It's hard to like what the Denver Nuggets have done since winning a franchise record 57 games in the 2012-13 NBA season. After an abrupt exit from the NBA Playoffs at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, team owner Stan Kroenke elected to dismiss NBA Coach of the Year George Karl and allow NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri to leave for a job with the Toronto Raptors. Andre Iguodala then decided to opt out of his contract and ultimately joined the Warriors, leaving the Nuggets without their best defender. Despite all of the turnover, Kenneth Faried still isn't worried about the future of the team under new head coach Brian Shaw.
The 23-year-old forward has established himself as a key member of a talented frontcourt in Denver, and he recently told HOOPSWORLD that he believes that the young core of the team will be ready to step up next season:
"I think we'll be fine," Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried said to HOOPSWORLD. "Andre made his own decision to go where he wanted to go. More power to him, do his own thing. Right now we're focused on us I think we'll be fine. We have the type of nucleus and team where guys will step up. I'm glad it happened during the offseason and not during the regular season because guys will step up.
"Maybe a guy like Ty [Lawson] will have a breakout season. I think that he really came alive in the playoffs last year. JaVale [McGee] can have a breakout season this year. And maybe a young guy can step up like Jordan Hamilton and Evan Fournier."
Faried earned more playing time during his second NBA season, and he justified the increase by posting 11.5 points and 9.2 rebounds in 28.1 minutes per contest. The former first-round pick is known for his work ethic, boundless energy, rebounding prowess and ability to finish on the fast break, but he isn't satisfied with where is offensive game is right now. He has been working on his post moves with Hakeem Olajuwon, and he has also tried to improve his jump shot and his free throw shooting:
"I get to work on some of the moves I learned from Hakeem [Olajuwon] that I've been harnessing and keeping as a nugget just in case a time does come, it's going to be fun to see how that reacts especially with JaVale, me and him both went to the camp. It's going to be fun to use it during the game and implement what we learned."
"My jump shot and my free throws," Faried said when asked about what he's trying to improve on. "My free throws especially. I get fouled a lot, I want to be able to get in the game late and coach say ‘Hey go knock the free throws down.' Or if we got a technical foul and I'm on the court he say ‘Hey go shoot the free throw.' I want that type of confidence and that type of free throw percentage."
Faried has been a very efficient offensive player, but he has survived as a tertiary option and clean-up man in most half-court sets. If the offseason work injects some new elements into his arsenal, he could be primed for a big year. If the Nuggets hope to make up for the losses suffered during the offseason, they will need young players like JaVale McGee, Ty Lawson and Faried to step up in a big way -- especially while Danilo Gallinari recovers from a knee injury.