Taking on the bleak recap of the Wolves 2012-13 season is something you really need to psyche yourself up for. The stages of development and destruction bare all sorts of scars and claw marks. Through all the injuries and ugh, the injuries, it’s easy to forget Alexey Shved had himself a nice start to the year.
Mr. McPherson over at A Wolf Among Wolves remembers.
It would have been easy to pile on to Shved for his late-season performance, but I tried to resist. Without resorting to statistical measures, my memory of his rookie year was an impressive quick start spurred by injuries to the rest of the guard rotation, a major stumble prior to some missed games thanks to a sprained ankle, a minor resurgence following the sprain, and then a long slow descent into futility and frustration.
Looking at the breakdown of the season in 10 game chunks at NBA.com more or less confirms this pattern. Here’s a snapshot:
The breakdown immediately following the midpoint of the season is stark. His double-digit points per game average plunges to 7.3, then 7.0, then 5.6 and finally 4.3. His 3-point shooting absolutely craters at 21.4% between games 41–50. He stops getting to the line; his free throw shooting gets worse; his assists drop off. It’s more than worth noting that a typical season in the Euroleague is about 30 games, with perhaps a dozen more for tournaments—almost exactly half a season in the NBA.
Towards the end, when Adelman was barely giving him time on the floor (his minutes per game having fallen from a high of 33.9 in games 21–30 to just 14.3 in 61–70) he just looked numb. Shell-shocked.
In fact, what he needs more than anything next season is the thing that was denied so many Timberwolves players in this injury-riddled season: a clear role with a margin of error that can allow for mistakes and growth. Shved has been through the fire and now the best thing for him is to be coming off the bench in specific spots to do specific things. Adelman was consist in lamenting Shved’s lack of off-the-ball abilities, which he also said wasn’t an unusual problem among rookies in the NBA. It would be great next season to see Shved get the chance to come into the game and work specifically to get good off-the-ball looks for five minutes at a time, or to work on drive-and-kicks coming in the flow of the offense.
If Shved can be given the chance to evolve more naturally next season, it’s possible we look back at his half-promising, half-demoralizing rookie year not as the failure it kind of feels like now, but as merely the first great challenge that helps forge a successful career in the NBA.