Shved's "Fearless" Play Gives Teammates Confidence
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Sometimes it’s deceiving watching Alexey Shved on the court.
Sometimes you forget he’s a rookie, that he’s played in just 29 career NBA games heading into Saturday’s matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers and that he started the season in a reserve role on Rick Adelman’s bench. You overlook that just three months ago, the most telling sample size most Wolves fans had of him was his brief stint with Team Russia in the Olympics, when he helped his squad win the Bronze Medal. You disregard that off the court Shved is a quiet 24-year-old still getting acquainted with life in America.
It’s easy to do, because when Shved is on the court he plays so much like he’s been through all this before. Yes, he has moments where his inexperience shows through. But Shved has met every task asked of him with open arms this season—including being pushed into the starting shooting guard role thanks to a string of injuries—and he’s passed most tests with ease.
Now, he's Minnesota's starting shooting guard and easily considered a fan favorite among the Target Center crowd.
On Thursday in Denver, Shved again stood tall at key moments when the Wolves needed him. He and JJ Barea led the Wolves with 17 points each, and Shved chipped in five assists and four rebounds in Minnesota’s 101-97 come-from-behind win.
He shot 7-of-13 in the game, showing off two facets of his skill set that can make him a pretty effective player once he begins using them in unison. Shved drilled a 3-pointer early but was 1-of-3 from behind the arc in the first quarter after going 2-of-7 the night before. So he deferred those shots from distance the rest of the night, only offering up one the rest of the way.
As a substitute to his 3-point shooting, Shved drove to the basket. He showed the type of slashing threat he can be, and in the final three quarters he shot 6-of-8 from inside the arc.
That was an important adjustment to a team trying to climb back into a road game against a nearly unbeaten Nuggets team on its home court. But the Wolves trust Shved to make good decisions more often than not when he’s on the floor.
“He’s one of those kids that nothing scares him, he likes to compete, and he likes to play basketball,” Barea said. “When you have those three qualities, and he’s tall for his position…He’s going to shoot when he’s open and no matter what time is on the clock or whatever, and I think that’s going to make him a great player.”
The Wolves know Shved has a smooth shot. They see every day in practice and coach Rick Adelman has noted that he and the team have confidence that when he puts the ball up it’s got a good chance of going in.
But to have that same confidence late in games is another matter, and Shved has gained the support of his teammates in that regard. Wolves guard Ricky Rubio hasn’t played a lot of on-court minutes with Shved in games yet, but he’s been around him enough in practice and watching from the sidelines to know he’s a player that can handle the spotlight.
“It’s crazy how he carries the team sometimes being a rookie, and that says a lot of him,” Rubio said. “And he’s scoring even more than he was in the beginning of the season, and he’s being more confident. And we want him to step up and try to get more buckets.”
Shved said he’s enjoying this transition to the NBA because of its athletic style of play. And he’s fitting in well thanks in part to the situation he’s in playing for coach Rick Adelman and working with assistant coaches in Terry Porter and T.R. Dunn who have vast knowledge of how to play guard at the NBA level. He said before he signed with the Wolves, he was told Adelman was the type of coach who helps young players develop and believes in their abilities. He said when he got here, he could see it’s true.
“I’m so happy to stay here and play here in Minnesota,” Shved said. “I’ve played a lot of time and everybody has helped me, and it’s very important for me.”
Adelman gives Shved credit for improving throughout the season. He’s shooting better and making more plays, and part of it has been being willing and able to take on a bigger role.
“He’s been shooting the ball well since he’s been getting more minutes and starting,” Adelman said. “You’ve got to give him credit. It’s a whole new world for him, and he’s been able to adjust to it and he’s done very well.”
Shved has played in all 29 games for the Wolves this season, and each month his points per game totals have risen from 10.4 per game in November to 15.0 early on in January. He’s scored 12 points or more in six straight games, a stretch in which he’s shooting 45.7 percent from the field.
Twice during that stretch he’s compiled point-assist double-doubles—a 12-point, 12-assist game against Oklahoma City and a 12-point, 10-assist game against Phoenix. Both were Minnesota wins.
That, too, fits into Shved’s game. Even though he’s attempted 25 percent of the team’s 3-point shots this year—his 140 attempts are the most on the team—Shved also is a gifted ball handler with unique court vision in his own right. And finding his teammates, particularly his chemistry with Andrei Kirilenko, is another facet of the game Shved brings from the 2-guard spot.
“He can definitely pass the ball,” Barea said. “Him and Kirilenko, their basketball IQ is pretty good. They know how to play basketball, so I think that helps them a lot.”
Rubio said the Wolves see Shved’s decision making early in his young career. It’s what gives us a deceptive perception of Shved’s experience compared to his style of play. He doesn’t shy away from any moments or situations on the floor, and as he gains experience it’s anyone’s guess just how successful he’ll become.
He already has the backing of his teammates.
“We give him the confidence, because he earned it,” Rubio said. “And I think he’s doing an unbelievable season and we hope he can continue in that way.”