Nov 5, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) reacts during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at Pepsi Center. The Spurs won 102-94. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Kenneth Faried: rising star or trade candidate?

Kenneth Faried is finally getting the attention he deserves as a legitimate NBA starter. In fact, an argument could be made that he is a borderline star. Regardless, the sky remains the limit for the 24-year old Denver Nugget.

He’s a bit banged up to start the 2013-14 season, but the nature of his nicks and bruises should not change his value as a player, and subsequently, his trade value. His name has been mentioned throughout the off-season, including by Grantland’s Zach Lowe, as a likely trade candidate, given the nature of his game and the notion that he will likely be due a substantial payday after the 2014-15 season.

So, what exactly is Faried’s trade value, and what teams will be in on acquiring his services at some point during the season? If Denver falters (as I believe they will) in the rough and tumble Western Conference, which savvy front office will swoop in and pick up Faried?

Let’s first take a quick look at Faried’s credentials as a trade candidate. We’ve already mentioned his youth (24 years old, in his third pro season). At the moment, he is outplaying the modest rookie deal he landed by getting drafted 22nd overall in 2011, so he’s a clear bargain at his current salary. That will change, obviously, provided he stays relatively healthy between now and the end of next season.

In his rookie year (the lockout season of 2011-12), Faried finished 7th in the NBA in total rebounding rate of those that played 45 or more games in the shortened season. He grabbed a ridiculous 19.8% of available boards, outpacing the likes of Kevin Love, Andrew Bynum, and Tim Duncan.

On top of his rare and extreme rebounding instincts and abilities, Faried knows exactly what he can and cannot do with the ball on offense, and stays within himself beautifully. While his career assist rate of 5.2% is pretty much smack in the middle of his peers at the power forward spot, he remains a solid decision-maker both from the elbow and on the catch in the low post.

His free throw line jumper is the only shot that he attempts with any regularity outside of put-backs, dunks, and layups. Putting rebounding aside, the most valuable aspect of Faried’s game is his offensive efficiency and understanding of his own abilities. In his rookie season, Faried posted an Effective Field Goal percentage of .586, and a True Shooting percentage of .618. Both of these numbers also ranked in the top 15 in the NBA during the lockout season.

The combination of all-star level rebounding and all-star level efficiency is enough to overshadow nearly all of Faried’s shortcomings, the most glaring of which is his lack of a true, pleasing-to-the-eye post game. This is somewhat significant, but there’s a good chance that new Nuggets coach Brian Shaw and possibly the new brain-trust in Denver’s front office could allow this particular shortcoming to keep them from seeing the forest for the trees.

And this is where the opportunistic front offices and executives come into play. The vultures that are many of the tanking teams’ general managers are most certainly circling. Teams like Phoenix, Orlando, and Philadelphia all have front offices that would appreciate a player like Faried for what he can provide. Even old friend Masai Ujiri, the Toronto Raptors G.M. that originally drafted Faried in Denver, could get in on the fun.

From there, it’s a matter of which team is willing to extend Faried at whatever it is that they think he’ll command at the end of his rookie deal. Odds are, there will be a team that is willing to part with significant assets with the idea of extending him. But it’s always possible that a team with shorter-term aspirations (and no desire of potentially overpaying Faried in/to avoid free agency) could acquire him for a 1+ season rental.

Count me as someone who believes that the Nuggets will fall short of their own expectations this season, and Faried will be moved by February’s trade deadline. If I had to choose a destination for him to go, I would say that Phoenix and Philadelphia are both teams that Faried would fit well with, with the Suns being a slightly better fit. A high-volume scoring guard like Eric Bledsoe and an offensive-minded center like Alex Len would slot in nicely next to Faried, and if the Suns can muster up the necessary assets, Phoenix would be a solid landing spot.

Beyond the organizations that are in the midst of tanking, there may be a handful of fringe contenders that can try and make a move for the Nuggets’ power forward. But it won’t be easy, if Denver indeed properly values Faried.

Tags: Alex Len Denver Nuggets Eric Bledsoe Kenneth Faried NBA Orlando Magic Philadelphia 76ers Phoenix Suns Toronto Raptors

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