Alexey Shved: Happy in Minneapolis, Plus OJ Mayo and Anthony Bennett

alexeyshved

Alexey loves the land of 10,000 (frozen) lakes. It’s like Moscow.

Alexey Shved: Minneapolis is Moscow and Moscow is Minneapolis and I like Moscow so therefore I like Minneapolis

Andy G: Amid all of the pre-draft Playoffs craze, we haven’t devoted nearly enough (any?) attention to our favorite Timberwolf, Alexey Shved.

For some background, in case anyone forgot, here is the best visual representation of how Shved met “The Rookie Wall”:

It was tough to watch, both as a fan of Shved the player, and the Timberwolves team. His off-season will be as important to the team as anything it does in the draft or free agency. The team needs help at shooting guard in a bad way, and Alexey has had/might continue to have the opportunity to make the job his. He just needs to get [a lot] stronger and more consistent with his jump shot.

He gave an interview in Russia recently, which was partially interpreted in a Canis Hoopus thread by commenter RussianBeesnyestEenterest.com (I love that moniker, btw.) Shved had this to say about his rookie season, and hitting the rookie wall:

“I was not able to sustain that level of play for the season – mainly because it was very tiring. Other players also warned me that could happen to me. Avoiding these slumps was not possible though. Playing 82 games in five and a half months – that’s quite a prize (ironic). It is, for example, possible to have 5 games in just 7 days! And if the coaching staff gives you 25 to 30 minutes of playing time it is very hard to give them good basketball until the end of such a stretch. At the end of the day I had very pleasing games and very unpleasing ones. It gave me experience. And for next season, I will know what to expect right from the start. Of course I will work to ensure that I will play much more consistently.”

Importantly, he goes on to say that he’s returning to Minnesota on June 25 to work individually with the team on his off-season program.

I’m REALLY glad to read that last part. It’s not that I don’t trust Shved to work diligently WHILST hanging out in Moscow, on the other side of the globe. It’s that I wouldn’t trust ANYONE his age to work diligently whilst hanging out in Moscow, on the other side of the globe (and getting paid millions of guaranteed dollars). Some are more self driven than others, but I think it’s a really positive sign that he’s willing to spend much of his summer here, with the team helping him out.

There are certain basic, threshold matters that Shved has to take care of, in his game. He needs to get heavier and stronger. He needs to improve his consistency as a shooter (find spots and perfect them — not so much variation). He needs to weed out those two-dribble 20-footers that Mike Beasley made famous here before him. He needs to get A LOT more comfortable handling the ball against body contact. Without a better comfort level dribbling in tight spaces, he’ll never fully thrive as a playmaker.

All of those things can be accomplished if he’s willing to work at it with peeps like Bill Bayno, and I take his decision to move back here so early as a sign that he is.

Patrick J: All signs suggest Shved is committed to making it work here in Minneapolis. And that’s very good news for a guy who is young, *very* foreign, was physically unprepared for the rigors of the NBA, and who wasn’t known for his work ethic or self-restraint in the diskoteks of Moscow.

So here’s some interesting commentary from the Shved interview:

“Q: Minneapolis is becoming your second home. Have you settled in?

A: (Shved):It is a very pleasant city. Of course it is not as big as Moscow but I am totally happy there. As for the weather – it is just like Moscow. When it’s freezing it’s even colder. I adapted pretty quickly, mostly due to Kirilenko’s help. The general atmosphere within the team helped a lot too as I hanged out with the boys a lot.”

The thing is, I’ve spent time in Moscow during the winter. And it’s cold. Not Mpls cold. Real fucking cold. Not comparable. If you want comparable, Alexey, spend some time in Calgary in December. *That’s* like Moscow. But I digress. I’m glad Alexey feels at home in Mpls.

More than that, what I’m hoping Alexey’s commentary means is that he is now comfortable here.  That’s important. What we all forget is that despite Shved’s precipitous decline last season after his very promising beginning to the season, is that Alexey has some legitimate NBA talent at both the point and the shooting guard positions. Amid all of the desperation we’ve seen among Wolves Nation this off-season for Flip Saunders to find a starting-caliber two guard, it’s easy to forget that Shved has starting-level talent–you could see it during the Olympics, the preseason, and the early part of the regular season–and he has the kind of poor-man’s Penny Hardaway qualities that will at worst tease and tantalize and at best allow him to become a legitimate, functional starter in the League.

