The electricity that Rubio brought to the Wolves was evident. The court vision and attention that he demanded from opposing defenses resulted in All-Star big man Kevin Love having the best season of his five-year career.
Then he missed the last month of the regular season with a torn ACL, which pretty much ended Minnesota's hope of making the playoffs.
The disappointing end to the season for the Wolves was followed by an offseason filled with change, and the entrance of another rookie, Alexey Shved.
Watching Shved play is reminiscent of watching Rubio play—that is, if Rubio had a jump shot.
They both have talents that set them apart from one another. Shved has more of a scorer’s mentality, while Rubio makes his money passing the ball. Rubio is better on defense, but Shved has the superior jump shot.
Then you have their similarities with court-vision and overall unselfishness. When Rubio missed the first quarter of the season, Shved established himself as a very competent starter for the Timberwolves. He makes plays on both sides of the ball, and he has proven to be multi-dimensional in regards to his offensive skill-set.
Shved already has a chemistry with newly acquired forward, Andrei Kirilenko, since they spent the season as teammates playing for Russia last year.
He’s also been able to spend the offseason and the first six weeks of the season gelling with the rest of the much revamped roster, which includes two new starters (including him), and as much as four new players from the second unit.
The benefit of all the injuries that have occurred in the backcourt (Chase Budinger, Malcolm Lee and Josh Howard) is that Shved has been granted opportunities to show off his skills.
We already knew that he was capable of being dangerous from distance. In Russia, he shot an average of 48 percent from beyond the arc.
Coming out of Russia, NBA scouts labeled his defense as “weak;” but he’s been a physical and smart defender so far with the Wolves.
It took him a short while to adjust to the speed of the NBA, but he has seemingly adjusted well, turning the ball over less and becoming more and more consistent from the field.
Should Alexey Shved be starting?
Shved has been putting up numbers of 10.6 points per game (PPG) and 4 assists per game (APG). Couple that with the 10.6 PPG and 8.2 APG that Ricky Rubio averaged last season, and you have an unselfish and productive backcourt.
The duo of Rubio and Shved bring to mind another legendary backcourt duo: Utah's John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek.
The similarities between the two pairs are almost eerie. Stockton is remembered as one of the best passing point guards in NBA history, and Hornacek was a sharpshooting two-guard, who wasn’t a bad passer either.
In their first season together with the Utah Jazz, Stockton had 15.1 PPG and 12.6 APG, and Hornacek put up numbers of 14.6 PPG and 3.9 APG. Those numbers could easily be achieved by Rubio and Shved, especially once their chemistry has a chance to solidify.
Karl Malone, much like Kevin Love, was the superstar on the team, which meant that Stockton and Hornacek were more or less the complimentary players.
It’s true that the Jazz never won a title, but they did make two runs at the Finals. If Kevin Love needs any more proof that the Wolves are legit, he should take a look at teams that have historically had success with this type of backcourt.
Alexey Shved and Ricky Rubio have a chance to become one of the legendary backcourt duos to play in the NBA. They balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and the rest of the team is primed to help take them places.
It might take time for them to get comfortable with each other’s playing styles, but remember: It took Stockton and Hornacek four years to get to the 1996-97 Finals.