Assessing Alexey Shved

Shved’s jumper looks promising

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.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Assessing Alexey Shved

  1. Richard Bentley

    I would have to quibble on criticizing the balance. Right now the Wolves have two solid 3′s in Kirilenko and Chase and Williams will have time to develop. He will still get minutes. They have a solid 5 and a potentially excellent backup with Stiemsma who has upside; Love can play there when they go small. You have Shved and Roy at the two and Budinger can also play there. You have Rubio, Ridnour, Barea, and Shved at point. The weakest spot is actually the four; Love will play major minutes and Cunningham should be a good backup. Derrick will get some minutes there, but he will be brought along as a three. How much Hummel and Lee play is an open question, but I don’t think you can do much better in terms of balance. So no matter how convoluted the path to get here was, this team has excellent balance.

    • Richard,
      Where I’ll disagree here is that I don’t think Derrick Williams is going to be an NBA small forward. Not an above-average one, at least. From a “woulda/coulda/shoulda” perspective, perhaps trading down for Kawhi Leonard would have been the best use of that draft. Or taking Jonas Valanciunas as a third big. As things stand with Williams, I’m really hoping–and still sort of expecting–him to break out as a good power forward. Obviously, that means he’s coming off the bench, which gets to a roster balance issue at least insofar as a valuable draft pick was spent on a backup.

      But on the whole, I think the team has better-looking roster balance than in recent seasons past. Pat identifies a concern with Shved–that he might be a point guard–but right now I’d be happy just knowing that both Wolves guards can dribble and pass.

  2. Eric in Madison

    I have always viewed Shved as a 2. The Olympics are a dubious venue to assess these things; he’s a terrific passer but a natural scorer. There isn’t a rule that your 2 guard can’t handle and make plays, in fact this was one of the big weaknesses of the Wolves this year. Apparently Patrick came to a similar conclusion.

    It is only a benefit that he can also play some point when necessary, and actually helps things by making it easier to move one of the other point guards if and when the time comes.

    Williams’ minutes are going to be an issue, clearly. He’ll really have to step it up to take minutes away from AK, Steamer, and Cunningham. It’s hard to see how his value increases, which they really need it to do.

    • I hope you’re right, and I fully grant you that it’s hard to take too much away from just one game. Had you seen much of Shved in Europe before the Wolves began pursuing him?

      Williams’ issues are one of the really interesting things aspects going into this season. As Eric notes, they badly need his value to increase, preferably at the 3 but better at the 4 than nowhere; meanwhile, they stack the deck against Williams playing any meaningful role, by which I mean a larger role than last year. Last week I suggested to someone in private that we’d end up selling Williams for a quarter on the dollar. By the time we’re done with him, it’s looking like it’ll be closer to a few pecos a dollar. It’s all supremely frustrating.

      • Eric in Madison

        I did watch several CSKA games this season (I’m a fan of quality European basketball). He came off the bench for them mostly at the 2. (Their point guard is Milos Teodosic, who is a serious baller).

        I agree that Williams is in a tough spot. I want him to get better and for his value to increase, but it is not, for me, as important as it was last year. They need to win as much as they can now. If that means Cunningham is a better choice, then that’s what it means. If it means (another) wasted high lottery pick, then oh well. Disappointing, but that cannot be their main concern this year.

        • Thanks for the background on Shved/CSKA.

          Fully agree on Williams. The pressure is on, from all angles, to win now, and so he sinks or swims. Not an ideal situation for most young players, but if he swims, it could accelerate his long term development as a successful, winning pro. I think the key is that he stop thinking and start playing. He was clearly hesitant last season, which really hurt his confidence, and consequently his effectiveness. I’m not sure if that hesitance was the result of not being coddled by Adelman, not feeling comfortable in understanding/running his offense, or because of relationships with teammates–it never seemed like Love was interested in mentoring him like he was Rubio, for example–but I don’t see his problem areas improving unless some of this stuff gets fixed.

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