Last season, the Minnesota Timberwolves brought in Alexey Shved, then a relative unknown to most American basketball fans, from Russia’s CSKA Moscow on a three-year contract. He had previously played on Russia’s national team at the 2012 Olympics, helping lead them to a bronze-medal finish as the team’s third-leading scorer (he also led the team in assists), proving that he had enough game to compete at the NBA level.
While he did nothing in his rookie season to suggest he doesn’t belong in the world’s best basketball league, he was held back by wildly inconsistent shooting. Shved starting seeing less and less playing time towards the end of the season, largely because of his horrendous 37.2 percent shooting from the field and 29.5 percent shooting from deep. This was partly because of shot selection; he launched 65 threes as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, but hit an abysmal 16.9 percent of those and he was very poor in isolation, hitting just over 25 percent of those attempts.
There is hope for him as a scorer, though. Shved converted an acceptable 54 percent of his attempts around the hoop and he was money on corner threes (14-for-28), which he took far too few of. If Shved can trade some of his threes from the wings and the top of the key for better looks in the corners (which should be easier to do with Ricky Rubio taking over most of the ballhandling workload), he could return to the hot shooting he showed in Euroleague. In the 2011-12 season, as a member of CSKA Moscow, he made a ridiculous 49.3 percent of his threes in 21 games, albeit on a shorter three-point line.
Until his scoring improves, his best skill at the NBA level is his playmaking. He’s a confident and creative passer and he racked up an impressive 5.6 assists per 36 minutes last season. Shved sometimes tries to force difficult passes, though, leading to him coughing up the ball 2.9 times per 36. Still, he has shown that he can be a very effective secondary ballhandler if you can surround him with shooters.
Defensively, he has a lot of room to improve. He’s too skinny and weak to be a very good defender at this point, and he should probably look at add some muscle. Getting stronger could also help him on offense and make him a more effective finisher at the rim. He has also yet to learn the nuances of NBA defenses and another year playing under the same system could help him improve to an acceptable level on that end.
Shved has the skills and creativity to be a contributor at the NBA level, but he needs to be far more consistent if he wants to be a key rotation player. For now, he projects to be a solid sixth-man type, capable of giving his team a boost off the bench.