Coming out of Morehead State in 2011, Kenneth Faried wasn’t given too much thought in that year’s NBA draft. Known for his dominant rebounding, his bouncy dreads and his help in upsetting the No. 4-seeded Louisville Cardinals in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Faried was an unpolished prospect bursting with potential. He broke Tim Duncan‘s post-modern Division I career rebounding mark of 1,570 in his senior season and had tallied an absurd 1,673 boards by the time he left. But a lot of teams made the mistake of overlooking him in the draft and the Manimal has been making those teams regret it ever since.
That being said, Faried still hasn’t busted out of his shell. During his two seasons in the NBA, he’s shown signs of one day becoming a fantastic player, but so far he’s only scratched the surface of his true potential. Faried’s breathtaking athleticism is almost always on display, whether it’s a high-flying dunk on a fast break or a wicked chase down block to deprive the opposing team of their fast break. His monstrous rebounding numbers took a hit adjusting to playing with bigger and stronger professionals, but he’s still proven he’s competent pulling down rebounds. That being said, can we expect Faried to take his game to another level? And if so, when?
The most important thing to consider when it comes to Faried is that he was a pretty raw talent in college. Big, strong and athletic, Faried wasn’t particularly gifted on the offensive end of the floor despite his rebounding prowess. He did average double figures in each of his four years in college and posted 17.3 points per game as a senior, but most of his buckets came from offensive rebounds or his sheer advantage in athleticism, which doesn’t exist to the same degree in the NBA. Faried isn’t a typical low-post big man and he doesn’t have many moves in the paint. Basically, his NBA offense has mostly thrived on his ability to run the break and do stuff like this:
However, Faried’s limited offensive skills should be seen as a positive considering how much he’s developed in just two years and that he’s only 23 years old. Faried will probably never be a traditional, back-to-the-basket option for posting up in the lane, but he’s already developed his skill set a bit more in each new season. As a rookie, the Manimal averaged a respectable 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 58.6 percent from the field. In his second season, Faried upped his numbers to 11.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game while also slightly increasing his number of assists, blocks and steals. And although his field goal percentage dropped to 55.2 percent, it was to be expected since his number of attempted field goals per game increased from 6.7 to 8.6.
What do all those numbers mean? Basically, that Faried is still improving. When you’ve got a raw talent with plenty of potential, you absolutely want to see improvement in his second season to feel confident he can deliver on that promise and not become a bust. Faried is certainly trending up and in the right direction. After all, he was just shy of averaging a double-double in his second season in the NBA.
To be fair to his teammates, a lot of Kenneth Faried’s points come from insane alley oops or wide open dunks, which are mostly the product of good ball movement and finding the open guy after penetrating. But shouldn’t Faried also get some credit for finding the holes in the defense and earning opportunities by running the break? As a pretty average post scorer, Faried makes the most of his abilities and uses his athleticism to his advantage. And the result is almost always thrilling.
When it comes to the question of when Kenneth Faried will have a breakout year, I can’t say with certainty that it will be the 2013-14 season. His rebounding is certainly on the right track. Last season, Faried was 13th in the league in total rebounds (734), 15th in rebounds per game (9.2), sixth in offensive rebounding percentage (13.2) and 12th in total rebounding percentage (18.3). His rebounds per game jumped nearly two per game from his rookie season as he grew accustomed to banging bodies in the paint with the big boys. It’s just his offense that needs a little work.
To Faried’s credit, he was in the top 20 in the NBA last season for offensive rating (115.5) and his field goal percentage of 55.1 percent was good for ninth in the league. But again, a lot of that comes from how many of his shots come from jaw-dropping alley oops, open dunks or easy put backs. That’s not to say they should be appreciated any less, because there’s no shot more effective in basketball than a dunk or a layup. But according to NBA.com, Faried made just 18 of 55 shots from the baseline just outside the paint (32.7 percent). He also only shot 58.8 percent in the paint at the basket, which isn’t terrible by any means, but you’d typically like to see your power forward convert a little bit better in that area.
Faried’s still a pretty raw talent that needs special attention in order to develop a better post game. Faried’s offensive arsenal still consists mostly of his freak-of-nature hops and his hustle on the fast break. That being said, I don’t think Faried can put up something like 18 points and 11 rebounds in a season on just fast breaks and alley-oops alone. If Faried wants to take the next step and elevate his game to that level, he absolutely has to develop an interior game. He’s tall enough, he’s strong enough and he’s physically gifted enough, but until he can string together some post moves against frontcourt defenders or develop a short jump shot, his improvement this season will once again be marginal.