Thrust into a bigger role with Team USA this summer, Kenneth Faried thrived — he was the glue guy, the energy guy on a team full of stars, and when the defenses focused on those bigger names he picked up a lot of easy buckets and rebounds going against the kind of competition he could overwhelm with athleticism.
That — plus a very impressive last couple months of the previous season — raised his stock and Denver responded with a four-year, $50 million contract extension.
All of that was expected to catapult Faried into his best season as a professional, one where he could lead a finally healthy Nuggets team, and…, well, Chris Dempsey at the Denver Post asked Faried to describe his play and he said:
“I just haven’t been playing my game,” Faried said. “I know it. My teammates know it. My coaches know it. Hopefully, this month of December, I turn everything around. But for me, it’s awful. You’ve got to be able to look at yourself, look at the man in the mirror and say that to yourself. And be able to correct yourself.”
What needs correcting?
“Everything,” he said. “Everything.”
Faried is shooting less often and hitting a lower percentage of his shots (although he’s still at 50 percent shooting). The challenge is that, unlike the end of last season when injuries had ravaged the Nuggets, there are a lot of good offensive players on this team now — Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler. That’s a lot of people to feed and just one ball. Faried is getting few touches, although there are designed plays for him in the post. He’s just not doing enough with them.
This has seemed to create a malaise though his entire game. He’s not been the same guy on the glass, the guy that vacuums up everything in sight, he’s still a good rebounder but not dominant. That is what coach Brian Shaw has told him to focus on more.
But as the Nuggets have slowed their pace down more lately it gets away from what Faried does best — run the floor, use his athleticism and energy to overwhelm opponents. What the Nuggets are doing now is working for the team, which has won six of seven and climbed back up to .500, but Faried has been up and down (he had a good game in the most recent win over Phoenix).
Faried needs to find a way to fit in with what is working. Even if that means a bit of a reboot on his game. He’s not the offensive focal point but his energy is a key part of what the Nuggets need to win.