Monday Morning Point Guard
If the Nuggets want to stay in the playoff hunt, they need the Manimal to be an animal.
The Nuggets number one draft pick, Kenneth Faried, is Kenneth Fa-Real, already heavily contributing to the Nuggets playoff run.
Not only is he now starting as a rookie, but he also become essential to winning. When he balls hard, the Nugs generally win. When he doesn’t, they have struggled. Perfect example – the Nuggets back to back games against the Golden State Warriors a few games back.
In Game 1 on April 7th, Faried had 1 point and 4 rebounds on 0 of 2 shooting in 21 minutes of playing time. The Nugs echoed Faried’s lackluster effort, and lost 112-97.
In Game 2, just two days later and against the same team, the Manimal came to play, and spearheaded a Nuggets blowout. In 24 minutes of playing time, Faired scored 27 points on 12 of 18 shooting, and snatched a monstrous 17 rebounds. Inspired by his spirited play, the Nuggets ran the Warriors out of the gym 123-84. It was a career game for Faried, and it was a victory that righted the Nuggets playoff ship.
It is games like that make Masai Ujiri smile, because Faried was his first round pick last draft, and he is paying immediate dividends. The Morehead State product could barely find the floor in the beginning of the season, playing only 37 cumulative minutes in the first 23 games. Karl would only put him in garbage time. But injuries started to decimate the Nuggets front-line - Mozgov, Nene, Koufos, and Galinari all sustained substantial injuries. Karl, who is known for not playing rookies all that much, was forced to unleash the Manimal.
In a recent game against the Timberwolves on April 11th, Faried played 36 minutes, and recorded his 8th career double double. His 36 minutes marked a career high, and was a far cry from the 37 minutes he recorded in the first chunk of the season. His minutes are rising because his play is improving, and his play is improving because his minutes are rising. It’s a win-win situation for both the Nuggets and Faried.
Faried’s role has also naturally grown since the Nuggets jettisoned Nene to Washington. I bet the Nuggets front office had no problem shipping Nene, and his newly signed contract, when they saw the Manimal maturing in front of their eyes. I can’t blame Ujiri and company. It looks like a great trade that will only give Faried more confidence.
Who would you rather have? Nene, who is 29 years old, gets paid 13 million dollars a year, and sometimes lacks hustle. Or Faried, who is 22 years old, only gets paid 1.2 million dollars a year, and has more hustle than the Road Runner. It’s a no-brainer. He is younger, cheaper, stronger, has more cylinders in his engine, and more gas in the tank. Signing Nene was a No-no, but since Faried became For-real, it became completely logical to part ways with the Nuggets long time Brazilian big man.
Faried has massive upside. He jumps out of the gym, is wildly athletic, and is not afraid to dunk on you. His stats are not magnificent – 9.9 ppg and 7.4 rpg – but he is the type of hustle guy that makes plays that don’t show up in the stat sheet. Faried is constantly running the floor, chasing after loose balls, and grabbing gritty rebounds. He shoots a solid percentage from the floor (58%), and is only going to get better.
With just 6 games left in the season, and the Nuggets clinging to a playoff spot, nothing is for sure. But one thing we have discovered this season is that rookie Kenneth Faried is for real, and he should be a productive Nugget for a long time to come.
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