Last season Kenneth Faried came in on a high — he had been the full Manimal for Team USA at the World Cup, and he rode that to a four-year, $50 million extension. But while Coach K liked and knew how to use Faried, Brian Shaw was a different story. Shaw asked Faried to do things on offense he couldn’t do well, kept changing his role, and the coach was understandably frustrated with Faried’s defense, so he jerked his minutes around. With that Faried’s trademark energy came and went.
Faried looked better under interim coach Melvin Hunt (after Shaw was let go), averaging 15.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and shooting 52.5 percent in the final 19 games of the season. Faried showed off an improved post-up game and that fueled his famous energy on the glass and around the court. New Nuggets coach Mike Malone needs to harness that Faried, the one Coach K found (although that USA team was loaded with other players that were a higher priority for defenses, giving Faried space to operate). If the Nuggets are going to get out and run more (as Malone has said) then Faried should thrive, he can finish the break or sprint to the post and be effective either way.
“My defense, I’ve focused on that,” Faried said in a phone interview from Johannesburg, where he played in NBA Africa Game 2015 on Saturday. “I’ve been watching film on guys that I consider my toughest matchups, and I’ve been able to dissect them so that when the season comes around I’m able to guard those players — and become the player I want to be, and that’s hopefully defensive player of the year one day and first-team all-defense.”
Faried has the physical tools to be a solid defender, but the manic energy that served him well on the other end of the court was both missing and just misguided on defense. It improved last season, and if Faried can continue to turn that around he becomes a much more valuable player.
And a more valuable trade asset.
Faried was shopped around all summer, and you can be sure Denver isn’t done seeing if there is a suitor for him. The Nuggets want a locker room culture change and moving Ty Lawson was just step one, Faried could be on the move as well. He makes a lot of money and is an undersized four — one who has started to show he can be more than an energy glue guy — and the Nuggets think there will be a market for him.
In the past, when Faried has been on the trade block his play has noticeably dipped — he’s not been able to compartmentalize his life and keep the off-the-court stuff from impacting his play on it. Maybe he has matured and gotten used to that side of the NBA business.
Malone got the most out of DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento, he may be able to do the same for Faried. If so his trade value goes up — as will the difficulty of the decision for the Nuggets because maybe he will fit with their future.
Especially if his defense improves.