If I were to ask coaches who coach at the University level what type of post player they would most covet, they would describe an athlete that would run hard rim to rim, set physical screens, dive for loose balls, and clean the glass to initiate the fast break. Kenneth Faried is all of these things, but trying to figure out how he has fallen out of favour in Denver is a perplexing dive into the unknown.
Coach Malone, now going into his 4th season at the helm of the youthful Nuggets has stated, while the team was on a hot streak in November this past season, that Faried “isn’t part of the rotation right now… why would I play him over Lyles and Jokic?” I agree with that he should not play over Jokic and I would also argue that Jokic and Faried would be a poor modern NBA combo because of poor foot speed defensively on switches and a bogged down half court offense. Jokic’ specialty is making playing in the dribble hand off and pick and roll game and Faried would have to sit out at the three-point line which would not suit his skill set. He has to be the screener to be effective.
Jokic is perfect when the four other players on the floor can shoot. But I would differ from Coach Malone’s interpretation that Faried, Lyles and Jokic can be lumped into the same category. To me Faried could be the perfect compliment to backing up Jokic and playing with the inexperienced Trey Lyles. Adding grit and toughness to a second unit that lost a bit of that flare when Will Barton was forced into the starting 5 with Gary Harris’ injury.
Having Faried on the second unit playing 15-20 mins a game, and being the playmaking 5 man as jokic’ backup would work if Denver surrounded him with 4 shooters and he had to auto roll to the rim. If the defense switched onto Faried, he’s skilled enough to take advantage. It would be hard to argue against Faried not flourishing with that alignment. His rim running expertise is also good for 1 or 2 dunks per shift, especially if the opposing team has a Clydesdale for a 5 man lumbering beside him.
Faried’s ability to out work his opponent, coming from his days as an undersized 5 man at Morehead State University is still probably top 10 in the league.. Heart and Hustle may not appear on an analytics sheet but ask the Rockets if they could have survived without PJ Tucker in the playoffs, or Boston without Aaron Baynes.
Faried also has the ability to be a versatile defender with his ability to switch on pick and roll in emergency situations, and again it would be against the second unit. Jokic also needs to hover in the low 30’s of mins per game as he tends to wear down as the game winds down, indicated by his 4th quarter production from this past season. He needs to have proper rest to flourish down the stretch because he has so much offensive responsibility.
So what is it? Why is he buried on the end of the 9th seeded Nuggets’ bench? Is he over paid? Annually he makes 12.5 million per season which is less than many of the Clydesdales that he’d be up against. Bismack Biyombo who is a similar type player to Faried, who is an above average undersized shot blocker but also, like Faried, is sub par from the free throw line, and can’t shoot from distance. I would argue that at his best, Biyombo has only once pulled a Faried type of performance in 2016 eastern conference finals against the Cavs, playing with the Raptors. Faried again offers similar value to Biyombo but costs 6 million dollars less, but then again it is Orlando and they once traded Tobias Harris for a bag of peanuts and Brandon Jennings, who the Pistons then traded as the centrepiece of the Blake Griffin deal. Essentially the Magic could have traded Harris for Griffin, who for better worse is better than Jennings and Ilyasova.
I love players who compete and play, play with a motor and hustle for every loose ball. To me these energy plays that don’t show up on analytics are imperative to winning. If Faried doesn’t communicate on defense, is a bad teammate, shows up late to practice and argues with his coach in the dressing room, then he deserves this fate. If he doesn’t do these things, then there’s something wrong here. Somethings missing, there is still room in the modern NBA for players like Faried who carry what is now viewed as a bargain contract compared to other NBA centres like Biyombo.