If you've been watching the group-stage portion of the FIBA World Cup, chances are one player on Team USA has really stood out for you.
And, chances are, that player isn't whom you expected it would be.
Here's Nuggets assistant general manager Arturas Karnisovas from NBA.com on what Faried has accomplished:
Kenneth Faried is raising some eyebrows with his play here in Spain. But his World Cup success comes as no surprise to me and anyone who’s around Kenneth on a regular basis.
He brings effort and energy every day, and it was amazing to watch how he energized our team against Turkey. His effort was infectious. It resonated through our team and helped us get our edge back in the fourth quarter.
He has been great on the offensive glass, giving us second chance opportunities, running the floor and defending. I expect him to continue to do the same as the tournament continues.
Faried's ferocious offensive rebounding and hustle on both ends have certainly sparked Team USA on multiple occasions thus far, and in that sense, he's been the emotional leader the team has really needed. Faried is capable of changing the course of a game, but he can also set the tone right off the bat.
Even though he seemed like a long shot to make the team a few months ago, let alone play a starting role, he's rewarded both those decisions tenfold already. Faried isn't getting it done with fancy moves or elite shooting, but he's outworking each and every opponent he comes across. His motor is non-stop.
All that could lead to a very successful season for Faried, right at the perfect time. Although he'll be eligible for contract extension until October 31, Faried will hit restricted free agency next summer if he can't work out a deal with the Nuggets.
Given his current ascension, it might not be a bad idea to bet on himself and wait for a substantial offer. He's always been undervalued, but performing this well on a stage this large can change that in a hurry.
Here's Grant Hughes for Bleacher Report:
If Faried carries his brilliant play from the World Cup to the regular season, he won't be doing anything new. Though it seems like eons ago, Derrick Rose rode a breakout wave in the 2010 FIBA tourney to an MVP season with the Chicago Bulls.
It seems international tournaments have a way of preparing players for bigger things.
Buoyed by the confidence he's building in Spain, Faried could be ready to take the kind of step that drags the Nuggets back into the playoff picture after a year spent in the lottery.
Denver's not supposed to be in the postseason conversation—not in a brutal Western Conference that only seems to get tougher every year. But Faried is using his time with Team USA to prove he doesn't really care where people think he belongs.
Hustle often gets overlooked as a skill, but Faried has it in spades. While he's not a great defender overall thanks to lack of height (6'8"), length and rim-protection abilities, he's one of the league's very best rebounders who wins just about every 50-50 ball that's in his zip code.
Faried wins possessions, and his evolution as a dangerous scorer around the basket area is trouble for opposing defenses.
Here's what Faried told Zach Lowe of Grantland late last season:
They all used to say, 'All he is, is an energy guy.' That I was a guy who was gonna run and jump, and that I could only get you nine or 10 points, max. ...
Now people are saying, 'Hey, maybe he can get you 15 or 20 a night' and that I can do it without breaking a sweat.
Faried has become much more effective at scoring in traffic and getting points with his back to the basket. With stretch big men so popular right now, Faried is like the Kryptonite that can bully and outwork smaller and more finesse big men.
While there's been some speculation about his personal ceiling and his future in Denver, it's hard to imagine that the Nuggets are going to take what Faried brings to the table for granted.
Here's what Nuggets GM Tim Connelly told Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post toward the end of last season:
We'll talk to his representation. 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. ...
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.
I'm hopeful that we'll have good discussions this summer with his representation and we'll see if we can't figure something out.
Paying Faried a salary north of $10 million a season might be difficult, but with his stock on the rise and the best year of his career likely on the horizon, there's a good chance that ends up being the asking price.
And while that isn't ideal for Denver, this isn't a team that stands to have much financial flexibility for a few years, anyhow.
Extending a big man who doesn't protect the rim or offer much resistance defensively due to his limited length isn't perfect, but as we've seen next to a great shot-blocker in Anthony Davis, Faried can be highly effective with the right personnel around him. His ceiling may be capped, but his floor is awfully high.
Faried's improved play late last season stayed mostly under wraps, as the national focus was well off a struggling and injury-ridden Nuggets team. Now with a legitimate chance to win the World Cup MVP award, the cat is out of the bag, and the price is likely going up.
But so long as he can carry this positive momentum and high level of play into the regular season, having to shell out a little more money to keep him should be a worthy expenditure for the Nuggets.
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