In July, the Nets traded Isaiah Whitehead to the Nuggets for Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, a 2019 first round pick, and a 2020 second round pick. It’s the kind of salary dump deal that the Nuggets had to do to be competitive and the kind of “yeah, we’ll take a 28-year-old power forward who has had solid production in the NBA and a first round pick from you” deal that Sean Marks is willing to do to increase Brooklyn’s upside. But what can Faried, who played in just 32 games last season as he fell out of Denver’s rotation, bring to the Nets?
It’s almost hard to believe that Kenneth Faried has been in the NBA for seven seasons, all with the Nuggets, and it’s also hard to believe that Faried saw his minutes decrease in each of the past four seasons, but that’s been the reality of the modern NBA, especially in Denver where the team is building around Nikola Jokic and shooting. Faried has never shown an aptitude for long range shooting; his career average from three is 10 percent on 2-for-20 shooting. But because he never developed into the stretch four/five that Denver needed, Brooklyn was able to get him for essentially nothing.
Faried’s Role In Brooklyn
Sure, the first round pick was the main prize for a Nets team that definitely needs to restock the cabinet after that, uh, whole Celtics thing, but Faried can still be a useful piece who should get minutes in the frontcourt. Per Basketball Reference, Faried has consistently logged around 70 percent of his minutes at the four during his career, but he’s shown some ability to play the five (and also has spent some time at the three, but I’m going to go ahead and give a big nope to that being a good idea.)
The first word that comes to mind with Faried is “athleticism.” Faried’s offensive numbers weren’t great last season, but he still managed to excel in transition, finishing in the 78th percentile in transition scoring. He also was in the 88th percentile as the roll man in the pick-and-roll.
Brooklyn was 19th in fast-break points last season and the addition of Faried could help them get out on the run more. The team was already sixth in pace last year, so maximizing Faried’s value isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. What is that value? Let’s break down some of Faried’s best moments from last season:
TRANSITION SCORING. DUNKS. Look, as this article goes on and we start talking about Faried’s weaknesses, things are going to get a little sad. If you’re feeling the blues in terms of what Faried can bring to the court, scroll on back up here and watch this clip. He slows down, grabs a pass from Will Barton that’s a little off-target, and immediately turns around, leaps, and slams the ball in. I love dunks.
How about another Faried play:
I do not have a comment on that except that Faried on the break is so much fun.
Here’s Faried in the pick-and-roll. Remember, he was in the 88th percentile in this situation:
Faried hands the ball off to Will Barton and immediately sets the quick pick. He quickly rolls toward the basket, realizing his athleticism has him in a spot where he can exploit the mismatch against Alex Len. Barton throws up the alley-oop, Faried slams it down.
Now, to bring the energy down a little. Faried’s offensive numbers on anything that doesn’t involve those play types mentioned above are rough. Despite his offensive rebounding ability that he’s shown during his career — three finishes in the top 10 in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage — it didn’t translate to points last year as he ranked in the seventh percentile on putbacks, shooting just 13-for-39 in that situation. He can’t post up. He can’t spot up. He’s an incredibly limited offensive player.
Defense is a major question mark. Per Synergy, Faried’s defense last year was…not great. While he ranked in the 96th percentile last year on 22 possessions while defending in isolation (hey, that athleticism coming in handy!), he rated in the bottom 20 percent in all other defensive situations, including an 18th percentile ranking in defending the ball handler in the pick-and-roll. Synergy has him defending in that situation on 79 possessions last year, the most of anything.
Is there much that can be done about Faried’s defense at this point? Probably not, and it’s one of the things that makes me most nervous about his fit in Brooklyn. The Nets had the sixth worst defensive rating last season. That can improve this season, but I find it hard to see Faried being a major part of that improvement.
Okay. Those were the bad parts. Are you still here? Take a breath.
Faried can make an impact for Brooklyn this season if they use him in the right way. Think about Clint Capela in Houston, whose entire offensive game is predicated on the pick-and-roll and on running the floor. Faried isn’t Capela — the Rockets big man is much more valuable and versatile on the defensive end, though Faried’s ability to defend in isolation gives me a little hope that he can provide defensive value, even if he can’t seem to defend in any other situation — and Brooklyn doesn’t have two elite ball handlers to open the floor up for Faried. You can’t stick him in the starting unit because 1) JARRETT ALLEN and 2) you don’t have the team around him that allows you to give heavy minutes to someone who can’t shoot and struggles defensively. If Clint Capela was Clint Capela on offense and very bad on defense, Houston wouldn’t be giving him minutes.
But the Nets can run Faried in as a backup five. They can put shooters around him. They can run the floor when he’s on. While it’s hard to find a lineup using Jacob Goldstein’s lineup predictor with Faried at the five that looks impressive, a Faried/Hollis-Jefferson/Carroll/LeVert/Dinwiddie lineup gives you a good ball handler in Dinwiddie, shooting from Carroll and LeVert, and the steady presence of RHJ with a net rating of 2.5.
One more wrinkle — playing Allen and Faried together. The lineup predictor has an Allen/Faried/Carroll/LeVert/Dinwiddie lineup with a net rating of 7.4. I’m not sold on that, because I don’t think there’s enough shooting on the floor or spacing to have sustained success in the modern NBA, but I could very likely be wrong!
Ultimately, though, I think the best thing Brooklyn can do is to bring Faried off the bench and push the pace. Make the sixth-highest paced team last year run even faster when Faried is in. Let him dunk the ball. Let him roll to the rim. Let him have some fun.