If the NBA season were 27 games long then we would view Alexey Shved’s rookie season much differently. In those first two months of his career Shved averaged a respectable 10.9 points game and 4.8 assists per game while shooting .404 percent from the field and hit one-third of his three point attempts. These numbers are far from outstanding, but on a team that features Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and other scoring options, they were fine for a rookie coming off of the bench.
Yet, the NBA season is not 27 games long and the rest of Shved’s sample left much to be desired. Every rookie inevitably hits their wall, but some are able to overcome that midseason slump while others allow their frustration to get the best of them. Unfortunately for everyone involved in Minnesota last year, Shved included, the rookie guard was unable to push through those struggles. It was uncanny, as the calendar turned from 2012 to 2013, Shved’s shooting percentage dropped from .420 percent to .324 in January. Not just his shooting was affected, either. His per game numbers plummeted and, consequently, so did his court time, as his minutes per fell from 32.5 per game in December to just 16.7 in April. Shved’s struggles during the the final 55 games of his rookie campaign are highlighted by the fact that he never shot over .300 percent from three in a month in 2013.
As a result, Shved became frustrated, often wearing his emotions on his sleeve. The transition to the NBA did turn out to be as easy as it appeared it was going to be in the first quarter of the 2012-’13 season, and Shved often gave the impression he was “pouting.” In fact, it was Shved who was the muse for Ricky Rubio’s famous “Change your face” quote.
However, it’s not fair to give this assessment of Shved without just a little context. First off, Shved came in with maturity questions, which is not unheard of for any 24-year old. Secondly, no one thought that Shved would be ready to play 30 minutes per game right away in the NBA and was forced into that role because of injuries to the rest of the roster. And now that the team is mostly healthy, Shved’s role is once again expected to be smaller as well as the expectations of him for this coming season.
Shved’s rookie season didn’t leave us with no hope for the coming season. Take a look at this chart:
If you remember, Shved struggled from three last season, shooting .295 percent for the year. But if you take a closer look you’ll see that he actually has some value as a shooter, even from three. Yes, much like his teammate, Corey Brewer, Shved was an above average shooter from the corner three spots. On a team that struggled so much from deep last year, Shved’s abilities from these spots on the floor was relatively under-utilized. If the Timberwolves can figure out how to get Shved more looks from this spot next season they will be a more potent offensive team for it.
Yet, this isn’t just me asking for Shved to stand in the corner and call for the ball. In addition to being proficient from the corner (albeit a small sample), Shved was a league average shooter at the rim. Now, I know you’re thinking that average is no big deal, but he has a couple other teammates — *cough* Derrick Williams *cough *Ricky Rubio * cough* — who are working just to get to average. This matters because they are even more involved in the offense than Shved and also that Shved doesn’t leave empty points on the table.
To review. Shved may not have been a world-beater of overall shooting efficiency, but he is efficient enough in two key areas to make a difference. The first being in the corner, which means that he can efficiently make high value shots, and the second being under the basket because those are easy points. In terms of the new age of NBA offensive thinking, Shved fits right in with this line of thinking so far.
The idea for this season may be to make Shved less of a creator for himself this season and allow his teammates to set him up within the flow of the offense. Of his 236 made field goals last season, .464 percent of those were assisted. The two areas Shved shot his best from — at the rim and from three — were also the floor areas where his shots were assisted the most. What about the other areas, the midrange? That’s when his efficiency was at it’s lowest, and when we would see him over-dribble until he is forced to take a less-than-desirable shot from any of those areas.
It actually seems the Timberwolves have inadvertently constructed their roster in such a way that makes Shved more of a spot-up shooter and cutter. They brought in Kevin Martin and Shabazz Muhammad at shooting guard. At point guard, they’ve brought in guys like second round pick Lorenzo Brown and one of A.J. Price and Othyeus Jeffers will likely make the roster as well. With these additions Shved will have to earn more of his playing time this season, but he has two very tangible NBA skills that should enable him to get on the court.
It’s not just Shved’s shooting that could be improved by minimizing his time as the primary ball-handler, but also the team’s overall passing. Look at what the best shooting teams in the NBA do: they move the ball very well. Shved is also very capable of making plays for others without using a lot of possessions. Last season Shved accounted for a quarter of the team’s assists on the floor while using 20 percent of the team’s possessions. Those aren’t elite by any means, but they are still very good and also give the Timberwolves a clue to make Shved more effective this year and avoid those frustrations.
Shved may have struggled when asked to do too much last season, but there is a chance for success in a smaller role as a guard off of the bench. However, it will be his ability to hit those corner threes, finish at the rim, and move the ball that will determine just which guard he will be off of the bench. This is likely our best chance to see Shved return to the player that was a top-10 Rookie of the Year candidate in the first two months of the season. And at media day this year Shved seemed to be in positive spirits and ready to accept the challenge of rebounding from his rookie struggles despite the Timberwolves’ crowded backcourt. And if you remember from your freshman year of high school, it only gets better from there.