We’re kicking off our offseason coverage here at A Wolf Among Wolves with a comprehensive roster review of the team from this past season, looking at how each player’s 2013-14 went and what we see for them going forward. One player a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and rolling up to the starters.
In one of the season’s final games, a loss at home to the Chicago Bulls, FSN North color analyst Jim Petersen issued a plea for Timberwolves fans to keep hope alive for Alexey Shved. It was a long, frustrating season for the second-year man from Belgorod, Russia, and Petersen, being the positive force that he is, attempted to highlight his strengths – size and athleticism. “Don’t give up on him,” said Jim Pete. “He can still find a way to put it together.”
When Shved arrived, I was excited at the prospect of a combo guard with passing acumen, leaping ability and a solid jump shot – which is the bill of goods we were sold in July of 2012. The first two months of his career were solid enough to warrant cautious optimism… but then everything fell apart. He was in the rotation through the middle of January, but never produced nearly enough to stay there, and his minutes waned as the season drew to a closeHis slight build puts him at a disadvantage on the defensive end to begin with, and the rigors of the long NBA season, plus the nightly chore of running through and around large, screening bigs, wore him out. Offensively, he did a few good things in his rookie season, but nothing went right in 2013-14. Running the pick and roll at the NBA level is a riddle he’s never solved; his inconsistent shot mechanics leave him prone to long stretches of futility.
To put it bluntly, and to politely disobey the inestimable Jim Petersen: I’m giving up on Alexey Shved.
A few bleak (and somewhat dull) statistics from the 2013-14 season: among players who attempted 200 shots, only Phil Pressey (30.8%) made them at a lower rate than Shved (32.1%). Only 11 players who attempted 100 or more three pointers made a lower percentage than Alexey did (29.4%). He attempted 41 midrange jumpers; 4 of them went in. Shved was actually pretty decent at the rim, making 53.3% of his shots in the restricted area, but on non-restricted area attempts in the paint, he was 2-for-19. Another way to put it: he shot 53.3% at the basket, 29.4% outside the arc, and 10% (6-for-60) everywhere in between. In short, he’s a shooting guard who can’t shoot.
“But maybe he shouldn’t be a shooting guard,” you ask. “Perhaps he really ought to play the point?” 19% of his 116 pick and roll possessions ended up as turnovers, per Synergy. His assist to turnover ratio this season was 68-to-48. So, no. He isn’t a point guard, either.
If you examine his body of work after the first two months of his rookie year, you see an overwhelming trend emerge:
|Timeframe||Games||Minutes||Shooting Splits||PPG||AST/TO Ratio|
|Nov – Dec, 2012||27||452||40/33/74||10.9||2.1 to 1|
|Jan 2013 – Present||113||1751||34/28/73||5.5||1.6 to 1|
You can live with a backup guard who shoots 40% from the floor, makes a third of his threes, and is serviceable at either the one or the two. Once a player sinks to the offensive depths he has since January 1st, 2013, however, if he isn’t bringing much to the table defensively, it’s hard to keep him on the roster. Shved doesn’t possess the body type to handle most of the NBA’s shooting guards, and while his length bothers some opposing ball handlers in one-on-one situations, most teams know to run a pick and roll at him because he’s mediocre at fighting through screens. Given the drop in Alexey Shved’s production, there is little to no reason he should be considered for a rotation spot moving forward. The $3.2 million he’s owed in 2014-15 looks a lot like sunk cost.
I hate to reduce a player to a conglomeration of numbers, statistics and ad hoc criticisms without considering him as a person as well. It’s possible Alexey Shved is unhappy in Minnesota; he seems to sulk and brood, and picking up English has been slow for him. Perhaps he never gelled with the coaching staff or embraced Rick Adelman’s offensive concepts. He was often asked to play out of position, or to carry a far bigger load than anticipated, in 2012-13, and this season, he was part of a bench unit that was a collective mess, factors outside of his control.
It’s possible a buyout or the Wolves’ use of the stretch provision could apply, and in theory, serve both parties’ interests, especially if Shved longs for a return to Russia and Flip Saunders gets desperate for a roster spot. His price tag and lackluster performance make him difficult (or nearly impossible) to trade. He’s unlikely to find a payday anywhere close to the one he’s due from Minnesota, so the most probable outcome is that he’ll be with the team when they head to Mankato in October.
Perhaps he’ll make a sequel to the trick-or-treating video he made this past October?