Fantasy Focus: Kenneth Faried

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The Kenneth Faried situation is an interesting one for fantasy owners. He was a no-brainer draft pick this year, albeit not top-level, but things haven’t exactly panned out as expected.

Faried was a shining star for Team USA last summer. His contributions were so instrumental in USA capturing gold in the FIBA World Cup tournament that he became a strong contender to nab the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. It ended up going to Kyrie Irving. Faried was a difference-maker, jolting the team with fire and boundless energy when they needed it most. He averaged 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds and recorded a tournament-best 63.7 percent from the field (51-of-80). In the end, Faried joined teammate Irving on the all-tournament team, along with Serbia’s Milos Teodosic, France’s Nicolas Batum and Spain’s Pau Gasol. Not bad for a player who was no lock to even make the USA roster.

Just two weeks later, Faried started training camp with the Denver Nuggets as still-fresh World Cup accolades circled him. A four-year, $50 million contract extension soon followed with Faried stepping into the face-of-the-franchise role and returning as a fan favorite. Immersed in all this positivity, Faried was poised for a breakout 2014-15 season in the NBA.

Only it hasn’t turned out that way.

Instead of posting increased numbers this season, Faried’s stats have decreased in just about every category. Let’s compare:

2013-14: In 80 games, he averaged 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks, 5.6 field goals made at .545 and 2.5 free throws at .650 in 27.2 minutes.

2014-15: In 19 games, he’s averaging 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks, 4.4 field goals made at .512 and 2.2 free throws at .672 in 25.6 minutes.

To be fair, 11.1 points and 6.7 rebounds are nothing to ridicule – it’s just that we thought they would be higher, certainly higher than last year based on how the season ended. There was a decided turning point in Faried’s game after the All-Star Break last year, and those who drafted him (including this writer) expected a continuance of those type of numbers. Prior to the All-Star Break, Faried averaged 10.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in 24.7 minutes. Following the All-Star Break, he posted averages of 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds in 31.2 minutes. That’s the Faried owners want back.

Suffice to say, it’s been a time of change within the Nuggets’ organization since the 2013 departure of George Karl (head coach for nine years) and front-office executives Masai Ujiri and Pete D’Alessandro. Denver hasn’t found their groove or identity with a current 9-10 record. Coach Brian Shaw has his hands full trying to manage a team with an abundance of depth, which is translating to players fighting for minutes. Chemistry and game flow are issues while defense has been the key issue with a 26th league ranking in points allowed per possession. The Manimal, in particular, has rarely been known for his defensive acumen.

Faried’s per-36 minute numbers aren’t bad (15.6 points and 9.4 rebounds), which would typically be a notable takeaway; however, will Faried ever get a good amount of playing time? Thus far, the answer appears to be no. Ty Lawson (36.1 mpg) is the only player garnering more than 30.6 minutes. At this point, an injury seems to be the only scenario in which additional minutes could open up for Faried.

Then there’s the other issue of reported discord between Faried and the organization and perhaps a case of buyer’s remorse. Trade talk involving his name continues to swirl. Owners would be wise to remember the likelihood of increased playing opportunity if he’s traded. Significant minutes could open up with a trade to a struggling team. On the other hand, things could improve for Faried in the event of a mid-season coaching change.

Of late, Faried has been voicing disappointment about his season and vows to turn it around. He plans to correct everything in the month of December. A little self-acknowledgment is a good thing, but fulfilling such a proclamation is certainly a tall order. Faried is losing confidence and feels pressure to live up to his contract; in turn, fantasy owners are left not knowing if they’ve made the right choice in drafting him or if they should hang on for the ride.