faried Jersey (gold of course)!

    Favorite player, playing his personal best.

    Lock him up with Ty as your 2 long term investments (Big 2) and build around them.

    Only those 2 contracts should go beyond the next 2 seasons (all others off the books by then)

    Awesome job Manimal!

  • gimpcom187

    He’s been playing great. The few minutes I have watched them play (Team USA group draw and mexico match are like watching Duke play division 2) he’s doing everything you expect of manimal. And as the others have said his energy is infectious.

    See below From Lowe at Grantland. i swear Its not me. Pretty much the exact thing a few of us “pessimists” have been saying.

    My answer is the same as 4 months ago: Offer him 4-5 years at 7-10 per year and then let him come to the market assuming he doesn’t take it. Match if it is palatable.

    “12. Faried has been outstanding, and the great Fran Fraschilla will joke at least once a game that Faried’s agent must be thrilled watching this and calculating his next counteroffer to the Nuggets in Faried’s extension talks.

    But I’m not sure how much of Faried’s excellence in this tournament should apply to those talks. He wouldn’t have made the team had the best U.S. guys deigned to play, and the medium-size gap in athleticism between the NBA and teams like Ukraine and New Zealand is a chasm when it comes to Faried’s specific skills.

    He’s one of the NBA’s 10 best offensive rebounders, but leaping for boards against sub-NBA athletes (who are still quite good, by the way) makes him look like Moses Malone with hops. He’s snagging putbacks in this tournament that just won’t be there in the NBA. His usual speed edge is magnified in FIBA; no one has been able to keep up with him running the floor. His speed-based post-up game, which blossomed last season, looks unstoppable against defenders who can’t track his spin moves or get off the ground in time to challenge his pogo-stick jump hook.

    Faried is a good NBA player who has earned himself a big contract. But the NBA limitations are still there, and his FIBA play shouldn’t impact the talks with Denver — even if Faried’s agents will aggressively introduce it.”

  • mike gomez

    its more likey he ends up getting derrick favors type money

  • Nugman

    Faried’s value is going through the roof. I’m not sure this is good for the Nuggets. They will have to give him a max deal now to keep him.

    I remember how a certain Nuggets head coach last season said his players were a bunch of children who didn’t play hard and couldn’t learn to play defense properly. Of course, as Erlingur points out, the team USA coaches don’t appear to have that problem with Nuggets players. So, was it the Nugget players or the HC last season with the problem?

    • mike gomez

      well the usa coaches are not coaching last years team, just one player. shaw never question faried effort on the court. also easier to hide faried weakness when he is playing alongside davis and multiple star players. just say shaw was the problem, i know that what your trying to say

      • Native Nugget

        Agreed, Faried has always been recognized for his hustle, Shaw is no exception. His areas for improvement have been consistent and clear. Coach Krzyz acknowledged outright that Faried had a subpar defensive skill set, the difference is that he stated strong optimism in Faried’s FUTURE as a good defender.
        Before throwing Shaw under the bus for being the “problem” with Faired’s development, consider that Faried stated clearly through the early part of last season his head wasn’t in good shape due to trade rumors and a new coach. By his own reporting, once he bought in he was able to trust Shaw and learn. That’s when he averaged 18 and 10 after the all-star break.

        • mike gomez

          i agree, but not to nugget man, who try to dig at shaw every time with fair reason.

    • Cullen

      Wait, Nugman really reaching for a way to criticize Shaw on a post that has less than 0 to do with Shaw? No way.

      USA coaches didn’t have that problem with Nuggets players? Team USA has ONE Nugget player, Faried, who has never REALLY been criticized for effort. But even if, when Shaw made those comments the team was being lazy and was playing poor defense.

      I’d rather have a coach that calls out his team than somebody who gets walked over.

      You can’t HONESTLY look at the film from last year and tell me the players were not a contributing factor to their demise. If you think it’s all on Shaw (kinda how your post makes it sound) you know way less about basketball than I’ve been giving you credit for. Obviously Shaw had his problems… but c’mon man putting it 100% on him is ignorant and asinine.

      Also, I do agree with you to a certain degree that his performance is jacking up his price, which makes it difficult for the Nuggets… but you have to realize the benefit for the Nuggets. We are never going to get a superstar player..at least not through free agency. Why not cherish a blossoming player the Nuggets have developed who could potentially become that? Your pessimism makes me wonder how the Nuggets are ever supposed to compete minus you asserting that Karl is the only way the Nuggets could ever be successful… I get that you don’t like Shaw… but is complaining about it on the internet at every opportunity really a productive, useful, and thoughtful way of engaging in discussion? I dont think so.

    • slugdugg

      Melo played awesome defense in the Olympics

      /dropsmic

  • heykyleinsf

    this is awesome.
    He has had nothing but doubters all the way.
    He just keeps on shattering the low ceiling all these people put on him.
    Keep rolling Manimal!!

  • Native Nugget

    I’m a selfish fan, in that I want to reward Faried for his efforts and bank on his continued development, but I want to save money on him for the sake of the whole team. Would love it if we nabbed him for around $9mil at this point but the Team USA notoriety is likely to give his agent too much leverage. I’m more impressed with what Faried did to end the season against NBA teams than what he’s done so far against lower tiered world cup teams.

  • Aaron Durkin

    There is no way that playing for team USA, being coached by coach K and thebs is not great for the development of Faried. He grew a ton last season and this season I see him being quicker on D rotations and having a higher off IQ.

    In a unrelated note did any else see Ty’s James harden cowboy D tweet. That was fantastic!!!

    • Native Nugget

      Saw the tweet. Fricken hilarious!

  • Thomas O’Neill

    I think he has peaked. He’s not a guy you can build a championship around, so I’d trade him while his stock is at its highest.

  • Furious_Stylez

    After his great play in the FIBA World Cup, the Nuggets should call his agent right now and offer 4yrs-$48m (w/ a player option on year 4). Faried is a double-double machine, a fan favorite drafted by Denver, a good person off the court, and stays healthy. I know his defense is horrible and he has no jump shot whatsoever, but his energetic style of post play is effective in the NBA (and the FIBA World Cup).

    This F.W.C exposure raised his profile quite a bit and if he became a free agent, the Nuggets could lose him to a higher bidder. If McGee, who had not proven to be a consistently good NBA C at the time of his contract, can get 4yrs-$44m (Gigantic Ujiri FAIL), Faried can easily demand more and deserves it from Denver.