When Kenneth Faried was selected with the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, few Denver Nuggets fans knew much of anything about him, except those who had watched him help his Morehead State team topple the No. 4 seed Louisville Cardinals in that year’s NCAA Tournament.
It was a complete surprise that he was still available when the Nuggets were on the clock that year, because the Portland Trail Blazers had gone on record stating that Faried was their pick at No. 21. Instead, they selected point guard Nolan Smith out of Duke, who is currently playing ball overseas, having never fulfilled his NBA potential. Faried still uses that as motivation every time he plays the Blazers and has gone on record as saying he doesn’t like them.
Faried’s first season in the NBA, he was able to crack George Karl’s notoriously hard rotation, given his relative disdain for rookies, to average 22.5 minutes per game. He immediately opened the eyes and hearts of Denver fans, and he quickly became a fan favorite.
T-shirts were printed en masse, and fans proudly adorned the “manimal” moniker across their chests. Fans loved his energy and raw athleticism, but he clearly hadn’t harnessed that freneticism into any semblance of consistency.
Even through the middle of last season of last season, he still was maddeningly inconsistent at times. He would drop 21 points and pull down 13 rebounds one night and the next go for five and six. But it was almost like something clicked for him during the All-Star break. He entered the second half of the season like a man possessed — or a manimal possessed in this case.
The last half of the 2013-14 season, he was consistently registering 20 PPG with 10 RPG and was one of the best players in the league during that time frame. He turned enough heads that he was recently named to the USA Basketball men’s national team training camp roster, alongside the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry.
Now, the only question that remains is can he sustain that same level of play over the course of an 82-game season? If so, he would easily catapult himself into category of top 10 power forwards in the league, and he even has the potential to climb that list if he can develop a more consistent short-range jump shot. There is no reason he couldn’t be in the conversation alongside Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap or David West.
He has clearly established himself, along with Ty Lawson, as the Nuggets’ most important building block. His name was central to the conversations around a potential Kevin Love deal this summer to give you an idea of how he is perceived across the league.
The bottom line is that the sky’s the limit for Faried, and the Nuggets fans should be in for one heck of a ride. He is someone the organization and fans alike can truly get behind.