Roster Review: Alexey Shved

Steve McPherson —  May 23, 2013 — 5 Comments

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There are a lot of rookie clichés that can be deployed about Alexey Shved: the rookie wall, a tale of two halves, he needs to add strength, needs to get comfortable, has to look for his shot, etc. If you talk to him—which almost no one ever got to as the season wore on because he would duck out immediately following games—you would hear a lot of clichés as well, but maybe that was down to Shved trying to get a grip on a language that’s still elusive.

The same thing happens with Rubio. I lamented to Zach one night that it’s too bad we can’t have a crack Spanish translator there so we could ask very specific questions that could garner specific, hopefully insightful answers from the Catalonian wunderkind. (And yes I know that’s mixing Spain and Germany—multiculturalism!) But instead all we get are bromides about competing, playing hard, playing as a team, and then crazy people in the skyway yelling at Zach that they don’t need a translator. (True story.)

With Shved, it’s even worse. His tongue rarely betrayed him in postgame interviews, even though it seemed like he was always on guard against it, a shy young man deeply concerned about saying the wrong thing. But as the season wore on and his game gradually began to betray him, his reluctance to talk grew and grew, until eventually it was easier to catch a glimpse of him, hood up, by waiting near the visitors’ locker room on the way to the arena exit than by heading into the Wolves’ locker room.

It would have been easy to pile on to Shved for his late-season performance, but I tried to resist. Without resorting to statistical measures, my memory of his rookie year was an impressive quick start spurred by injuries to the rest of the guard rotation, a major stumble prior to some missed games thanks to a sprained ankle, a minor resurgence following the sprain, and then a long slow descent into futility and frustration.

Looking at the breakdown of the season in 10 game chunks at NBA.com more or less confirms this pattern. Here’s a snapshot:

Shved_10gamebreakdown

The breakdown immediately following the midpoint of the season is stark. His double-digit points per game average plunges to 7.3, then 7.0, then 5.6 and finally 4.3. His 3-point shooting absolutely craters at 21.4% between games 41–50. He stops getting to the line; his free throw shooting gets worse; his assists drop off. It’s more than worth noting that a typical season in the Euroleague is about 30 games, with perhaps a dozen more for tournaments—almost exactly half a season in the NBA.

Towards the end, when Adelman was barely giving him time on the floor (his minutes per game having fallen from a high of 33.9 in games 21–30 to just 14.3 in 61–70) he just looked numb. Shell-shocked. Chances are, you’ve experienced something like this in your life before. When I started getting in better shape a few years ago, I began by doing a lot of running. At first, 3 miles at a time. Then 4.5. Eventually, I ran a 10K, figuring it wasn’t so different than running two 5Ks back-to-back. It wasn’t. By the end of it I actually felt BETTER than at the beginning. Eventually, I decided to string a 10K together with my usual 4.5 mile route, which meant about 10 miles of running. And it went great!

Until I got 8 miles in. It was a hot day and I hadn’t brought any water. I found myself two-plus miles from my house, exhausted, barely able to put one foot in front of the other, hoping some enterprising soul had put a water fountain on the East River Parkway somewhere. My hips hurt, which I hadn’t even really realized was possible.

The thing is, whenever you dive neck deep into something, the wall is out there and it’s coming for you. In Shved’s case, some of it was because teams began to get tape on him, began to see how to goad him into bad shots. But some of it was just something inside of Shved that he needs to tackle and overcome. A full NBA offseason would ideally provide him with the chance to get stronger, a little quicker. He needs to learn to get his shot off faster, and to not only take what the defense is giving him, but also push the defense to give him what he wants.

He needs to attack the rim more, needs to be able to switch fluidly between looking for teammates and looking for his own shot—something, incidentally, that Rubio needs to do as well. Right now, you can practically hear their brains clicking over from DISTRIBUTE to ATTACK. If you watch LeBron James at work, you can see that it’s nearly impossible to tell whether he’s committing to scoring or preparing to set up a teammate.

Not that Shved is going to become LeBron or needs to. In fact, what he needs more than anything next season is the thing that was denied so many Timberwolves players in this injury-riddled season: a clear role with a margin of error that can allow for mistakes and growth. Shved has been through the fire and now the best thing for him is to be coming off the bench in specific spots to do specific things. Adelman was consist in lamenting Shved’s lack of off-the-ball abilities, which he also said wasn’t an unusual problem among rookies in the NBA. It would be great next season to see Shved get the chance to come into the game and work specifically to get good off-the-ball looks for five minutes at a time, or to work on drive-and-kicks coming in the flow of the offense.

If Shved can be given the chance to evolve more naturally next season, it’s possible we look back at his half-promising, half-demoralizing rookie year not as the failure it kind of feels like now, but as merely the first great challenge that helps forge a successful career in the NBA.

Steve McPherson

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5 responses to Roster Review: Alexey Shved

  1. Just to play devil’s advocate here, it seems like he probably deserves some scrutiny regarding how much his 3 point shooting can improve from last year and whether that should affect his future with this franchise. His numbers in Europe indicate some inconsistency, and if it seems like that will continue, they have to determine if he’ll make a good primary backup PG. He has a role in the NBA and I think he’ll toughen up enough to survive, but his shooting will determine whether he’s a starter. Also, he may have enough value that another team could overlook the shooting inconsistency and better use him. He’s so similar to Rubio offensively that they might have to determine if that’s a good or bad thing.

  2. Steve McPherson May 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I still believe that Rubio and Shved can coexist, but I do think it’s something that has to be consciously worked towards and not just left to natural evolution. To that end, it’s maybe true that Adelman’s desired system isn’t the best one for that to happen under. It would have to be almost, but not totally, a dual point guard system and I’m not sure that’s what Adelman wants. My sense is he’d much prefer his wings to be, well, wing-y: shooters and slashers.

    But you may be right about there being another team where he might fit better. I certainly wouldn’t rule out moving him in the right package.

  3. I don’t think the Wolves or their fans should waste a lot of emotional or developmental capital on Shved. He was cheap to bring in and he is charismatic and so there was certainly no harm in giving him a tryout, but he seems like just another good-but-not-quite-good-enough-at-anything Euro combo guard in the mold of a Sasha Vujacic or Jiri Welsch who will hang around for a few years and then get tired of being a role player and go back to a starting gig in the EuroLeague. Heck, that is a best case scenario, if he plays like he did post-All Star break he’ll be in China with Starbury by 2014-15. He’ll be 25 during the season, he’s not really a young enough prospect to reinvent himself as a distributor. So it’s been fun but if I were Flip I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep over whether Shved is part of my core.

  4. It’s too bad in these roster reviews we don’t get to hear from the player. The thing I would like to know most about Shved is “what are you planning to do to work on your game” Has Shved found the weight room and started mixing in a few Whey Protein shakes? Hopefully the answer is yes I would like to see what the kid can do next year if he could add a few pounds and a bit more consistency.

  5. I think people are a little bit hard on Shved, I’m guessing he had a picture in his mind of what it would be like playing on an NBA team, then out of nowhere he’s playing 35+ minutes, every one is injured and the team is losing. I think most people would fall off after witnessing K-Love go down again, Pek go down multiple times, etc. He got a lot of run early in the season when realistically he shouldn’t have been counted on so heavily. I think next season he’ll come back better and be dynamite off the bench like he was in spurts during the season.

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