The Denver Nuggets are gearing up for their home-opener against the Sacramento Kings and Nuggets' head coach Michael Malone says his team is ready to go.
"It was a good shootaround," Malone explained. "Guys are locked in and focused."
Malone knows that facing the Kings, who have a grand total of zero players left from his tenure as the head coach of the organization, is an entirely different beast now that they do not have DeMarcus Cousins and have completely re-tooled the entire roster. The challenge on Saturday night will be defeating the new-look Kings in front of a contingent of the Nuggets' all-time great players consisting of Alex English, Byron Beck, Lafayette "Fat" Lever, David Thompson, Dan Issel, Dikembe Mutombo and ex-Nuggets head coach Doug Moe.
Now, the Kings have an interesting mix of youthful talent like Willie Cauley-Stein, De'Aaron Fox, Skal Labissierre, Justin Jackson and Buddy Hield to go with a new crop of veterans, who have done a bit of everything throughout the league, with the free agent acquisitions of George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter. This Kings team is fundamentally different and will likely be playing an entirely altered style of basketball.
Malone, when talking about the renovated Kings, said that “They’re a good team. They have a nice balance of veteran players and really young, talented players.” His first cause for worry when it comes to matching up against them? Rebounding.
“The number one concern, aside from the turnovers for us, is that they are a great offensive rebounding team," Malone explained at shootaround on Saturday morning. "They outrebounded Dallas by 21 last night. They had 16 offensive rebounds and that starts with Cauley-Stein who is averaging four offensive rebounds a game in two regular season games.”
Being that the Kings rely on their size in the frontcourt to overpower teams and Malone is worried about rebounding it opens up the opportunity for Kenneth Faried to see substantial minutes on Saturday night as the backup power forward. There is no question that Faried is an elite rebounded so, on paper, this seems like a matchup that Faried could, and should, be able to be able to produce well in.
After a preseason full of questions surrounding the backup power forward position, it seems that Faried has won the job over newcomer Trey Lyles. Faried did have a wonderful preseason so, if Malone plans to attempt to play four traditional bigs within his rotation, it seems that Faried will be relied upon to round out a frontcourt of Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic, and backup center Mason Plumlee.
It is interesting that Lyles, who was one of the positive storylines from training camp and a player that Malone would rave about saying he had arrived in wonderful shape and had been impressing with his play, did not win the backup power forward role. Now that task falls to Faried, who was vocally opposed to coming off of the bench as recent as media day when he was basically one step away from requesting a trade through the media.
“There are 29 other teams,” said Faried on media day. “If this team doesn’t want, or respect me enough, to play me the minutes that I think I deserve to play, then I understand that. Hey, there’s 29 others. Maybe I’ll go somewhere else and do what I need to do there.
Against the Utah Jazz, Malone elected to play Faried just under seven minutes, most of which came in the first half, while Trey Lyles did not see the floor until the final minute and a half of the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. Malone said that he did not go back to Faried because of the matchup-nightmare brought on by Joe Johnson playing power forward for long stretches for the Jazz.
“If you go back to the Utah game and Joe (Johnson) was somewhat of a matchup problem for us because going in we were trying to play Paul, Nikola, Mason, and Kenneth," Malone explained. "That kind of got away from us in the second half because of who they were playing.”
With the Kings, and all of their size, in town to face the Nuggets it seems that there will not be a matchup issue that would keep Faried from playing extended minutes. Denver is going to need more rebounding and that is something that Faried can, without a doubt, provide in spades.
"I think if we can play our four bigs tonight I think it would help us in terms of rebounding because that is such a big concern," Malone said. "But it can’t just be bigs. It has to be all five guys on the floor getting in on the rebounding battle."