The Minnesota Timberwolves are off to a solid start to the 2012-13 NBA season, as they hold a comfortable 14-14 record with plenty of basketball left to play. Several good things are happening—Andrei Kirilenko provides a weapon on defense, Nikola Pekovic continues to rock the paint, and Ricky Rubio’s slow return instantly improves the Wolves’ backcourt. The biggest surprise for Minnesota, though? Enter Alexey Shved.
At 24 years old, Shved comes to the NBA from Russia. The young guard impressed many overseas, and he contributed largely to the Russian national team (alongside current teammate Kirilenko) at the 2012 London Olympics. On Aug. 12, Shved scored 25 points to lead Russia to an 81-77 victory over Argentina in the bronze medal game.
“He’s a young, talented guy who can really run and bring you a lot of energy on the floor,” Kirilenko said of Shved. “He’s not afraid to take a shot in the crunch moment, which is needed on every team in the NBA. He’s young, with the potential to keep growing.”
Prior to coming to the States, Shved’s draft profile listed his strengths as “a real competitor, also very smart. Charismatic … Really has a great feel for the game at a young age … Has it all offensively with the ability to shoot off the dribble with range as well as take it to the basket … Tremendous passer and ball handler…”
Upon donning his No. 1 Wolves jersey, Shved has thus far lived up to each and every expectation—and then some.
Currently, the 6’6” guard is averaging 10.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He’s the perfect complement to Rubio and one of the most well-rounded guards in the league.
He is, of course, a rookie and with that inexperience comes a learning curve. If Shved has a downside, it’s the 2.2 turnovers he’s committing per game. His lengthy body and spindly arms occasionally lend themselves to ball handling errors, but it’s a small price to pay for the positives he adds to Minnesota’s lineup. His quickness and smooth passes keep the game pace moving, and his overall basketball IQ and ability to see the floor from all angles prove uncharacteristic of rookie ballers.
Although Shved also received offers from Memphis and Cleveland this offseason, he chose the Wolves. And, according to him, head coach Rick Adelman played a big part in Shved’s decision. “Minnesota’s a good, young and ambitious team,” said Shved. “All those factors were reasons to choose this club in particular, plus coach Adelman. They say that Rick trusts young players and discovers talents, and I’m ready to work for my part.”
True to his reputation, Adelman has been positive about the guard from Day 1.
Before seeing Shved play a regular game, Adelman said the following: “[Alexey’s] one of those kids who’s not afraid. He’s been in big situations. These guys come over and they’ve played big games.”
Midway through November, the coach’s confidence was affirmed: “[He’s] terrific. Really found people. He has been in big games & not afraid to make plays.” This came from Adelman less than two months into the regular season. With continued coaching and mentoring, Minnesota fans can expect Shved to quickly develop into a top player.
Shved’s contract is a three-year, $10-million deal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the guard stayed with the Wolves even beyond that time frame. If Minnesota continues to build its team around young up-and-comers like Shved and Rubio while retaining a backbone of more experienced veterans, the franchise holds a more promising future than it has in a long time.
Lindsey Young is a graduate of Northwestern College and an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Currently working full time at her alma mater, she continues to edit and write for BleacherReport.com and on her blog Making the Call in pursuit of a career in sports journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @lilshortie2712.