Alexey Shved’s 2012 Olympics debut in Russia’s win over Great Britain yesterday opened eyes worldwide, and nowhere more than in Minnesota. The 6’6” guard had 16 points on 6-of-11 from the field and dropped 13 dimes en route to a big win. Better yet for us Wolves fans, the chemistry he has with Kirilenko was palpable. Kirilenko managed to dominate even more than Shved, scoring 35 on 14-of-17 from the floor and doing a lot to reverse the concerns Andy and I voiced in our breakdown of the AK47 signing.
But the big story for me was Shved. The question isn’t if he can play, but at which position and for how many minutes.
Yesterday, Alexey owned at the point. That’s his position. It confirmed my priors: the several times I tried to read Jonathan Givony’s tea leaves while scouting Shved from my living room over the last few years, I always came away with an image of a Euro Shaun Livingston in my head.
But I saw enough yesterday to go out on a limb and say that Shved will almost certainly be better than Livingston–and that includes the Shaun Livingston who was on the verge of breaking out in 2006-07 with the Clippers when the only breakout was his knee and not his game.
Still, I think there’s something to that comparison; however, Shved is quicker, more aggressive, and can pass the hell out of the ball even more than Livingston could. I love how he finds cutters and makes tough passes without hesitation. Indeed, even at Shaun’s best, he always looked a bit slow, a lot gangly, and almost always hesitant to make those snap decisions and quick hits that Shved made time and again yesterday against Great Britain. Finally, it looks like Shved has a quiet confidence and leadership ability that not just everyone has. That should help ease his transition to living in the U.S. and playing in the NBA.
I like Shved’s chances of becoming a very competent point in this league, and in not too long. Indeed, I think that’s the position he’ll end up settling into. The problem with that, of course, is that we’ve got another young point who does most of the same stuff, except better than not only Shved but pretty much everyone. So, what to do with Alexey?
I was pretty dubious Shved would be able to play the two based on the scouting reports alone–especially as a shooter and scorer. I couldn’t get beyond the stereotype I’d created for him, lumping him in that rare but intriguing category of the Big Point Guard. And no matter how great a Big Point Guard can be, shooting is rarely the Big Point Guard’s strength. I’d managed to delude myself into believing that this was simply the tradeoff of having a Big Point Guard.
Having finally seen more than a 4-minute Youtube clip of him, however, I think I was dead wrong: indeed, his EuroLeague stats have been rock solid across the board the last few years, and you you can see in his game that he has the tools to do it.
I was more than pleased when it was Shved’s jumper that impressed me more than anything else on Sunday. Here’s a long guard with all the handles and vision you could want, but he can get and make his own jumpers too–both off the catch and the dribble. Furthermore, Shved’s balance is better than I’d have expected given how skinny he is–he consistently gets himself squared up to shoot or pass, even when absorbing contact while coming off of screens or getting hand checked when taking his defender one-on-one.Shved has very nice lift on his jumper, without it being excessive and thus a likely hindrance in 4th quarters, when legs get tired and shots fall short. The icing on the cake is that he shoots it nice and high, and with a textbook follow-through to boot. Tasty.
I get that it’s only one game, and no one should be on anyone’s jock just quite yet. But I think Shved will be a competent two who will give defenses some tough looks they didn’t see from us last year. He appeared to move well without the ball (as did his teammates–Russia is obviously well coached) and he’ll be able to make shots when he’s open. These simple qualities are really, really important in Rick Adelman’s offense, and they were sorely absent at times last year. Especially when JJ Barea or Wes Johnson would stand in at the two. And it almost goes without saying, but the ability Shved is showing really, really helps to ease anxiety about Brandon Roy’s knees and whether they’ll hold up against a full season’s schedule, like we’re all hoping they will.
All that said, it’s kind of sad that despite all of this reason for optimism, there will likely come a time in the next year or two when posts and comments will begin to be written about how Shved isn’t really a two guard and how he’s not ever going to upseat Rubio and how we should consequently be trying to get rid of him for a “real” shooting guard. Such was the case with Jefferson/Love, and now Love/Williams, and fair enough I guess.
I don’t disagree that it’s frustrating how poorly we’ve balanced our rosters under Kahn.
Still, talent is talent and Alexey Shved has a lot of it.
It’ll be a fun ride, so enjoy it while it lasts.