The Minnesota Timberwolves had one of their best performances of the season Monday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, as the outcome was never really in doubt on their way to a 126-95 victory. Seven players scored in double figures for Minnesota, led by Kevin Love (26 points and seven rebounds) and a much-maligned bench scored 47 points.
Some of the bench’s production can be chalked up to the extended run they got in a decisive victory, but is there a particular player who can serve as the key for the bench to produce at a more consistent level?
Alexey Shved had 10 points (4-for-12 from the floor; 1-for-3 from three-point range), four assists, three rebounds and three steals against the 76ers, but even with that performance he is still averaging just 3.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game this season while making just over 27 percent of his shots from the floor. But three of his four double-digit scoring games this season have come over his last six games, so the second-year guard may be ready to shake off his early season struggles.
The Timberwolves’ bench has been thinned a bit by injuries, but Ronny Turiaf returned from an extended absence on Monday night and Chase Budinger is on track to return soon. Making sure the starting five maintains good health and a high level of production has to be the top priority for the Timberwolves as the regular season winds down, and a deeper second unit being available to coach Rick Adelman will be an important factor if the team earns a playoff spot.
In terms of backcourt depth, I think Shved can be an important part of Minnesota’s success going forward. The erratic J.J. Barea is the most proven option behind starters Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin right now, and if he’s forced into a more significant role I think the Timberwolves’ playoff chances would evaporate quickly. Shved clearly has his shortcomings, but if he can start to produce more consistently I like his chances to earn a more prominent role.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.