Alexey Shved has had an outstanding rookie season for the Minnesota Timberwolves so far and basketball fans in the Twin Cities have acknowledged it: his uniform is now worn both in the stands of the Target Center and on the streets of Minneapolis.
A natural point guard, Shved’s best bet if he wants to remain with the team long-term is to take control of the shooting guard position. The first-year player was outstanding in Euroleague, where he shot 50 percent from three-point range as a member of CSKA Moscow, and filled a need on a roster that became devoid of shooters when Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger were injured early in the season.
At this point, the position is his to lose. He must improve his shooting percentage, both from three and the field, however, and add weight to his 6’6”, 190 lbs. frame to help him on defense if he wants to be an impact player in the future.
Shved needs to shoot more consistently from the field—plain and simple. His 37 shooting percentage is not in Rubio territory, but it is well below the league average, which is around 45 percent.
In order to do this, he must improve his mid-range jumper. According to NBA.com, he shoots about as many shots from mid-range (21.8 percent) as he does from the restricted area (23.9 percent), but makes about half as many from further out. He is shooting 60 percent near the basket and only makes 30 percent of the two-pointers he takes outside the paint.
Part of the problem is that while he is able to create a shot off the dribble, he will occasionally lean on that ability and force a bad shot with the defender in front of him. Furthermore, he has been known to drift and kick his right leg out while shooting. By passing the ball when he is guarded and planting his feet and jumping upwards instead of outwards when he has an open shot, he can improve his mid-range jumper.
Finally, he needs to work on the pick-and-roll with Nikola Pekovic as often as possible. Shved excels at the maneuver—he draws defenders and uses screens effectively. He also has a sizeable teammate that can take quite a bit of impact while screening. Off of the pick-and-roll, he should get to the basket as often as possible. Too often he pulls up and settles for a jumper when he could score or draw a foul in the painted area.
There is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to shooting, but with a few simple tweaks, the Russian can improve his scoring ability inside.
Many of Shved’s problems with his mid-range shot carry over to his game beyond the arc. While nobody in Minnesota is going to complain about the Russian shooting 30 percent from downtown, it is a number that can be improved upon. The league average is 35 percent and the best guards in the league shoot in the 40-45 percent range.
Shved can get there.
According to NBA.com, he shoots 28 percent above the break and 61 percent from the corner. He needs to avoid the same things he does from mid-range, namely forcing shots off the dribble and kicking his leg out. Don’t get me wrong, he should not be afraid to create his own shot, but he should avoid shooting while defended.
One way for him to increase his three-point percentage is to shoot in transition. A quick player that can draw fouls and shoots well from the line, Shved is inclined to go to the basket after a turnover or rebound. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if there is an open shot from beyond the arc, he should take it.
When he is above the break, he should avoid forcing shots—even when the shot clock is winding down—and use his deft passing ability to get the ball to an open man. Improved shooting mechanics will also go a long way in helping improve his three-point shooting percentage.
It’s not as fun to talk about, especially because Shved has struggled in this department, but it is an important part of his game.
First and foremost, Shved excels in transition.
He handles the ball well and keeps his dribble low and has the ability to stop on a dime and change direction. He is also fast and can push the ball. Most pertinently, if he were better on defense, he would have more opportunity to either score or create offensive chances in transition.
The biggest knock on Shved is that he cannot defend 2-guards. A major reason is because he is too skinny. How skinny? Let’s just say his teammates call him Slim. Like Slim Shady—hotter than a set of twin babies/In a Mercedes Benz with the windows up/When the temp goes up to the mid 80’s…
Sorry I got sidetracked.
My point is that he needs to bulk up. He can add to that 6’6”, 190 lbs. body of his and with a little extra meat on his bones, he’ll be able to body up against other shooting guards in the league.
And, hey, more opportunities in transition means more free throws (he’s shooting 73 percent from the stripe) and shots from in close which will, in turn, increase his shooting percentage.
Isn’t that nice how that works out?
Alexey Shved has had a strong rookie season for the Wolves. There is a lot to like here, but also some things that need to be improved upon. Working on shooting mechanics and bulking up in the offseason will go a long way for the 24-year-old Russian.
Tom Schreier covers the Timberwolves for Bleacher Report and writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com.