The legend of The Manimal doesn’t begin with a breakout tournament at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, it doesn’t begin in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the Nuggets, and it doesn’t even begin in the Appalachian Valley’s of Morehead, Kentucky. The legend of The Manimal begins on the inner-city black tops of Newark, New Jersey at the turn of the century.
A young, sprightful Kenneth Faried Jr. is nine years old begging to play in pick-up games and show what he can do. What he can do and what he wants to do is a different subject matter at this age. Like any other nine-year-old to ever touch a basketball Faried wants to shoot, and he wants to shoot a lot. Enter into the scene Wuadda Faried, one of the most competitive, trash-talking, female hoopers you will ever meet. And oh yeah, Kenneth’s mother.
At that age, Kenneth learned a valuable lesson – one that he has turned into his calling card and is emerging as one of the NBA elite: rebounding the basketball. Wuadda told Kenneth they weren’t even going to think about passing him the ball in the pick-up games, the only way he was going to be able to shoot was if he went and got the rebound himself. Nothing like tough motherly love. Motherly love that has carved out a career for Wuadda’s son and has him on the brink of being the next breakout star in the NBA.
Every time there is a world basketball event, Team USA has given birth to a new star. 2010 was the coming-out party for Kevin Durant followed by the 2012 coming-out party for Kevin Love. Heard of them? Yeah, I think so. And if the stars align themselves again, Faried is poised to be that next breakout star. All Faried has done is average 12.4 points per game and lead the U.S. team in rebounding at 7.8.
Can he live up to the new-found American-hero status and expectations placed upon him? Could he etch his name next to the best rebounders of all time? A Dennis Rodman with dreads? A Charles Barkley with half the back side? There’s no doubt Faried’s time is now. Let’s take a deeper look and find out what the crystal ball holds for the future of The Manimal.
WHY FARIED WON'T BE THE NEXT BREAKOUT STAR
I’ll be honest, I’m huge supporter of Kenneth Faried and his ability. Ever since I played against him during his freshman year at Morehead State, I’ve had a great deal of respect for his game. Mostly his relentless passion, unending motor, and his will that reflects in the way he plays like he just wants it more than anyone else on the court.
You want the scouting report on him from his freshman year of college? Athlete. Keep off glass. Plain and simple. Well, not so simple executing but simple for game planning. When it comes to a refined offensive skill set, Faried is still a work in progress to say the least. As raw and wild as The Manimal’s hairstyle is, Faried’s offensive game is a spitting image.
Faried struggles in three of the main offensive heavy skill-set based situations: isolation, pick-and-roll, and spot up. In isolation situations, Faried produces at a 0.68 points per possession rate (1.0 is the bar that determines efficient or inefficient). That rates him in the bottom 26 percent of the league and below such smooth iso aficionados like Tyler Hansborough and Kendrick Perkins. His inability to effectively create for himself offensively greatly restricts the amount of double teams that opposing defenses will send at him.
All bonafide stars in the NBA demand double teams that open up opportunities for teammates, which in turn give the stars the ever important trait of being able to make others around them better. In pick-and-roll situations, it doesn’t get much better for Faried. He is only converting at a 0.87 points per possession rate and producing less than a 50 percent scoring rate for the Nuggets when he is actively involved in the pick-and-roll.
But most of all offensively, Faried has greatly struggled to develop a consistent mid-range jumper. In catch-and-shoot situations, The Manimal is only shooting 25.6 percent, converting at a rate of 0.54 points per possession and ranking him in the bottom 6 percent of the league. I don’t even want to mention some of the players he is behind. OK, fine… You talked me into it, I will: Joakim Noah and Nikola Pekovic. Not two players that come to mind first when you think picture-esque shooting stroke.
WHY KENNETH FARIED WILL BE THE NEXT NBA BREAKOUT STAR
There’s a certain characteristic, a certain trait that very few players bring to the game. It’s hard to exactly put your thumb on what it is and how certain players can possess this extreme added value. But you know it when you feel it, everyone in the arena can feel it. It gets your pulse rate pumping, sends vibes through your bones. It doesn’t show up in any box score or even in any MIT analytical statistic breakdown. Call it lighting in a bottle, the ultimate energy boost, or whatever you want. But whatever it is, Kenneth Faried has it and it is what is going to make him a star in the NBA.
Faried has exemplified this exuberance of superhero energy recently in Spain at the World Cup. Early third quarter, Slovenia is holding close to the U.S. as a pesk that they just can’t shake. And then right on cue, like he is shot out of a cannon, Faried breaks the game open with a couple alley-op finishes and high intensity defensive stops with Rodman-esque rebounds. Game over.
This untrackable stat is nothing new for Faried and Denver fans. And now with the World as his stage, he is proving that passion, will, and determination can at times create a special mixture that overrides pure skill. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not advising to sleep on Faried on the offensive end. He’ll make you pay just like at the World Cup.
