The Hidden Downside of Kenneth Faried's Dominant Rebounding

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The Hidden Downside of Kenneth Faried's Dominant Rebounding
Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Kenneth Faried has always been a prolific rebounder. As an NBA prospect out of Morehead State, it was widely assumed that his rebounding ability would translate to the NBA. 

Three years into his career, he has developed into one of the most ferocious rebounders on both ends of the floor. He is averaging 11.5 rebounds per 36 minutes over his first two-plus seasons, including 4.2 offensive rebounds, according to NBA.com

Much of his prowess is due to his attitude. The "Manimal," as he's known, is a nickname he has certainly earned. It's difficult not to appreciate the aggression with which he attacks rebounds, flying in from every direction to muscle opponents out of the way and clean up the glass. 

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

It's particularly valuable on the offensive end of the floor, as Faried continually creates extra possessions for the Denver Nuggets' offense and subsequent scoring opportunities—the putback off of an offensive rebound is one of the highest-percentage shots in the game. According to Synergy Sports (subscription required), Faried is shooting 62 percent on such opportunities. 

On the surface, his rebounding seems only positive. Faried finishes possessions on the defensive end and extends them on offense. On any given night that the Nuggets aren't shooting the ball particularly well, this advantage in total possessions certainly helps.

Part of what allows Faried to excel, however, chips away at other aspects of his team's success as a whole. His see-ball-get-ball approach limits the scope of his court awareness, and often his immediate sprint towards the basketball impedes the Nuggets in other ways. 

On the defensive end, Faried tends to gear up for a rebound well before the shot is taken. While this might increase the likelihood of his grabbing the board, it forces him to abandon his responsibilities as a help defender. 

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

If the the shot misses, no harm, no foul. In fact, the box score represents the possession in Faried's favor—as the defensive rebounder, he is credited with ending the possession. 

If the shot is a make, Faried can often be seen as a reason why.

Take this play against the Chicago Bulls, when Tony Snell slices down the middle of the lane. Timofey Mozgov, Denver's defensive big, gets completely turned around and is no longer in a position to stop the penetration.

As the play develops, Faried is underneath the rim, eyeing the action.

Should he take a few steps forward, plant himself in front of the rim and throw his hands straight up, he could provide a solid contest: 

ESPN

But there would be a side effect: Those who attempt to block shots or contest layups/dunks rarely grab rebounds. By being airborne or absorbing contact, they're often thrown out of position and bumped by other players struggling for the ball. 

Faried prefers to grab the ball and go; so he doesn't step up on this play. Snell attacks the rim while Faried barely even feigns effort, and it's up to an out-of-position Mozgov to recover.

Luckily Snell misses, and Faried is bailed out. But what happens to the ball after Snell misses? Instead of Mozgov recovering for the rebound while Faried defends the rim, the opposite occurs.

It's Faried who snags the ball, when really it's Mozgov who forces the miss and makes the play that matters:

This is the signature problem with any rebounding statistic: It does not capture who boxes out, who defends the rim or any of the other small contributions leading to the player who ends up with the ball after it hits the rim. 

Boxing out, for instance, only has a positive correlation with team rebounding. Yet there's actually a negative correlation with individual rebounding—meaning, players who box out typically don't collect as many boards. Faried, as you probably suspect, rarely boxes out.

The truly problematic aspect of Faried's aggression on the glass comes on the offensive end of the floor. Even when he's not near the rim, he has a tendency to attack the offensive glass anyway—sacrificing a Nuggets player in transition defense. 

When he grabs the offensive rebound, obviously it's great. But most of the time he doesn't, and he merely takes himself out of the play on the other end completely.

Here's an example of this problem against the Chicago Bulls. In offensive transition, Anthony Randolph makes an ill-advised decision to attack the rim one-on-four. The ensuing shot misses, as it's a poor-angle shot off the backboard that rims out.

Here's Faried at the three-point line as Randolph takes off towards the basket:

ESPN

Notice that there are four Bulls underneath the rim, ready to get the ball and attack the other way. Faried, however, decides to crash the party, sprinting in and jumping for the ball.

His attempt at the ball is a long shot at best. Even though the chaos of the situation means he will not be boxed out, Carlos Boozer is in a much better position to rebound the basketball.

Faried needs a weird bounce to get the ball, or for it carom out towards the free-throw line. Simply put, he's not close enough for a realistic rebounding opportunity. 

Faried also needs to understand that Randolph's shot is close to the rim, and not likely to generate a long carom. The ball will almost certainly fall right around the rim, exactly where Carlos Boozer is waiting. 

When Boozer grabs the ball, Faried is landing from his jump. J.J. Hickson makes a similar decision to hit the glass, and a quick box-out takes him both out of the rebound and the ensuing play going the other way. 

Moments later, Mike Dunleavy knocks down an open jumper for Chicago:

Here it is again, this time against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

After Faried sets the pick, he begins to roll to the rim. J.J. Hickson is already at the block, however, and occupying the space into which Faried is going: 

FOX Sports

This is a classic "roll-replace" situation—in which the low big replaces high after the high big setting the pick rolls low. Hickson, however, doesn't replace, so it's Faried's responsibility to stay high for spacing purposes.

He doesn't. Randy Foye throws an ill-advised alley-oop, which Faried aimlessly watches and follows. Coupled with the fact that both of Denver's wings are buried in the corners, the moment is ripe for a transition chance the other way.

After Minnesota collects the ball, Chase Budinger knocks down an open three-pointer:

There's a continuing debate in analytical circles concerning the offensive rebounding/transition defense debacle. Doing one automatically hinders the other, so it becomes a question of which is more valuable. 

Either way, it's the responsibility of the player to recognize when one option is more prudent than the other. Because Faried is very single-minded in his approach to the game, this sort of nuance seems to escape him. 

While this doesn't cost him in the box score, it hurts the Nuggets' overall ability to win. 

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