• Chris Johnson

Alexey Shved Turning Heads

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*Photo via USA Today

Alexey Shved has had a tough journey over the past few years. He was signed out of Russia by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2013 and was expected to be the face of their backcourt, alongside Spanish star Ricky Rubio. However things didn’t go as planned and he was eventually traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in the deal that ultimately sent Kevin Love to Cleveland. Shved’s stint in Philadelphia didn’t last very long, as he was eventually traded to the Houston Rockets a few months into the season. He only played a total of 23 games for both teams until the Knicks acquired him via trade on February 19th, 2015. Shved was sent to New York along with a pair of 2nd round picks in exchange for reserve guard Pablo Prigioni. The deal made perfect sense for New York due to the fact that they were able to land a young player with very nice upside, while not having to give up too much in return.

Shved has been a pleasant surprise for the New York Knicks since he joined the team. He has ideal size for the guard position at 6’6, which allows him to get into the paint with ease and create scoring opportunities for teammates. He is what you would call a “combo” guard because of his ability to play both point guard and shooting guard. This versatility is a coaches’ dream because of the various ways in which he can be used. For his career, Alexey has averaged 7.2 points per game, 2.5 assists per game, and 1.9 rebounds per game. Those numbers are definitely nothing to brag about, however it seems like he has found some sort of a revival here with the Knicks. Shved is averaging 14.0 points per game, 3.5 assists per game, and 4.6 rebounds per game in his first 13 games with the Knickerbockers. Not only is he contributing offensively, but he uses his lengthy 6’6 frame to wreak havoc on the defensive end of the floor. Shved sealed the win the other night against the San Antonio Spurs with a great defensive play.

The main reason why it’s hard for Knicks fans to be optimistic about Shved is because we have all seen this swan song before with Jeremy Lin. Even though Jeremy Lin put up more impressive numbers than Shved has thus far, the two situations are somewhat similar. Lin was not a very productive NBA player until he was introduced to Mike D’Antoni’s “run and gun” system, where he became a household name in a matter of weeks. The Rockets ended up taking the bait and signed Lin thinking that he would continue to be the player he was during “Linsanity”. Unfortunately for them that wasn’t the case and he never lived up to what the Rockets expected out of him.

How does this all relate to Alexey Shved? Sometimes all that a player needs is to be put in a system where they can use their skill set to the best of their ability. It seems to me that Shved is a very good fit in Derek Fisher’s triangle offense because of his ability to break down the defense and hit open shots. Shved is a career 30% shooter from 3 point range, however he’s shooting 35% from 3 point range so far with the Knicks. The main reason for this increase in shooting percentage is that he doesn’t have to force bad shots. The majority of the shots that he is getting in this offense are wide open attempts because of the spacing on the floor. In my previous article I wrote about how the triangle offense allows its players to thrive because of this spacing and that is why Shved is having so much success. Derek Fisher has done an excellent job using Shved in ball screens, which gives him the opportunity to make plays off of the dribble. The one thing that has impressed me most when watching Shved is his decision making. He always seems under control and takes what the defense gives him. When he’s on the floor the Knicks have an offensive rating of 99.4, in contrast to a 90.2 offensive rating when he is not on the floor. He is able to create plays for teammates that not many other players on this roster can create and the Knicks are clearly a better team when he is out there running the show.

Is Shved the long term solution at point guard? My guess is probably not. The Knicks will definitely look to upgrade the position this summer in free agency; however he can become a valuable asset to this team coming off the bench. He is also set to become a free agent this summer and my guess is that Phil Jackson will make it a priority to keep him around. As long as Shved doesn’t demand an unreasonable contract it seems like a no brainer to me.

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