The Denver Nuggets are now League Pass worthy for a lot of fans, but how often we see Kenneth Faried is still up for debate.

Kenneth Faried is an old-school forward. He’s an energy big with an unrelenting motor who pounds both backboards possession after possession. For his career, the Newark native averages 8.5 total rebounds a night with 3.2 of them coming on the offensive end, and he gets those in a little less than 26 minutes. That’s something Faried’s done throughout his short career, but that’s also really all he can do. And that leaves the Denver Nuggets in a peculiar situation.

Last season, they allocated Faried just 21.2 minutes per game, a career-low. What’s discouraging is the Nuggets played worse on both ends of the floor when Manimal played. According to Basketball Reference, Denver’s offense rating with Faried on the court was 112.7 points per 100 possessions, compared to 113.1 when he sat; on defense, they allowed 114.6 with Faried and 112.1 without him. Faried has never been someone who can create shots for the offense, and a lot of his buckets come in transition or on second-chance opportunities. He never developed a post game or the confidence to test out a mid-range jumper, but that was never really a problem.

Since Faried came into the NBA, Denver hasn’t had a consistent offense year-to-year. Now, they have Nikola Jokic. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot about him over the summer. He’s the player who can orchestrate a potent offense for multiple seasons, and there’s no doubt that he’d extract the most out of Faried if he stayed healthy and found a rhythm with the offense. With guys like Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, there’s the chance to have the court so spaced out you could walk an elephant through it. Ideally, you have Murry and Harris and likely Wilson Chandler set up camp on the wings and in the corners. Jokic is somewhere between the high-post and three-point line. Faried is glued to the baseline.

Mar 22, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) dunks the ball during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) dunks the ball during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Four of those guys are interchangeable. Faried, who’s less effective the farther he gets from the basket, is the odd man out. Being on the baseline, though, makes him an option for (a.) an alley-oop or (b.) the extra pass from either Jokic or Chandler. That’s the ideal scenario for Mike Malone. However, the Nuggets have a logjam at the forward position. Mason Plumlee is returning, and Paul Millsap found his way to Denver during the offseason. Millsap will be getting minutes over Faried because of his versatility on offense, but also his ability on the other end of the floor.

Faried isn’t a horrible defender. He’s ultra-aggressive, which is good and bad. He also doesn’t block a ton of shots or record a ton of steals because he’s too busy getting into foul trouble. Millsap is an outstanding defender because he’s smart and picks his spots. With the Hawks last year, he averaged 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocks in 34.0 minutes a night; Faried had 0.7 in both categories. Faried also played significantly fewer minutes. If we were to extrapolate their numbers for 100 possessions, Millsap takes the edge in steals (1.9 to 1.6) while Faried leads in blocks (1.5 to 1.3). Manimal also picks up 4.7 personals compared to 3.9 for Millsap. Faried can’t make a late-game impact on the bench.

As far as offense goes, Millsap does it all. He’s a reliable scorer with his back to the basket, but also from mid-range, and he can even throw in a three or two. (The biggest flaw in Millsap’s game is, in fact, his perimeter shooting. Over the last two seasons, he’s made 149 threes in 150 games but at a clip of 31.5 percent.)

The other forward Faried has to compete with is Plumlee, who’s one of the most underrated bigs in the game. Over the summer, I wrote about how Mason was going to get a big payday. And the Nuggets brought him back with $41 million over the next three years. It wasn’t a max, but, for someone whose career earnings are less than $7 million, it’s huge. He’s also deserving of every dollar.

Also Read: Predicting First Time NBA All-Stars In 2017-18

I may or may not be a Mason Plumlee stan. During his two years with the Brooklyn Nets, I thought he was incredible in his limited role — catch alley-oops and play hard. When he got traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, it stung (my girlfriend was heartbroken), but I also thought it was a solid deal because Rondae Hollis-Jefferson came over, and now I stan for him as well. Once Plumlee got settled in Portland, it was evident — and shocking — that there was so much more to his game.

The 2016-17 season was his best to date: 10.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 blocks. That’s a solid stat line for someone who we never viewed as an all-around big. It’s also one that 65 players in the history of the league have amassed. However, there is an amusing anecdote. Only two players have averaged those numbers while playing less than 27 minutes a night — Mason Plumlee (26.5) and Bill Walton (26.8).

Plumlee isn’t a versatile scorer like Millsap is, but he can still impact the offense in a myriad of ways. Something that Faried struggles to do. Mason can serve as a backup point-forward to Nikola Jokic, and that seamless transition between bigs will lead to fewer hiccups in the offense. Since both bigs are unselfish with a high basketball IQ, Plumlee would, theoretically, get a lot out of Faried, just not the same rate Jokic can.

The inspiration for the little Nuggets frontcourt breakdown was Faried’s surprising comments during media day.

“I’ll just put this out there,” started Faried. “I. Am. A. Starter. … If this team doesn’t want to give me the minutes, there are 29 other teams.”

Denver has made it clear that they want to have more weapons on the offensive end, guys who can do a variety of things at a reliable level. Faried, although reliable on the glass, doesn’t have the vast skill set and, therefore, cannot start on the Nuggets front line.

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