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Why Kenneth Faried's DNP-CD against Nets "wasn't the plan"

Harrison Wind Avatar
October 30, 2017

Through six games, Kenneth Faried is averaging a career-low 11 minutes per game and in two of his appearances this year, the 27-year-old who started 34 games and averaged 21.2 minutes last season for the Denver Nuggets, was on the floor for just six minutes in Denver’s regular-season opener in Utah and four minutes in their loss earlier this week in Charlotte.

Playing time has been hard to come by for Faried for a number of reasons this season. First off, Denver signed free agent Paul Millsap to a three-year, $90 million contract this summer and are playing him upwards of 30 minutes a night. Secondly, Denver also locked up backup center Mason Plumlee to a three-year, $41 million contract in restricted free agency and Nuggets’ coach Michael Malone likes to play him at the four next to Nikola Jokic. And finally, Malone doesn’t like playing Faried alongside Plumlee with Denver’s bench unit. That lineup combination is why Faried didn’t log any minutes in Denver’s 124-111 win over the Nets Sunday night.

“That wasn’t the plan,” Malone said postgame via AltitudeTV about Faried’s minutes. “Obviously, Kenneth has been playing but what changed tonight was Nikola Jokic getting into foul trouble. I had been starting Nikola in the second quarters with Kenneth but with Nikola having two fouls, I didn’t have him out there.

Foul trouble has been somewhat of an issue for Denver’s big man over the course of the past two seasons and Jokic picked up his second personal mid-way through the first quarter when he committed a foul in the backcourt on Trevor Booker after a bad pass that resulted in a Nuggets’ turnover.

Typically, Faried and Jokic play together at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters but with Jokic unavailable because of his two fouls, Faried wasn’t able to get off the bench.

“I don’t like the matchup, the lineup of Kenneth and Mason out there together,” Malone said.

Malone’s thought process is simple. Playing Faried and Plumlee together on his second unit would muck up the spacing for Denver’s offense. Those two non-shooters combined with backup point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who has struggled with his jumper throughout his career, wouldn’t provide enough spacing for the Nuggets to effectively run their offense.

Faried and Jokic also play well off each other. They were Denver’s most efficient two-man combination last season and this year, the two picked up right where they left off.

“Nikola and Kenneth last year had a just great synergy and chemistry and they play off each other,” Malone said. “They complement each other very well.”

That synergy is especially evident on halfcourt sets like these, with Faried’s presence and gravity around the rim and paint keeps Hawks’ center Dewayne Dedmon occupied and late rotating over to Jokic.

“I think we know each other,” Jokic said of the pairing. “I know what to expect of him and he knows what to expect from me so just teammate stuff. I think we want to play with each other and he helps me a lot and I help him a lot. It just pops sometimes, that happened last year.”

In the 38 minutes that Faried and Jokic have played together this season, Denver has outscored their opponent by one point. The Nuggets are scoring 107.7 points per 100 possessions this season when those two play and are giving up 105.3 points per 100. For comparison, the Nuggets are averaging 94.2 points per 100 on offense when Millsap and Jokic are on the floor together and are surrendering 103.7, albeit against tougher competition in the starting lineup. Faried and Jokic’s chemistry is especially noticeable on offense as it was last season.

Faried is also an animal on the floor. The energy and tenacity he brings on a night-in-night-out basis aren’t replicated elsewhere on Denver’s roster. He has the ability to change the game in just a few possessions.

“We play off each other. He likes to pick-and-pop sometimes. I can pick-and-pop but I like to roll more to the basket,” Faried said of playing with Jokic. “So he can find me rolling and he likes to find that pass, throwing the lob or  getting an extra pass and having someone else throw the shuffle pass, and I’m able to finish over the top of people.”

Denver plays the Knicks at Madison Square Garden Monday on the second night of a back-to-back and Faried is once again penciled in for his regularly-scheduled second and fourth-quarter minutes — as long as Jokic stays out of foul trouble.

“Just didn’t go Kenneth’s way tonight and tomorrow night in a three-games-in-four-nights, (the) second night of a back-to-back, a guy like Kenneth Faried can be a game changer with his energy and his motor and his ability to rebound and finish.”


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