Extension Candidate: Kenneth Faried

Kenneth Faried is spending the summer with Team USA, but agent Thad Foucher is surely spending his time angling for a rookie scale extension with the Nuggets. If the power forward makes the leap that some others have made after playing alongside the world’s elite players, it wouldn’t hurt his case. The Nuggets have presumably already met with Foucher about an extension, who are expected to seek at least $10-$11MM in annual salary for their client.

In his first three seasons, Faried’s game hasn’t changed much. A high-energy rebounding force out of college, “The Manimal” immediately demonstrated the hunger and athleticism that led Denver to select him in the first round of the 2011 draft despite his playing for an under the radar mid-major in Morehead State. His career averages of 12.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG on .554 shooting have made his selection at No. 22 in the draft very worthwhile.

Faried has been effective, if one-dimensional on offense, taking 82% of his shots inside the paint. Faried is always eager to rise up for an alley-oop or slip in a putback when the defense lets its guard down, but doesn’t look to score outside the lane. While Faried is one of only five players to shoot above .545 in each of the last three seasons, it came on a high volume of inside looks, where Faried was actually rather pedestrian (.586) compared to the league average.

While energy and effort are important characteristics for NBA players to demonstrate, it’s not ideal for a starter to rely solely on those traits for their production. Faried’s efficiency has generally gone up when he plays less minutes, and he’s never cracked 30 minutes a night for a full season. Hefty extensions aren’t typically handed out to players that haven’t been trusted with more than 28.1 minutes a night. In fact, in his first year with the team, head coach Brian Shaw cut Faried’s playing time a bit last season. Despite starting 77 of Denver’s games, Faried saw fewer minutes than many of the league’s bench players, including Kyle Singler, Martell Webster, Matt Barnes, and Nick Young, along with other more heralded sixth men.

Most of Faried’s shortcomings are on the defensive end of the floor. At 6’8″, Faried is often overmatched against the league’s bigger frontcourt players, and he doesn’t have the skillset to slide to the wing. While Faried held opponents to a respectable .494 field goal percentage when defending at the rim, he only challenged 5 attempts there per contest, an underwhelming number for an athlete like Faried in the interior. Worse, Faried came in at 148 out of 169 in defensive rating among players that played more than 25 minutes per game,

Faried’s lack of development likely concerns the Nuggets, especially considering the fact that he played four years in college and will be nearly 26 by the time the first year of an extension would kick in. However, the high-flying big showed polish and effectiveness in the post when given greater opportunity in the second half of last season, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe detailed, and he’s earned a starting role thus far for Team USA over the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. If Denver believes in the promise he’s shown of late, waiting for him to bloom next year, likely the front end of his prime stretch, without locking him up could prove more costly than inking him while doubts remain.

In the Hoops Rumors Rookie Scale Extension Primer, our own Chuck Myron predicted the Wasserman Media Group client would receive a four-year, $44MM extension before the October 31 deadline. Both Shaw and GM Tim Connelly voiced their hopes that Faried would remain a Nugget for the future, although Denver floated Faried as a trade candidate for much of last season.

It wasn’t long ago when former Denver GM Masai Ujiri signed Nene to a five-year, $65MM contract that proved tradeable even when the big man didn’t factor into the Nuggets’ long-term plans. More recently, Denver inked JaVale McGee to a four-year pact at $12MM per season, with many more questions surrounding his game than Faried’s. Considering Faried’s floor seems to be established as an above-average frontcourt piece, I would expect Denver to be willing to sign him at or below the $11-$12MM range that Larry Sanders and Derrick Favors have received on their own rookie scale extensions. If his representatives push for a salary more in line with the league’s premier frontcourt players, I would imagine Denver will take their chances with restricted free agency, giving themselves this season to see whether his game has reached a level to merit such a contract.

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