Andy addressed his biggest weaknesses above. As the season wore on, I was increasingly unconvinced he’d ever have the stuff you need to get over rookie issues and become a solid pro. Shved’s attitude has really impressed me though. I think the Wolves will have great prospects if they can get their other young talent–Kevin Love–to buy into Minnesota and offseason workouts like Alexey Shved has.

Patrick J: Kevin Love has resurfaced. Neither broken knuckles nor a scoped knee are enough to keep him off camera. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Love’s great at the media bit, he obviously loves doing it (pun sort of intended, whatever), and you get a reminder of why so many people like the guy off the court–even when he goes out of his way at least once annually and runs his mouth about his distaste for his bosses and coworkers. So now the news isn’t so fatalistic. In fact, it sounds pretty upbeat.

The big question is why? Does K-Love have a new outlook on things now that David Kahn is out? Is he a Flip Saunders guy? Is he just trying to get as much facetime on national tv as possible to set up his move to Los Angeles when he opts out in 2015? One thing we know about Love is that he’s a charismatic guy who doesn’t shy away from the camera. And indeed, one of the first decisions that occurred after the Wolves opted not to bring back POBO David Kahn and to replace Kahn with new POBO Flip Saunders was to send Love to represent the team at the NBA Draft Lottery. Love didn’t disappoint–he even brandished a Ricky Rubio bobblehead on camera–but Love has followed up the Lottery appearance with appearances on ESPN’s Mike and Mike and SportsCenter.

None of this is new. Love has been a hit for his charisma on Bill Simmons’ BS Report podcast and in those cool commercials with Kyrie Lee Irving.

Kevin Love is the Wolves’ franchise player. Coming off an injury-riddled season in which his performance and attitude regressed, is Love rejuvenated about his future with the Wolves, or pursuing every opportunity to market, or even REBRAND, his self, while looking ahead to his one-year premature free agency?

Here’s the thing:  Love’s a great player. We know that. Is he a winner? That remains to be seen. But we do know a second thing: Love is a great self-promoter. That isn’t a slam – it isn’t easy for an unathletic white guy playing on losing teams in the Small Market of Minnesota to be a national darling. But the angle right now isn’t clear, and presumably there’s a strategic logic that Love and/or his agent are working here. So what do you think is going on?

Andy G: I listened to some of the Mike and Mike podcast (and Eric in Madison recapped it at Canis Hoopus). He does sound upbeat, and that’s great, but HERE’S THE THING (x2):

None of it matters unless the team wins this season.

We’ve beaten this dead horse plenty, but five playoffsless NBA seasons is A TON. Without a post-season berth in 2014 the Wolves-Love Relationship will fray beyond repair. (This is also why the Kahn/Saunders flip (!) is overblown — Love’s feelings about MN aren’t going to depend on who sits in the POBO chair NEARLY as much as they will depend on things like his relationships with his teammates and coaches, and the success or failure of the team.)

O.J. Mayo: Future Timberwolf?

Andy G: Darren Wolfson reports:

A source close to the situation reiterated what was reported in this space two weeks ago: guard O.J. Mayo is a big-time free agent priority this summer for the Wolves. Interestingly, depending on your view, there is no free agent buzz involving the Wolves and guard Kevin Martin. He played for Wolves coach Rick Adelman in Houston.

Well this sure is interesting. Are the Wolves really going to pull off the unthinkable and turn the Love/Mayo trade half on its head and make them teammates?

Mayo is a very good shooter and a pretty good ball handler. His defense is nothing special, but it’s also nothing of a liability. In theory, he’s a nice backcourt mate for Rubio — certainly better in the short term than any rookies in the upcoming draft (yes, even McLemore or Oladipo.) The questions would then become whether the team has any cap space to make an offer (only if Kirilenko opts out and they don’t re-sign him to a longer Kahntract) and what that offer would be. Depending on the numbers, I might like to see O.J. in Minny.

How’s that for a non answer?

Patrick J: I’d definitely like to see O.J. in ‘Sota next season. We need a SG who can find the right space on the floor, catch passes from Ricky Rubio, and convert three-point field goals. O.J. Mayo can find seams in defenses. And he can convert three-point field goal attempts, as his shot chart from last season shows.

OJ Mayo can shoot

OJ Mayo can shoot

And here’s some video evidence.