Faried is a high IQ player who knows his calling card offensively and is very efficient in producing in those areas – away-from-ball cuts, post situations, and transition. In cutting situations, Faried is converting at 1.315 points per possession, ranking him near the top of the league. And most of those cuts are finished with the thunder he brings to the game. Sure, two points are two points, unless they continuously lead to momentum runs that break the game open.
Faried also thrives in the open court in transition situations. 6-foot-8, 230 pounds of Manimal coming at you full steam with reckless abandon to rip the rim off. Yeah, tell me you would step in the way of that. In transition, Faried is converting at a field goal percentage of 67.8 percent and is getting to the line an astounding 24 percent of the time.
The area of Faried’s offensive development that I have been most impressed with is his low-post scoring ability. His development in the post is a strong indicator on why I believe he will be able to develop his mid-range/wing game. Last season, 19.2 percent of Faried’s offensive touches were in post-up situations, where he ranked in the top 77 percent of the league.
Compare that to the 2012-2013 season, where he rarely felt comfortable in the post (only 5 percent of his offensive scoring opportunities) and for good reason (converting at only 0.565 points per possession). Think about that for a minute; going from treating the post like the Bubonic Plague to being comfortable and highly effective in the same spot in only a year’s time. That’s like going from not knowing how to play the piano to being Beethoven’s understudy in 12 months.
He is extremely effective on the right block turning over his left shoulder (ranks in the top 87 percent of the league), which is usual for a right-handed player. But what stands out most is the rate at which he develops and how quickly and efficiently he learns. Faried already ranks in the Top 30 in player efficiency at 19.9, placing him ahead of other global stars such as Tony Parker and Serge Ibaka.
So that game changing lighting in a bottle that we spoke about earlier that Faried possess on the offensive end, well double that and you get the amount that he brings on the defensive end.
Kenneth Faried has the chance to be one of the best rebounder/defender dual threats in the NBA for a long time to come. His numbers currently might not reflect that of a rebounding machine (8.3) like a Dwight Howard and his shot blocking (0.9) isn’t quite up to par with a Ibaka. But when you look deeper behind the surface numbers and break down the film like I have done, you see clearly why Faried is oozing with potential to become a defensive force for the next decade in the league.
For the amount of usage rating (21.4 %, the number of plays used by a player when he is on the floor per 40 pace adjusted minutes) that Faried absorbs, he is only allowing 2.4 field goals per game from opponents around the rim, ranking him in the top 90 percent in the league. Whatever it is, his presence, his determination, his dreads, Faried deters offensive players away from finishing at the rim at a very high rate. Maybe it’s just that unexplainable extra something Faried possess.
Faried also ranks in the Top 20 in rebound rate per 48 minutes, Top 10 in offensive rebound rate, and Top 8 in out-of-position rebounds (the amount of rebounds a player gets outside of his direct circumference of demarcation).
Why isn’t he No. 1 in these rankings? Similar to the expedited learning curve that Faried has shown on the offensive end in the post, he has shown this on the defensive end and on the glass each year. The Manimal earned his nickname for a reason, and the reason has become clear to international opponents and will continue to become crystal clear to the entire NBA – Kenneth Faried is a beast.
Rebounding has always been in Faried’s blood. Just ask anyone on that blacktop in the inner-city of Newark during the turn of the 21st century. The fire, the passion, the always-play-with-a-chip-on-your-shoulder attitude was born then and there. And it has never gone away. Sure, anyone can be happy and content and complacent with the tremendous honor of playing for Team USA. But not Faried: Content and complacent are not in his vocabulary.
After a practice in Spain leading up to the Lithuania matchup, word was spreading through the international basketball world that the Lithuania frontcourt might be too much for Team USA to handle. The majority of the USA players let it slide. Not Faried. That’s not his style. When attacked, he attacks.
"That's what's going around? That's massively disrespectful. I'm not buying that at all. We'll just have to see tomorrow, I guess."
And see how tomorrow goes they did, crushing Lithuania to advance to the gold medal game. Throughout the tournament, Faried led Team USA in rebounding (7.8 rpg) and highlight-reel, energy infusing plays. He was seventh overall out of every player at the World Cup in player efficiency rating at a LeBron-esque type number of 31.3 and second in the entire tournament in my favorite new analytical stat FIC at 105.88 (floor impact counter).
I like to call it the chip on your shoulder stat, something Faried doesn’t lack. This is a formula to encompass all aspects of the box score into a single statistic. It shows a player's overall value, even though it might not show up in a newspaper box score. Just like Faried likes it.
Durant, Love, I think you recognize the names. Faried, he’s next. So crank the energy level up in the NBA, The Manimal has arrived.