Alexey Shved Proved to Be Surprising Blueprint for New York Knicks' Point Guard

John Dorn@johnsdornCorrespondent IIIMarch 31, 2015

PHILADELPHIA,PA - MARCH 20: Alexey Shved #1 of the New York Knicks looks on against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on March 20, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Despite the brief frenzy he brought about within the New York Knicks' social community, Alexey Shved is no savior. He's far from great, and some nights isn't even good.

But over his 16 games with the Knicks, before suffering a rib injury that could be season-ending, he was an example of something Phil Jackson has been waiting for all year: an example of the triangle offense making somebody better than they were before.  

The third-year pro averaged 14.8 points with New York on 40.3 percent shooting (his career mark is 36.9 percent). He was dependable from three-point range, connecting on 37 percent of treys, and, for the most part, looked fluid within the system. He's not a natural playmaker, but as a result of his skill set and the player movement within Derek Fisher's offense, Shved was creating more than expected.

His contract expires at season's end, so Jackson will likely need to judge off the 16-game sample when considering if Shved will stick around after this offseason's roster reconstruction. But whether Phil thinks Shved has the adequate talent or not, the 26-year-old provides a solid template for what New York is looking for in the backcourt. 

What Phil is Looking For

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 19: Langston Galloway #2 and Alexey Shved #1 of the New York Knicks celebrate during a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 19, 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Shved's combo-guard nature works in the triangle, as traditional point guards and shooting guards aren't necessarily deployed, but rather "lead" guards to initiate the offense. This can be evidenced by the 2010-11 Los Angeles Lakers—the more recent team to run Jackson's triangle prior to this season.

That team finished 13th overall in assists—the top half of the league—but no player averaged more than 4.7 a night. Fisher, as starting point guard, averaged just 2.7. Ideally, all the ball and player movement naturally inhibits playmaking from all positions.

So whatever Shved lacks in natural playmaking ability in traditional sets is aided by Fisher's system, in the Knicks' perfect world.

This seems to have relieved Shved of the pressures he faced with the Minnesota Timberwolves, whether it was scoring while Ricky Rubio was on the floor or facilitating when Rubio was off. In his brief New York sample, the 6'6" guard was excelling at both. 

What the Offense was Missing

The key to Shved averaging nearly 15 points a night for New York was his attacking, and how often it sent him to the free-throw line. According to Basketball-Reference, 35 percent of his shots came from within three feet as a Knick—up from 24 percent on average entering this season.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 10:  Alexey Shved #1 of the New York Knicks shoots a free throw against the Utah Jazz on March 10, 2015 at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

On the 30th-ranked team in attempts from the stripe, his 5.1 free-throw attempts per game rank second, only to Carmelo Anthony's 5.8. No other Knick averages more than Andrea Bargnani's 3.8. According to hoopsstats.com, among players who have played at least 10 games, his 9.4 free-throw attempts per 48 minutes ranks 13th in the league.

According to NBA.com, his 4.5 percent and-one clip is tops on the Knicks this season. Among the 18 players who have sample sizes of 16 games or less with their teams, that ranks third.  

As a result, teammates have been left with better looks. Again via NBA.com, while Shved was suiting up for New York from Feb. 22 through Mar. 22, Cleanthony Early's field-goal clip with Shved on the floor is roughly 25 percent higher than with him off. Cole Aldrich's rises by 23 percent, Jason Smith's is nine percent higher and Shane Larkin's sees an eight-percent increase.

Seamless Integration

Shved's attacking opened up creative options while passing the ball as well. And despite never playing in a triangle system before, it didn't take Shved long to develop a familiarity with the motion and with his supporting cast's skills. 

Over his 16 games with New York, the guard seemed comfortable functioning in weak-side action, away from the literal triangle, and did much of his playmaking in the two-man game. Below are two examples. First, Shved works with Andrea Bargnani and uses his driving ability to bait a defense into shading his way. In the second, he pulls the same trick to Lance Thomas' benefit.

Keep an eye on No. 1 on offense (all motion charts via NBA.com):

After a few games, he was able to read defensive reactions well and could initiate two-man action before defenses recuperated from other player movement.

Here, against Minnesota, Shved uses screens to wheel under the basket to the weak side, and while the Wolves try to reestablish matchups, he and Bargnani go right into pick-and-roll action, ending with an open jumper.

These plays seem underwhelming now, but it's important to look ahead in the Knicks' rebuild. Next season, in weak-side, two-man action, Shved's partners would typically be Carmelo Anthony or—with any luck—Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor.

Those players—in place of Bargnani and Thomas—would open several more opportunities for creativity within the triangle. Perhaps Anthony, Towns, or some other big-man acquisition would be able to take a step backward, turning open 20-footers into open three-pointers. 

Shved is a flawed player, just like the rest of these current Knicks. His defense is generally awful, he's never shot for a high percentage and he's not strong enough to put his head down and take the hits sturdier guards can. 

But what the Knicks saw from him was rare in this season filled with poor roster fits and futility—there was something natural about Shved's play in Fisher's system. Which is more than what can be said about most of the current roster. 

He may not be a long-term answer, but how his playing style impacted the offense is something Jackson should remember heading into the offseason. 

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