Is it time for the Nuggets to move on from Kenneth Faried?

I love Kenneth Faried. He's an amazing player, and I was super psyched when he dropped into the Nuggets laps in the 2011 NBA draft. And his entire career I've been impressed with him as a player. As the Nuggets went from a perennial playoff team back to a lottery team, he's one of the reasons I stayed a fan of the Nuggets. And in that span of time I've had a similar argument on the subject of trading Faried: He's too good of a player on too good of a contract, the Nuggets can't trade him! But at this point, I'm a bigger fan of Faried than I am the Nuggets, and I'd much rather he play for a team that actually wants him

For his career, Kenneth Faried has been over twice as good as an average Big. Check out his stats on the Player Comparison Engine here.

Faried is amazing at rebounding and scoring. Faried has a career True Shooting Percentage of 57.5%, which is great. And for the "low usage Tyson Chandler" arguments, on a per-minute basis, Faried takes more shots, and gets to the line more than an average big! His problem is simple, playing time.

Season Age Minutes Per Game
2011-2012 22 22.5
2012-2013 23 28.1
2013-2014 24 27.2
2014-2015 25 27.8
2015-2016 26 25.3
2016-2017 27 21.2
2017-2018 28 11.0

After a great rookie season, Faried saw a natural progression in minutes played. But his minutes never cracked 28.1 minutes per game after. In fact, since 2015, his minutes per game have steadily decreased! This season he's barely getting played.

Disclaimer! Players' health is one of the hardest things to know. Despite the bevy of stats available to us on players, their health records are pretty black box. And this makes sense. Not only are there ethical implications of publicizing health records (HIPAA, for instance), there is little incentive for players or teams to publicly let others know a player may have a health problem. So, it's entirely possible Faried has a health issue that prevents him from playing full minutes. I doubt this since he has played many games over thirty minutes and played quite well. Regardless, figured I'd give the one potential excuse for not playing Faried.

Here's a fun query. Since the 2011-2012 NBA season (Faried's rookie year), only twelve players have three plus 20-20 games (twenty points, twenty rebounds). Basketball-Reference Link Here. Faried is the ONLY player with multiple 20-20s to not have at least one season averaging 30+ minutes per game. That's egregious! Given his performance, that's absurd.

A Player We Didn't Need at Too High a Price

Fun fact, we thought Paul Millsap deserved Rookie of the Year. And we thought he was a good player in Utah and a good player in Atlanta. But understand this, even at his peak, Millsap was never in the top echelon of NBA players. This season he will be the third highest paid player in the NBA! What's more, Millsap is now well into his thirties, and last season he saw a decline in his numbers on Atlanta. There was no reason for the Nuggets to pick up Millsap, especially as they already had Jokic, Faried, and Plumlee on the roster. In an ironic twist, the Nuggets repeated a mistake the Jazz, Millsap's former team, regularly made -- having too many good bigs and no point guards. Of course, at this point, I think Millsap is over the hill and won't be productive, but I could be wrong. It isn't looking good so far, though.

But, his defense!

The Nuggets had one of the hottest offenses in the NBA last season. And as mentioned, when Faried does play, he is not a "low usage" player. From an offensive perspective, there is no plausible argument you can make that Faried doesn't work on the Nuggets. However, people will bring up his defense. Faried is undersized for a big, and that, in theory, makes him a liability if he's posted up on.

First, I'd argue any team accepts some liabilities with players. Virtually no player is perfect. Shaq couldn't shoot free throws. Giannis can't shoot threes. When you make a team, you build around players strengths and weaknesses. The Nuggets, for instance, could have used a defensive-minded big like Gobert. No sour groups here! Alright, back to defense though.

The Nuggets had no problem on offense last season, but their defense was atrocious. But, it's important to ask why. A popular method is the "Four Factors." A refresher, these are:

  • Effective Field Goal Percentage: How well the opponent shoots from the field.
  • Free Throw / Field Goal Attempt Ratio: How much you send the opponent to the line.
  • Turnover Percentage: How much you force turnovers.
  • Defensive Rebound Percentage: How many rebounds your team gets off the opponents misses.

Check out 2016-2017 Four Factors at Basketball-Reference here

The Nuggets were pretty good at the not fouling part, placing 8th in the NBA at FT/FTA. And they were quite good at picking up defensive rebounds, placing 5th. That brings us to where the Nuggets struggled. The Nuggets placed dead last in turnover percentage last season! And the Nuggets were third in opponent shooting(EFG%) behind only the Lakers and the Timberwolves. Kenneth Faried, relative to other bigs, was actually above average at steals last season. However, the Nuggets guards (Jameer Nelson, Jamal Murray, and Emmanuel Mudiay) were all below average at steals.

And on the opponent shooting, let's focus on the two most important types of shots, layups and threes. If we examine the times the opponent got close shots, (0-3 feet), the Nuggets were average, placing 17th in the NBA (29% of opponents shots came within three feet of the hoop). However, regarding how well the opponent shot, the Nuggets were 10th in the NBA at opponent efficiency at the rim (64.1%). The Nuggets were decent at keeping the opponent from taking threes, placing 7th in the NBA (29.7% of opponent shots came from three), but placed bottom three in opponent three-point shooting (37.5% from three)!

So let's put this together. The Nuggets were a middling team in regards to rebounding and interior defense. I won't lie and pretend Faried or Jokic is "Defensive Player of the Year" material. However, the Nuggets absolutely sucked at turnovers and opponent three-point shooting. And that brings me to another player that bugs me:

Emmanuel Mudiay was selected 7th in the 2015 NBA draft. In his rookie season he played 30.3 minutes per game, and had, arguably, the worst scoring season in NBA history. His sophomore year, the Nuggets pulled back his minutes, to 25.6 minutes per game, and he still played horribly. In both of those seasons Mudiay got more minutes than Faried. In both of those seasons the Nuggets gave Mudiay tons of shots. In terms of defense, a glaring weakness was at Mudiay's position. And while Mudiay's minutes were cut again this year, he's still playing significantly more time than Faried.

It's not Faried, It's You

If the Nuggets had acquired Faried as a young player and already had a glut of bigs and a decent point guard, I'd understand the issue with playing time. However, the Nuggets, with no viable point guard and Faried, went out and overspent on a redundant big. Instead of getting a point guard they needed (Jeff Teague, Ricky Rubio, and George Hill were all available), the Nuggets picked up Millsap. The Nuggets chose to make Faried the "odd man out." And candidly that's just silly. Faried does things that help NBA teams win, and could definitely help a team out (including the Nuggets). At this point I'd like to see Faried get the playing time he deserves. He's in his prime and about to enter a contract year. He deserves better than what he's getting in Denver. So, even though it pains me, I think it's time for him to move on.