The Manimal may stay put in his old stomping grounds for a while longer.
Kenneth Faried spent the 2013-14 season bouncing between "keeper" and "expendable" status. He figured prominently into trade talks, he didn't always get along with first-year head coach Brian Shaw and then exploded during the second half of the campaign, averaging 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game after the All-Star break while shooting 54.6 percent from the field.
Apparently, that late-season surge was enough for him to finish the roller-coaster ride on a high note with the franchise that picked him at No. 22 in the 2011 NBA draft. Now, the Denver Nuggets are looking to extend his contract, via Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post:
The Nuggets plan to make Kenneth Faried a long-term fixture of their future by opening contract extension talks with the power forward and his agent, Thad Foucher, this summer.
"We'll talk to his representation," Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly told the Post. " I think Kenneth is happy here. I think he's really embraced what (Coach) Brian (Shaw) is trying to instill. Those are the type of guys that deserve to get paid."
Faried's contract expires at the end of the 2014-15 season, though he does have a qualifying offer of just over $3 million for the ensuing season, per ShamSports.com. Locking him up now is vital, especially if the Nuggets expect this second-half breakout to continue when the rest of the injury-plagued roster regains health.
Connelly expanded upon his view of Faried to Dempsey, also mentioning the perceived clash between the long-haired power forward and his coach:
Kenneth was great. I think there was an adjustment period with Kenneth and Brian. And for the last couple of months he was playing at as high a level as anybody. He's the heart and soul of our team. His consistent energy and toughness, I was really happy to see. I think he grew this year. I think he really improved on both ends, not just the offensive end. He's a guy that's going to play a huge role in our success moving forward.
But Faried isn't just the heart and soul of the Nuggets.
In many ways, he fills the same role for the fanbase. Many who go to games at the Pepsi Center do so while wearing his No. 35 jersey (it's usually right up there as the most popular jersey in the building), and there's an unmistakable buzz—along with a roaring Manimal sound—that sweeps through the arena whenever he creates one of his many highlights.
Even though you'd be hard pressed to argue that Faried is more vital to the Nuggets' winning efforts than Ty Lawson, it's the 24-year-old big man who gets introduced last during the pregame ceremonies.
As Brett Pollakoff of NBC Sports writes: "The advantage the Nuggets have here is that players are often eager to sign this first extension after their rookie deal, in order to get that huge sum of guaranteed dollars in place as quickly as possible."
Faried is not a max player, even if he continues posting the numbers he threw up on a regular basis throughout the second half of the 2013-14 campaign. He's too limited offensively and still developing defensively, limiting his earning potential from rising as high as anything more than $12 million per year.
And quite frankly, even that much would be a surprise.
Given Faried's loyalty to the team that took a chance on him after his Morehead State career, as well as the love showered upon him by the Denver faithful, I wouldn't be shocked to see a bit of a hometown discount. Both sides should be willing to listen to negotiations that revolve around numbers like $9 and $10 million per year, especially if there's an opt-out clause in the final season.
Because of the time remaining on his contract and the ability to make him a restricted free agent with that qualifying offer, Denver doesn't have to be in much of a hurry. But based on the way Faried played at the end of his third professional go-round, Connelly might want to get ink on paper this offseason.
After all, it's not like Faried is the type of low-energy player whose performance would suffer after his financial security was guaranteed.