It had been a while since Kenneth Faried felt as comfortable in his basketball skin as he did this season with the Nuggets. He’s an energy player, and for the first time in a few years, he was fully fine with that.
“I’m very comfortable with just me,” Faried said. “I know who I am. I love the game. I know how to help my team win games, and that’s exactly what I do each and every night.”
How did he see himself?
“Excitement,” Faried said. “A hard worker, who is going to go out there and leave all on the floor, 110 percent. It’s not just like everything is a dunk. I’m driving. I’m able to finish over the top of people. And I’m just having fun.”
Faried’s season was a mixed bag. A sore back nagged at him for much of it and caused him to miss 15 games overall, most of which were in February, March and the final games in April. He played through the pain in many others. The net effect was 61 games played overall with averages of 9.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in 21.2 minutes, all career lows. On the flipside, Faried packed a lot of punch into the time he was on the court.
His player efficiency rating of 20.3, per Basketball Reference, was the third-highest of his career. He was 10th in the NBA in offensive rebounding with an average of 3.0 per game, part of a 1-2 punch with Nikola Jokic (2.9) that helped the Nuggets slot in as the fifth-best offensive rebounding team in the league. An ever-improving free throw shooter, Faried shot the highest percentage of his career at 69.3 percent. He was second on the team in field goal percentage at 54.8 percent.
And in many big moments in games Faried came up big, which Nuggets coach Michael Malone pointed out early on in the season.
“I thought his energy, his getting us extra possessions, making plays that most guys in this league can’t make,” Malone said. “Kenneth has been amazing with his game-changing plays.”
Mostly, Faried shrugged off extensive talk about how well he was playing, saying it was just part of his job.
“I’m just out here playing hard and getting after it, pretty much,” he said. “Just trying to do what I can in order to get the wins.”
OFFENSE. Energy players impact energy stats. And on offense, Kenneth Faried’s role was easy to see in his top three actions – cuts (26.9 percent of the time), offensive rebound put backs (25.2 percent) and transition (11.4 percent). His job was to generally stay below the defense and keep moving in the half court, run lanes on fast breaks and crash the offensive glass. He did all of those things to a high level.
Faried scored over a point per possession in all three and shot no worse than 55 percent in any of those actions. He shot 67 percent in his transition attempts. He was the kind of player the Nuggets didn’t have to run plays for in order to score, and when he did score Faried stayed around the rim to do it. He made 228 field goals during the season, and 196 of them (85.9 percent) were from five feet or less. Fifty-seven of them were dunks. Seventeen more were alley-oop dunks or layups. Faried made just eight shots from 10 feet or further.
Not counting a couple of heaves at the end of quarters/halves, Faried took just 31 shots from 10 feet or further all season long. Contrast that with the season prior, when he took 63 shots from 10 feet or longer, again not counting one half-court heave. The point: Faried stayed within himself on offense in 2016-17.
DEFENSE. This was always the most scrutinized part of Faried’s game, and he knew it.
He did improve in team defense, but it continues to be an area he’ll work to get better, particularly in pick-and-roll coverages. Faried did lead the Nuggets in charges taken and was ninth in the NBA with 19, according to NBA stats. Seven of those came in the fourth quarter. He was good at keeping an eye on his man and the ball when an offensive player drove to the rim. Faried would slide over and take the charge.
In all, it equaled a season that felt a lot more Manimal-like.
“Just playing within myself and having fun,” Faried said. “Not worrying about the rest.”