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March 31, 2016: Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) drives to the basket against New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik (3) during the NBA game between the Denver Nuggets and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. (Photograph by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)

The Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried problem

(Photograph by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)

Rumors about a Kenneth Faried trade have persisted for the last couple seasons, and they haven’t died down since Denver traded away Joffrey Lauvergne. Lauvergne’s departure didn’t completely relieve the logjam in the Nuggets frontcourt, and even with Jusuf Nurkic missing most of 2015-16 Faried played just 25.5 minutes per night in coach Michael Malone’s first season with the team. Should the Nuggets keep dangling the “Manimal”?

His Role

Faried has one elite skill: motor. He won’t out-muscle or out-finesse many of his peers, but he will out-run them almost every trip down the floor. His best measurable output is in offensive rebounding, where his offensive rebound percentage of 15 put him in the league’s top-five for last season, alongside giants like Andre Drummond, Enes Kanter, and Boban Marjanovic.

He’s averaged 12.5 points and 8.7 rebounds for his career. That production has been like clockwork, with his numbers barely fluctuating from season to season. He’s shot above 55 percent in three of his five pro seasons and started in 95 percent of the Nuggets games he’s appeared in for his career. He’s as known of a commodity as you can find in a non-star.

Despite his lock on the starting 4 position, he hasn’t ever garnered the complete trust of a Denver coaching staff. His per-36 minute numbers are significantly better than his per night averages (a career average of 16.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per-36), but he’s never eclipsed 28.1 minutes per game in a season.

The reason he’s always had a low minute count is because of that elite motor and limited skillset. He’s a perfect energy role-player, capable of snatching extra possessions and outworking his opponents in spurts, even though he’s usually undersized at 6’8” and under 230 lbs. That is a valuable role to play, but there are diminishing returns the more energy he expends with a heavier workload. He’s miscast as a starter, and his lack of starters’ minutes reveal his coaches’ judgment.

Faried has never turned in a box plus-minus worse than -0.2 on offense or defense, but he’s only turned in better than 1.0 on either end twice. He’s not an aging, plateauing player, he just hit the ceiling of his particular skillset very early and continues to hover around it rather than take any developmental leaps from season to season.

His Value

Faried has three years and just under $39 million left on his deal. That’s supremely reasonable for a rotation big, but not as enticing for suitors who aren’t convinced that he has more room to grow.

Teams aren’t building around undersized post players who can’t shoot. Faried has made two three-pointers in the NBA, and he relies almost entirely on dunking and finishing at the rim for the bulk of his points. His jump shot chart from 2015-16 is ghastly, and unless he can demonstrate a semblance of a face-up or post-up game soon, he’ll be permanently relegated to a garbage-man type role on offense.

Faried Jump Shots in 2015-16

Faried Jump Shots in 2015-16

Still, the aforementioned consistency in Faried’s game makes him the ideal plug-and-play addition for any playoff team in need of a solid rotation piece. As the season unfolds, I can’t imagine there won’t be some club with real interest in a player exactly like Faried.

What Should They Do?

Unlike the forwards around him on Denver’s roster who are more natural 3s and 5s capable of moving to the 4, Faried is pretty much only cut out for the traditional power forward role. Faried’s lack of versatility makes him a better fit for Denver’s—or another team’s—second unit than as a mainstay with the starting Nuggets group.

At just 26, Faried is relatively old for the Denver core of Emmanuel Mudiay (20) and Nikola Jokic (21).  The Nuggets have the luxury of multiple good veterans complementing the young players they hope will be franchise cornerstones for the next decade-plus.

Faried isn’t one of the oldest heads in Denver, but his plateauing—and eventually fading—skills are not going to move the needle enough for them to consider him an essential piece for contending squads down the road.

Faried is a proven, solid, but expendable player, especially if Denver doesn’t find themselves in the hunt of a playoff race in 2016-17. Dangling him for an offer that would better complement their very-young core makes perfect sense.

The Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried problem

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