A lot has been made about the possibility of starting Denver Nuggets big men Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic together in the frontcourt, and understandably so. The Balkan big men are two of the Denver’s most talented players, and seem to work well together despite some of their overlapping skill set.
What hasn’t gotten as much attention this preseason is the play of Kenneth Faried. So far, “The Manimal” is mostly playing in a reserve role. Faried came off the bench in Denver’s 129-128 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday and recorded nine points, eight rebounds and one block in 17 productive minutes.
It was another encouraging sign from him. Faried has started at least 64 games for Denver the last four seasons. But with the emergence of Jokic and Nurkic, his role is in flux as the Nuggets figure out what they have with the #Jurkic combination.
Faried could have sulked. A demotion after so many years as the starter wouldn’t be easy to swallow. Instead, he’s seemed to play as hard as ever off the bench, rolling to the rim and crashing the boards with the intensity Nuggets fans are accustomed to seeing from him.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said Friday. “I think he had a great camp. Great work ethic. Great attitude. I give him a lot of credit whether he’s starting or coming off the bench.”
If Denver does roll with Jokic and Nurkic as the starters, Faried could provide a boost off the bench. He took advantage of Golden State’s reserve big men with his quickness and energy Friday, grabbing four offensive rebounds in 17 minutes.
Time will tell if #Jurkic is sustainable. Maybe it isn’t, and Faried returns to his role as the starting power forward. Maybe it is, though, and Faried anchors Denver’s reserve units as an undersized, high-energy center.
Whatever happens, it looks like Faried is going to embrace it — and that’s good news for the Nuggets.
“He’s just going out there and playing his game,” Malone said. “When Kenneth Faried plays with energy and effort, and uses that motor he has, he helps elevate us to a different level.”