Video evidence: Mayo can shoot

What Mayo isn’t so good at doing is putting the ball on the floor and creating his own shot. Fortunately, that isn’t what we’d be asking him to do. Mayo would be a solid, steady–if largely unspectacular–addition that would address the Wolves’ biggest need.

And just for the record, I’m not worried about recent concerns about Mayo’s attitude, which seemed to be as much about Rick Carlisle’s meltdown as it was about Mayo. Assuming Rick Adelman will be back–and by the way, what happened to the bit where Adelman maintained that he wasn’t going to string out The Decision and would let the team know within weeks of the season’s end?–Adelman would handle Mayo just fine.

Obligatory Anthony Bennett Hype

Andy G: David from Cleveland asks Chad Ford:

Anthony Bennett is the clear cut best player in the draft if you watch him. Why are more people not talking about him as the #1 pick?

Ford replied:

I think you could be right. High upside + NBA ready. A couple of things … at No. 1 he’s not a terrific fit with Cleveland. But I could see him going No. 3 to Washington or No. 4 to Charlotte. They both like him A LOT.

Since it’s probably 99.9% likely that the Timberwolves won’t be moving up in the draft to select Anthony Bennett, the all-around basketball fan in me would love to see him end up on either Cleveland or Washington. Kyrie Irving deserves a bona fide BMF teammate, and that would be Anthony Bennett. If John Wall and Bradley Beal can get a third wheel like Bennett to play the 4, look out Eastern Conference 2015 and beyond. Fun possibilities to think about. If the Wolves were more daring, they’d recognize the best talent and go get him. Sounds like their main target possibilities are position based, though.

That’s all for now, folks. Enjoy Game 2 on Sunday.

About these ads

9 Comments

Filed under NBA Draft, Timberwolves

9 responses to “Alexey Shved: Happy in Minneapolis, Plus OJ Mayo and Anthony Bennett

  1. Good stuff. I’m not as down on Mayo as many of my CH mates but I’m not as sure I am as high on him as you might be. It really depends on the contract for me- although I think he is opting out of his max value which is concerning.

    • I’m actually not as high on him as the post might suggest. He is what he is, and you’re right, for the right price, he could be useful. The Wolves have a gaping hole at shooting guard, probably don’t want to have/couldn’t find if the did a rookie to fill this gap *this season*, so Mayo kind of fits. I think Flip knows what he’s doing on this one. People just shouldn’t set their expectations too high (or low).

      • That’s fair- I am pretty desperate for a real NBA SG to join the Wolves and at the very least Mayo is that. I’m still hopeful for other options though. I would prefer to find a trade for C. Lee but of course I have no way of knowing if that is even available.

        • Everything option should be on the table regarding shooting guards. I’m encouraged by Flip’s acknowledgement of Ridnour (and thus presumably JJ as well) as too small to continue getting significant clock at the position. One of the things that wore on me the most last season was seeing Ridnour in matchup nightmares against bigger SGs almost every night, and how the rest of the team constantly had to adjust because of the built-in mismatch.

  2. Dave A.

    Good to read about Shved. Shved and Rubio offer hope for the future. Ridnour and JJ have value but not with the Wolves. Alternate Shved and Rubio at the point and add shooters who can defend at the two position. Team need to get better on defense – bigger, longer, stronger.

    • I think either Ridnour or JJ can add value as a backup point guard–I prefer Luke because he’s consistent and plays a less ball-dominant point, but J.J. has his strengths too. I’d rather see them try to move both, acquire a legitimate-sized starting SG, and let Shved backup both positions.

      Team defense should improve with (fingers crossed) a full season from Rubio (especially), but also Love (he actually plays very solid position defense when he’s in shape), and Kirilenko (assuming he comes back). And last season, according to Britt Robson, Bill Bayno repeatedly lauded Pekovic’s improvement as a defender. I didn’t see any night-and-day change in Pek’s defensive ability, either as a position defender or a shot blocker, but at least it seems like he’s trending in the right direction. So I think health will do a lot to shore up our defense, but equally important is getting a two with enough size and toughness to guard real honest-to-pete NBA shooting guards. And I think that’s why Saunders & co are reportedly so high on Oladipo, despite lingering question marks about whether he’ll ever become a competent NBA three-point shooter.

  3. Pingback: Special Commentary on the National Basketball Association | Punch-Drunk Wolves