Bread and butter. The Wolves didn’t consistently have a lot of either in the pre-All-Star break majority of the season. An awful lot of that lack of consistency has to do with the lack of personnel on hand for any stretch of time. You really don’t need to belabor the point, but mentioning the lack of healthy bodies doesn’t really begin to do the Wolves personnel issues justice, either. There was a time Brandon Roy was looked on as a potential steady hand. Malcolm Lee was seen as a rollercoaster at best on offense, but a very necessary defensive presence in the backcourt before Ricky Rubio returned to health. Josh Howard was a band aid that couldn’t hold. JJ Barea will always carry bumps and bruises and missed time. As will Andrei Kirilenko. And as will, apparently, Nikola Pekovic. Kevin Love’s season has been a disaster and who knew the loss of Chase Budinger would prove the next-most injurious to the functionality of the Wolves?
The most pleasant surprises of the season have most undoubtedly been the Russian duo of Kirilenko and Alexey Shved. The Olympics provided a glimpse of their strengths and a hint of their importance to the Wolves future fortunes, but Kirilenko has proven every bit as spry as he appeared in London while Shved quickly earned enough of coach Rick Adelman’s confidence to be his first sub of the year and later proved worthy enough to be leaned on heavily once the stopgaps, like dominos, fell.
The rookie wall laid Shved out pretty well a couple weeks ago and the drop off in his shooting percentage (not to mention shot selection) has been noticeable. But for a while there, Shved running the high pick and roll with Pekovic was akin to what everybody envisioned Brandon Roy capable of and pretty much was the Wolves’ bread and butter until Rubio began resembling Rubio. Over at Hoopchalk, they’ve got a nice breakdown of two of Shved’s options. I’d argue Kirilenko cutting baseline was a nice third and hazard a thought that Budinger cutting or spotting up from the opposite wing and Love super-subbing out for Dante Cunningham’s mid-range jumper would have Adelman’s offense humming like nobody’s business, but that’s the point: Simplified. With two working parts. It could still be done.
Shved showed off some of his flashier moves at the All-Star Weekend Rising Stars of the Universe Amazing Challenge Yay! game, but reverse dunks and 3s don’t compare to this floater he threw in over Tyson Chandler in New York.
The 2nd half of the season has been underway for a few weeks. Shved’s rubbery legs hopefully got enough rest over the break to build on his earlier success. A Rubio-Shved backcourt has all sorts of possibilities and implications for the Wolves’ future. Here’s hoping health cooperates enough that a lengthy preview can be teased out of the rest of the disaster that has been this season.