NBA Rookie Rankings: Kenneth Faried Makes Crushing Impression With Nuggets

Mar 4, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) dunks against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at the AT&T Center. The Nuggets won 99-94. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE

Kenneth Faried is a "hustle player," but he does so much more than just run around and dive for balls for the Denver Nuggets.

In the year of the rookie role player -- Nikola Vucevic, Gustavo Ayon, Kawhi Leonard and Chandler Parsons have all made strong impacts -- the most striking one of all is emerging in Denver.


Kenneth Faried Will Crush Us All

Kenneth Faried is a "hustle" player, announcers are fond of telling us. And this is technically true.

He certainly hustles often and dynamically, infusing an element of power into his constant activity. Instead of simply tracking down a loose ball, he'll actively seek and body out opposing players while sprinting at top speed. Instead of simply sliding over on help to prevent an easy layup, he'll literally jump on top of an open shooter to ensure there won't be a shot attempted at all (as LaMarcus Aldridge learned last week). Faried's ability to home in on balls off the glass, on the floor or off deflections is impressive, but the collateral damage he inflicts, en route, is perhaps even more so.

But more importantly, at least 20 games into his career, Faried transcends the simple "hustle" tag. For various reasons, Kenneth Faried has been a statistical monster. Consider these numbers (min. 20 games to qualify):

  • 23.1 PER, 1st among rookies
  • 17 percent offensive rebound rate, 1st among rookies
  • 23.7 percent defensive rebound rate, 1st among rookies
  • 62.4 percent true shooting, 1st among rookies
  • 59.3 percent effective field goal percentage, 1st among rookies
  • 127 points/100 possessions, 1st among rookies
  • 4.7 percent block rate, 3rd among rookies
  • 5.4 FTA/36 min., 2nd among rookies

These things are all ridiculous.

The term "hustle" has always struck me as deviously pejorative. It frequently denotes "basketball IQ" and "effort" and other such assorted positive attributes, but it also implies a lack of traits more traditionally associated with basketball goodness. Russell Westbrook or Josh Smith or Paul Pierce will never be called "hustle players," no matter how many loose balls they hurl themselves to the floor for, since they excel at more "skill"-predicated aspects of the game.

This, more than anything else, is what makes Faried fascinating, especially offensively. On which side of the line does Faried fall when he shoves two defenders out of the way and stumbles through a third before making a gorgeous catch and finish at the rim, adjusting hands at the last second? His hustle translates so directly into scoring opportunities -- through cuts, through spacing, through anticipation -- and he converts on that opportunity with such touch, feel and efficiency, it needs to be ascribed to skill as much as hard work. He's a hustle player, yes, but he's also a skilled basketball player in a number of traditional senses; he's a scorer, a wildly effective rebounder and a smart defender (especially in the pick and roll).

Even as Faried's conventional description continues to default to what we've seen so far, it belies the incredible breadth of his game.


Week 5: Isaiah Thomas is Mr. Relevant
Week 4: Klay Thompson's Off Screen Shooting
Week 3: Kawhi Leonard on Off-Ball Cuts
Week 2: Chandler Parsons as Houston's Fifth Man
Week 1: Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio Run the Pick and Roll


All stats, above and below, are through Wednesday's action and come via Basketball-Reference, Hoopdata and "Efficiency differentials" refer to the difference in points/100 possessions from the league average of the relevant season.

Rk Player Team Relevant Statistics Prev.
1. Kyrie Irving
Cavaliers +5.8 offensive efficiency differential, 27.4 percent usage, 33.5 percent assist rate, 16.3 percent turnover rate
Another week, another game winner. Irving now ranks seventh among starting NBA guards in both true and effective field goal percentage (right behind Chris Paul in both categories). He has the highest PER by a rookie since Chris Paul (a stat that reflects his efficiency as much as his usage), and you need to go back to Jordan in 1985 to find the next such rookie season.
2. Ricky Rubio
Timberwolves -3.5 offensive efficiency differential, 37.7 percent assist rate, 39.7 percent effective field goal percentage

The turnovers have been down significantly since the All-Star break -- specifically, by turnovers/36 minutes, Rubio's rate has been 40 percent better over the past six games. The lowered turnovers, coupled with the Wolves' recent wins over Portland (twice) and the Clippers (twice) to vault into the West's top 8, make his increasingly awful shooting (his eFG% is fourth worst among all rookies) much easier to stomach.

3. Kenneth Faried
Nuggets +23.5 offensive efficiency differential, 17.7 percent usage, 17 percent offensive rebound rate, 23.7 percent defensive rebound rate, 62.4 percent true shooting
See above.
4. Nikola Vucevic Sixers 11.5 percent offensive rebound rate, 20.4 percent defensive rebound rate, +2.5 offensive efficiency differential, 19.3 percent usage
Philadelphia destroyed Boston on Wednesday night, with Vucevic having his way around the basket. Neither Chris Wilcox nor Paul Pierce were able to keep Vooch off the offensive glass (including off his own misses), and Vucevic is proving to be the latest piece of evidence for the theory that no statistic translates better from college to the pros than rebounding.
5. Isaiah Thomas
+4.5 offensive efficiency, 54.3 percent true shooting, 25.9 percent assist rate, 15.7 percent turnover rate
Thomas stumbled a bit in road games in Denver and Phoenix this week, struggling with his shot, but he redeemed himself with his play down the stretch against New Orleans on Wednesday. Thomas stole a crucial inbounds pass with seconds to go, allowing the Kings to steal a victory.
6. Kawhi Leonard
+9.5 offensive efficiency differential, 16.4 percent defensive rebound rate
Leonard is just the fifth rookie in the Spurs' Gregg Popovich era to get more than 20 minutes a night (following Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and ... Gary Neal). And it makes sense because of how many different roles he can fill on a given night. Of late, there has been an uptick on his trips to the line. Over the past three games, Leonard has attempted as many free throws (18) as he did in the previous eighteen games combined.
7. Enes Kanter

16.4 percent offensive rebound rate, 23.0 percent defensive rebound rate, +0.5 offensive efficiency differential, 17.9 percent usage


Against Miami last week, Kanter posted one of his stronger offensive games of the season, both creating second chance opportunities from his work on the glass, as well as, interestingly, showing some pick and roll ability.

8. MarShon Brooks
Nets +0.5 offensive efficiency differential, 22.6 percent usage, 12.9 percent assist rate, 13.4 percent turnover rate
The more Brooks' efficiency regresses to the mean, the less endearing his shot selection becomes. He remains the ninth-most efficient isolation player in the NBA though, despite his relative lack of free throw attempts.
9. Gustavo Ayon
+8.5 offensive efficiency differential, 18.7 percent defensive rebound rate, 57.9 percent true shooting
The mysterious injury bug that has stricken the Hornets' front court this year (with Emeka Okafor, Jason Smith and Carl Landry all missing significant time) finally got around to Ayon this week, with the Mexican big man sitting out with a sore foot. Whether he'll miss more time remains to be seen. To this point though, Ayon ranks 2nd among rookies in offensive efficiency and PER, and 1st in true shooting and eFG%.
10. Chandler Parsons
Rockets -0.5 offensive efficiency differential, 16 percent usage, 14.1 percent defensive rebound rate
Parsons has been on a madly efficient tear since the All-Star break, reaching double figures in four consecutive games while shooting 68 percent from the floor. Unfortunately for the Rockets, all those efforts came in losses, with the team struggling on the defensive end.

Dropping out: Klay Thompson

On the Fringes: Derrick Williams, Elliot Williams, Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight

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