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Nuggets Year in Review: Kenneth Faried

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Denver's resident Manimal didn't have the greatest season of his career, leading to questions about his future role with a rebuilding team.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

By Gordon Gross

Kenneth Faried might be one of the most divisive players on the team and also most emblematic of the current Nuggets as a whole. He's straddling the divide between the Karl Nuggets with their running and rim-slamming antics (as well as their more one-dimensional approach to the game) and their new horizons. He was in the middle of some of the Shaw-coached team's issues, and now is trying to find his place as a 26 year old veteran on a team of youngsters in somewhat of a leadership role.

His on-court role hasn't changed much since he got to the league, though. He is the rim-running, dunk-throwing, shot-swatting, primal-screaming face of the franchise, for better or worse. Danilo Gallinari might be Denver's best player, but Kenneth Faried is its representative to the league and fans as a whole. He played in his fewest games since his rookie year due to some health struggles (who for Denver didn't have those this year?) but his base numbers are right about in line with his career averages. He remains a ferocious player with a chip on his shoulder about rebounding, as well as a defensive liability who struggled as badly as he ever has from the charity stripe.

With a game so full of plusses and minuses, proper deployment is a key to his success. Coach Michael Malone got off on a much better foot with Kenneth than his previous coach Brian Shaw, going back to Malone's first press conference and carrying through training camp. In return, Faried came out of the gate hard for him but was out of sync with his new young teammates for much of the early part of the year. Going from Ty Lawson on the break to Emmanuel Mudiay in the half court was a rough transition, not to mention his third scheme in four years. Faried came into the season talking a good game about defense, but Malone was not able to get him into the right positions for more success there either.

As the season went on, though, the Manimal seemed to find more cohesion with all the young talent, and his wild embrace of Mudiay after the youngster's block to seal the victory against the Mavericks in Faried's finest game of the year was a symbol of the new chemistry being built down the stretch. Faried's free throws were better after the All-Star break and his points and efficiency went up even as he played several fewer minutes per contest. It felt somewhat like an exploration of moving Faried to the bench, especially when Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic were allowed to take the court together in the starting lineup in April. Malone said that Faried was gracious about sitting to let them play together, even voicing his own interest in seeing how would turn out.

Maybe that's a sign of maturity from what is now one of the more seasoned Nuggets players. Faried is not likely to become more than the energy monster and rebounding demon he currently is, but in the right situation that's enough. Determining whether this remains the right situation for him is just one of the questions burning up Tim Connelly's offseason agenda, but Faried keeps showing that he will do what he does best. It's up to the team to take the most advantage of that.

Important Stat

By Gordon Gross

15.1%

That's Kenneth's offensive rebounding rate. Five players had a rate over 15%, and just three of them played more than 1000 minutes. Kenneth was one of those three. Faried is an absolutely elite offensive rebounder, and even in a league that has devalued the offensive rebound in recent years that's still an incredibly valuable skill. It helps his gravity on the offensive end even though he's no threat to shoot from outside five feet. Opposing teams have to dedicate someone to him in order to keep him from gobbling up boards and that helps Denver's spacing. The Manimal may have flaws, but his strengths are undeniable too.

Room for improvement

By Gordon Gross

We've been waiting for defensive improvements from Kenneth for years with little traction, so let's go a different way. Faried needs to improve his free throws. Getting offensive rebounds is a wonderful trait, but when you shoot 61.3% from the line (as Faried did this year) it makes it hard for your coach to trust you at the end of games. If Faried wants more minutes, then he needs to work on his free throws and not his three-point shooting.

Highlight

by Kayla Osby

If you're looking for a highlight from the Manimal, you're probably going to find either a powerful dunk or an athletic block. There were plenty of those to choose from this season, but one of the best ones came against the Oklahoma City Thunder, when Faried came flying in to swat a shot attempt from Kyle Singler.

Best Game of the Year

By Zach Mikash

This one's easy. Faried recorded just one 20-20 game this year and that was against the Dallas Mavericks on March 6. Faried had everything working for him on offense that night, the back door cuts, the drives down the lane, getting out on the fast break and even knocking down that awkward hook shot of his. With Zaza PAchulia rendered unavailable early on, the Mavs had only Dirk Nowitzki and David Lee as serviceable big men and neither could keep up with the Manimal.

Scoring wasn't all he did either. He absolutely feasted on the boards, especially on the offensive end. Out of his twenty rebounds, eleven were offensive and many resulted in easy putbacks/tip ins for Faried. He got it done on the defensive end as well, recording nine boards and two monster blocks (Chandler Parsons was never the same). He also forced overtime with his dunk with 3.3 seconds remaining...though we all know that sequence happened because of coach Malone's staunch sideline defense. When it was all said and done Faried posted twenty-five points and twenty rebounds and Denver got the win.

