This season could be a make-or-break year for Kenneth Faried‘s future with the Denver Nuggets. The third-year power forward has plenty of competition this season after the Nuggets brought in Darrell Arthur and JJ Hickson this summer. With a new coach at the helm in Brian Shaw, all starting positions are up for grabs, which means that Faried will have to step up if he wants to keep his spot.
Faried is not a great defender in the post. He is best at getting blocks off the weak side and is a great rebounder, but as Nuggets fans remember from Marcus Camby‘s tenure in Denver, that does not make him a great defender. He also has a very limited offensive game, which puts him at a disadvantage in the halfcourt system that Shaw is implementing. His offensive repertoire is primarily dunks, most often off of fastbreak opportunities.
The previous chart demonstrates this point as 85.2%, or 587 out of 689 of the shots Faried took last season were at the basket, which is above the league average.
This second chart shows Faried’s hot zones as a player and as you can see, he makes slightly more than half of his shots at the rim, which is right at the league average. Faried does not possess a jump shot in his arsenal, which would make him more valuable in Shaw’s halfcourt offense. This makes him easier to defend in a halfcourt setting as opponents just need to draw him out of the paint.
“The Manimal” is a special player because of his energy, which can single-handedly change the flow of a game. Unfortunately, Faried has not shown the ability to bring that same energy when he has come off of the bench for the Nuggets. That inability to be productive off the bench could find Faried on his way out of Denver if he should lose his starting spot. Fans would miss Faried as he has become a fan-favorite due to his high-flying dunks and abundance of energy.
Another weakness of Faried’s game is his free throw shooting – he is a career .633 shooter from the charity stripe. This will make Shaw think twice about inserting Faried into the lineup late in close games as teams will implement the “Hack-a-Manimal strategy and this will obviously hurt the team. Faried’s main competition for the starting minutes is Hickson, who is only a slightly better free throw shooter at .672 for his career. The best free throw shooter at the power forward spot is Arthur at .737 lifetime, which could give him the edge in crunch time.
Although he is a fan-favorite, it should not come as a surprise if Faried is moved before the trade deadline. This especially holds true if Hickson wins the starting job and if Faried struggles in a reserve role. Hickson and Arthur also hold size advantages over Faried as they are 6’9. Faried is only 6’6 without shoes, which makes him the size of a typical NBA shooting guard. Most NBA power forwards are between 6’9 and 6’11 which explains some of his defensive deficiencies. A Faried deal is also very likely since he will be seeking a big money contract extension in the near future.
In addition to the position battles, players are also essentially battling to stay on this team as Shaw told Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post:
“(Nuggets GM) Tim (Connelly) and I are in the same situation, where we weren’t here before,” Shaw said. “In that regard, we don’t have any allegiance really to anybody on this team. So it’s an audition. It’s open competition. There’s competition at every position on the team. That’s a tough conversation to have when it comes time to have it. This training camp will determine a lot of that.”
Whatever happens this season for the Nuggets, one thing that is for sure is that Faried is at a crossroads in his tenure with Denver. The Nuggets need a stretch four that can knock down jumpers and keep the defense honest in order to succeed in Shaw’s offense.