Stat: Denver forward Kenneth Faried leads all rookies in player efficiency rating with a mark of 22.66, almost 1.5 points better than second place and surefire rookie of the year Kyrie Irving.
Take: When will NBA front offices finally learn about undersized, highly productive, rebound-addicted, and hyper-active power forwards come draft time? The overwhelming success of guys like Paul Millsap and DeJuan Blair should have served as enough precedent to convince at least one team to take Faried – college basketball’s all-time leading rebounder and 2011 PER king – among the top ten picks last June, but instead he inexplicably lasted until Denver excitedly snatched him at 22nd. What’s worse is that range – anywhere from mid to late first round – is exactly where Faried was projected to go.
And why is that? Why was the most productive college rebounder ever considered at best a “solid” prospect, not even worthy of a late lottery pick? Two reasons: height and offensive polish. Here’s the problem – outside of the surefire, can’t miss, star-potential-laden guys, shouldn’t teams be searching for players with one certifiable NBA skill? Someone that will be in the league for a decade because he’s better than the vast majority of players at a single aspect of the game?
Bearing that in mind, Faried – in last year’s admittedly weak draft, mind you– deserved to be a top ten pick. Outside of Irving and Derrick Williams, nobody was can’t miss or so wrought with untapped promise that they were obviously superior to Faried. So what if he wasn’t even 6’8”, already 21 years-old, and wasn’t going to be a primary option? The guy was one of the most productive players in NCAA history. He had a 7’0” wingspan that more than made up for how far his head was from the rim. He was one of the best athletes in the draft. And maybe more important than all of that, his approach to the game was ideal and his motor never stopped.
Players with those qualifications are what teams should want once the Kevin Durants, Derrick Roses, and Blake Griffins of the world are off the board, and Faried’s immediate success once he finally become a staple of George Karl’s rotation is perhaps the best indicator yet. Denver found a guy that will be an impact player in this league for the next ten years, and they did it picking 22nd in what was considered one of the weakest drafts of all time.
So after Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and the remaining cream of the crop are taken in the top six or so picks of the 2012 draft, keep an eye out for rebounders, shooters, defenders, or passers. Guys that will stick in the league because they do just one thing better than the rest. Then watch them make a difference for a playoff contender once the season finally comes around, just like Faried has for the Nuggets in 2012.