Kenneth Faried was among the longest of shots to make Team USA’s World Cup roster when the finalized pool of training camp candidates was announced in mid-July. Even after LaMarcus Aldridge withdrew late in the process, the Denver Nuggets forward was firmly behind Kevin Love and Blake Griffin in USA Basketball’s power forward pecking order – and that was even before considering the merits of guys like Kevin Durant that can ably function as nominal interior players in international competition.
Frankly, Faried’s lack of shooting range, defensive awareness, and legitimate size made him an odd contender for the World Cup team. But that was almost six weeks ago, and a rash of player departures combined with Faried’s strong play in the interim has not only made him a lock for Spain, but also an invaluable starter for coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad.
And according to Aaron Lopez of Nuggets.com, Faried is just as surprised at his current status as the rest of us.
— Aaron J. Lopez (@AaronLopez) August 21, 2014
Coach K has yet to name his opening five let alone final roster, but Faried has clearly emerged as a cog for the Americans. He started the exhibitions against Brazil and the Dominican Republic, and a recent report called him a “core” member of Team USA along with long-time sure-things Anthony Davis, Steph Curry, James Harden, Derrick Rose, and Kyrie Irving.
Paramount to Faried’s position on the current USAB hierarchy was surely his play last weekend versus Brazil’s strong frontcourt. In addition to scoring 11 points and corralling a team-high nine rebounds, Faried notched the United States’ top net rating.
*Special thanks to NBA.com’s John Schumann – these numbers are his and his alone.
USA plus-minus from last night. They were pretty darn good with Kenneth Faried on the floor: pic.twitter.com/d1WRDKm3Tu
— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) August 17, 2014
There’s noise associated with that data given the sample size, of course, but it supports what the eye-test made clear. Despite his well-known cognitive deficiencies when it comes to help defense with the Nuggets, Team USA always stood to fare better on that end with Faried in the game given his length and athleticism. It’s the other side of the floor where many assumed he’d be a detriment given Coach K’s offensive system, but that proved the opposite against Brazil – Faried’s 138.3 offensive rating was the Americans’ best. He was a beast in the pick-and-rolll, mixed in an aggressive straight-line drive or two, and kept the offense flowing seamlessly.
That no doubt loomed large in the eyes of Krzyzewski and USAB chairman Jerry Colangelo. Without Durant and Paul George, Team USA doesn’t have the elite stretch 4 that can reasonably approximate Faried’s effect on the glass while clearly outdoing his influence on offense. Energy, effort, and intensity are sometimes the best stand-in for skill and talent, and Faried’s sudden rise to prominence on the World Cup squad is a perfect example.
And considering that universal basketball truth, perhaps his status as a starter shouldn’t be so surprising.
(H/T Pro Basketball Talk)
Are you surprised that Faried is a starter?
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