Following David lee’s season-ending injury, there was debate over the Golden State Warriors’ options at power forward. The Harrison Barnes at power forward lineup promoted for its offensive promise was feared to leave the Warriors defenseless against Denver’s offensive rebounding. Denver led NBA with a 31.4 percent offensive rebounding percentage, boosted by the hyperactive Kenneth Faried, who had the league’s sixth best offensive rebound percentage during the regular season.
The return of Faried was expected to cause significant matchup problems for the Warriors. He is too strong for Barnes, and too quick for Carl Landry. However, the Warriors held Faried to only four points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
Much of Faried’s decreased production may be attributed to his ankle injury. His decreased lateral mobility was clear in his pick and roll coverage, and contributed to his inability to produce offensively or rebound effectively.
As this graphic from popcornmachine.net shows, the Warriors never allowed Faried to take advantage of Barnes. Faried was never on the floor without one of Landry, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli or Andrew Bogut matched up against him. Because of Faried’s decreased mobility, he was restricted against defenders of equal strength.
Also, at the end of the second and third quarters, and the beginning of the fourth, Faried played without Kosta Koufos or Javale McGee in the lineup. According to nbawowy.com, in 1142 possessions played with neither McGee nor Koufos on the court, Faried posted an offensive rebounding rate of 13.4 percent, and a true-shooting percentage of 61.6 percent–4.3 percent higher than his season average.
When playing without Denver’s main centers, Faried typically excels offensively, but the Warriors were able to limit his opportunities and production. On a typical offensive possession, Faried will run the baseline, set high screens and actively cut through the paint. But in game two, he was often restricted to waiting in the low block or setting high screens while ineffectively rolling.
Faried was not as aggressive, but the Warriors did actively attempt to limit his space offensively. When Andre Iguodala or Corey Brewer, 31.7 and 29.6 percent shooters from behind the arc respectively, were on the same side as Faried on the roll, Iguodala and Brewer’s defenders would consistently crash down to pressure Faried’s dive to the rim, allowing his man to recover.
Faried played several minutes with Anthony Randolph, whose offensive game garnered little respect from the Warriors. This had Golden State defenders often helped off Randolph to pressure Faried in the pick and roll. They may have over-committed to this strategy, as Randolph, a former Warrior, had 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Faried’s ability to pressure the Warriors’ defense and gain extra possessions for the Nuggets will be influential throughout the series. As the Warriors showed in Game 2, they are fully capable of stopping a limited Faried. How they react if Faried regains his mobility as the series progresses remains a vital question in determining this suddenly competitive first round series.