Kings coach Keith Smart mentioned something strange the other day. He said Thomas Robinson, the rookie from Kansas, is being shown clips of Denver’s Kenneth Faried as a player to emulate.
Both are young power forwards, both needing to develop offensive games, both relying on enviable amounts of athleticism. It’s easy to see Smart drawing a straight line from one to the other.
Faried, the No. 22 pick in 2011 — a spot in the draft where most are just trying to crack the rotation in their second season — is barely getting started with his career and an opposing coach is telling a lottery pick and projected foundation of Sacramento’s future to be like the guy who has yet to play an 82-game schedule. That’s a special compliment and a sign of how far Faried has come. At 10 rebounds a game in just 29.5 minutes — relatively limited time for a starter — he has already blown past the expectations of a lot of teams who passed on him in the draft as too small at 6-foot-8 or too one dimensional with a lacking offense. But, look, he is a key part of an offense after all.
The mid-range game he has worked to improve is still very much a work in progress, so Faried is still only a threat close to the basket. Yet there he is, the No. 4 scorer on the Nuggets, at 12.3 points a game and 53.1 percent from the field, even with a slight cooling in December.
“There’s no play in the book for him, but every night he’s going to end up with 10, 15 and sometimes 20 points because of the effort he gives,” Smart said. “Pushing the ball up the floor, he runs with those guys. He gets out on the break and finishes up a lot of those breaks.
“Those are hustle points. That’s where you get to a point where a coach can write it down: ‘Tonight, no play call, and I can [still] put down 10 to 15 every night.’ I know I’m going to put that in a little file cabinet and every single night, maybe seven out of 10 times, he’s going to have those numbers. That’s what he does.”
Faried has already established himself far beyond what some teams would have imagined a year ago at this time, when Faried’s rookie season was just about to begin without a summer league or much of a training camp. If he starts dropping in 14-footers and gets up to 16 or 17 points a game, along with the double-digit rebounding, then a lot of video departments will be burning a “Kenneth Faried mix” to hand out to young players.
“I don’t think I’ve come that far yet,” Faried countered. “I think I’ve still got more to go.”
But he also has quickly earned an important spot on a playoff team.
“I’m excited I [have],” Faried said. “But I’m not content. I think I have more in me. I can bring more. One day – I believe it, I’ll say it – I can become an All-Star.”
He will have to settle for shining example for now.