Denver Nuggets

Denver Nuggets’ backup minutes for Mason Plumlee, Kenneth Faried still in flux – The Denver Post

How to distribute the Nuggets’ backup big man’s minutes is proving to be a conundrum for coach Michael Malone. The latest example came in Monday night’s loss at Portland, when Kenneth Faried played 17 minutes and Mason Plumlee got just six.

Malone knows perhaps the only way to fully clean up this part of the rotation is to remove Plumlee or Faried from it. Though the coach is not ready to take that drastic of a step, he is prepared to make more difficult decisions from game to game.

“As a leader, I’m not trying to keep people happy,” Malone said. “If I wanted to keep people happy, I’d sell ice cream. My job is to help this team win as many games as possible. …

“I go into games with plans. But sometimes, the flow of the game, the personality of the game makes you adjust.”

Malone knew he had a backup power forward overflow entering training camp, as Faried is a franchise mainstay, Plumlee signed a lucrative contract extension during the offseason and Trey Lyles was acquired via a draft-night trade. The coach’s first task was to narrow that group from three to two, with Lyles ultimately becoming the odd man out.

So far this season, Plumlee (6.1 points, 4.0 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game) has typically entered the game about midway through the first quarter. Usually Faried (4.5 points, 2.7 rebounds in 10.4 minutes) starts the second quarter. Their roles, though, change drastically at times.

Faried did not play at the Brooklyn Nets in late October because starting center Nikola Jokic got in foul trouble and Malone does not like pairing Faried with Plumlee. Faried also got zero minutes in the Nuggets’ dramatic win against Oklahoma City last week, because Plumlee scored 11 first-half points. Plumlee, meanwhile, did not play at all beyond the first quarter Monday against his former team.

“It doesn’t impact me at all,” Plumlee said of the varying roles. “(The coaches) don’t know what they want to do yet. As a player, you’re just always ready to play whenever you’re called upon. That’s all you can do.”

Plumlee and Faried have different skill sets. Faried is known for his high energy, with his soaring alley-oop dunk against the Orlando Magic serving as the latest example. Plumlee is a niftier facilitator and rim protector inside. Faried pairs best with Jokic, while Plumlee’s versatility can gel with Paul Millsap or Jokic when the Nuggets opt to deploy a bigger lineup. Against the Trail Blazers, however, Malone’s lineup to start the second quarter put Faried and Millsap together alongside Richard Jefferson, Malik Beasley and Emmanuel Mudiay.

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