Roundtable

Most of Faried's advanced stats this season were up, yet his minutes were down. Does he deserve more minutes or is he at his best playing 25 mpg?

Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): Faried's perfect right around that twenty-five minute mark. His energy is a limited resource, just basic human physiology, but it's also his best asset. When he's fresh he's dynamic, but when he's sluggish he can be a liability. Also, with his defensive deficiencies you have to wonder how many minutes he can get when there's a good chance the coaches won't have him on the floor to close out a tight game.

Gordon Gross (GMoneyNuggs): Faried has always been in the 25-28 minute range, and I don't really see that changing. We've been waiting a few years to see if he can get more court minutes, but three head coaches have all felt he's at his best as the sparkplug and not as a 35 MPG grinder, and I agree. It doesn't matter to me whether he's starting or not - Faried isn't going to give you more than that 25-28 minutes. Use those minutes well.

Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): I'm fine with Faried getting 25 minutes a game. I think he didn't play as often this season because he was dealing with a back injury, but this should be his sweet spot. He can make an impact in a game with his offensive rebounding, and ability to roll towards the hoop in the pick and roll. He can be a supporter for his teammates, taking the next step as a leader for the team, and provide a lot of value. He was a starter on a 57 win team - why can't he help the Nuggets get to that level again?

Do you think Faried will improve as a player in the years to come or has he plateaued?

Mikash: The thing about players who have been in the league five years is they are who they are. There are a few exceptions, but that's a pretty good rule to go by. We had this argument over and over about J.R. Smith and guess what, he is who we thought he was. Faried's not much different. I don't think his post defense is likely to improve if it hasn't already, same goes for his post offense and mid-range shooting. He has a pretty high plateau all things considered, but it's still a plateau.

Gross: I think he is what he is. I believe energy is an underrated talent and Faried has it. I believe defense is a talent that Faried doesn't have enough interest in to improve significantly. All growth in a player's game happens because that player wants growth. Whether he is incapable of growing in his weak areas or he simply works on the things he already knows every summer, the result is the same: stagnation. Faried is terrific at what he does, but it's probably time to stop expecting him to be something he's not.

Lewis: In life, you're either improving or declining. I think that Faried should continue to improve as a defender with Michael Malone's tutelage, and players can always improve in the small things of the game: free throw shooting, passing, screening. I don't accept the theory that he's reached a plateau.

Should the Nuggets try to trade Kenneth Faried this summer?

Mikash: I'm not sure try to trade him is the right way to phrase it, but be open to any offers and certainly make some calls to get a feel for what you could get. Personally, I think they will trade him because of his value, his notoriety and his contract gets better every year until it runs out with the expanding salary cap. Outside of Gallo and maybe Nurkic (I'm not counting Emmanuel Mudiay or Nikola Jokic here) Faried probably can net you the biggest return and you've got the ability to replace him pretty quickly. Try to trade? No. Be willing to trade for a fair deal? Absolutely.

Gross: I agree with Zach: trying to trade him and being willing to move him to improve the team are two different things. He's not Nate Robinson or JaVale McGee or Ty Lawson. He can absolutely be a good piece of a contender here if he fits what we're building. He can also be moved if it will help us acquire a better player or a better fit. I expect Denver to listen to a lot of offers on Faried, and I think more teams will be interested in him with all this extra cash to spend. His skills and his salary become much more viable off the bench with the skyrocketing salary cap. Of course, they're valuable to us for exactly the same reason. It all depends on how we finish out this roster and what parts we have to move in order to get better.

Lewis: One of the first things that is brought up when discussing Faried is his contract. His contract doesn't play basketball. It doesn't rebound. It doesn't defend. It doesn't score. Is it the best use of funds? Probably not. But the Nuggets paid their starting power forward and center (that received the majority of starts) about $12.5 million this season. Add in the salaries for Arthur and Nurkic, and the price is about $17 million. That's not an outlandish figure, especially as the salary cap continues to rise.

Why do I mention that? While I had been on the "trade Faried" train, I've seen gotten off that and have boarded the "keep Faried" train. Most of the trades that might be available don't make the Nuggets immediately better. The Nuggets aren't looking to acquire assets that will deliver two or three years down the road for a rebuild that has already started. It's going to be hard to move Faried for equal value (what even IS his value?) so for now, it's best to just hold onto him. If the Nuggets can trade him in a package for a player like Serge Ibaka or Blake Griffin, I would be excited for that. But if not, let's see what he can do as a Denver Nugget.