It must be that time of year if Kenneth Faried is doing things things like this:

And stuff like hitting game-trying shots against Anthony Davis and New Orleans Pelicans Sunday night.

Just like last year, Faried has turned it on in the later half of the season – and his results, and the Nuggets win total, speak for themselves. Over his last seven games, Faried has averaged 17 points and just a hair under 11 rebounds per-game, and not surprisingly, the Nuggets have gone 5-2 in that stretch.

For those that remember the doldrums of late last season, it’s deja-vu. Faried was great towards the tail end of 2013-14, and just like this year, there was an outside factor that may have contributed to his stellar play. Last season, it was a late contract push – this year, it’s obvious that the departure of former coach Brian Shaw has rejuvenated the 25-year-old – which may, or may not, be a good thing for the player the Nuggets signed to a four-year, $50 million dollar deal in the off-season.

Faried always plays with energy – but there is a big difference between playing hard and playing the right way. Under Shaw, who far too often tried to generate offense by posting up Faried (which isn’t his game at all), Faried looked disinterested. Flashy but visibly ineffective on the defense end, Faried never got a chance to do what he does best – run the floor and work the pick-and-roll game with point guard Ty Lawson.

Now engaged offensively, Faried’s energy level on defense has been through the charts in recent weeks, and even if he’ll never be an above-average defender, when engaged he can outwork opposing big men for position and be an excellent help defender – something he’s shown since interim head coach Melvin Hunt took over and loosened the reins.

Big-men are notoriously touchy – feed them the ball on offense, and their level of interest in playing defense skyrockets. With the Nuggets and Faried that rule applies doubly so, because off every opponent miss or turnover, Denver is once again looking to run, which is where Faried thrives. Plenty has been written about Faried’s less than friendly relationship with Shaw, but his play since Hunt took over only re-enforces just how much of a messed-up match the two really were. Shaw wanted things out of Faried that he just wasn’t able to do, and after a season-and-a-half of losing, it became obvious that Faried wasn’t willing to give as much to a coach that blasted him to the media and didn’t put him in the best position to succeed (not that he was the only player who’s effort dropped off).

It just as obvious that Faried loves Hunt:


Which is great for Hunt and Faried, and portends good things the rest of the season, but there’s got to be big concern about Faried’s ability to live up to his big extension year-round. The Nuggets need Faried to be more than just a part-time player – his effort, the emotion that can impact the rest of the team, and the production he brings, are all to valuable for a Nuggets team that needs everyone on board from night-to-night to win.

The Nuggets front office has a big off-season ahead of them – not only do they have to decide who’s going to be the next permanent head coach, but they’ll have to decide whether this roster can recover some of it’s lost luster and get closer to competing. Faried’s play over the rest of the season will largely impact both those decisions, because a engaged Faried can go a long way towards getting Denver back to, if not a playoff contender, than a least a threat to win every night.

But what if whoever the Nuggets hire wants Faried to change his game again? Will he show up more than one or two months a season?

Unfortunately, these are the questions general manager Tim Connelly must answer. Faried’s already answered one – he can still be ball of energy and effort that Denver needs.

At least once a season, that is.

Zach Marburger is a staff writer for Mile High Sports. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @BurchBurger.

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