Let's take it back to the offseason heading into the 2012-2013 season. David Kahn, the European 'recruiting mastermind', as he'd like to refer to himself as, signed Andrei Kirilenko from CSKA Moscow (a European basketball powerhouse). AK-47 spent the year in Moscow during the NBA lockout and Kahn brought him over the pond and put him in a Minnesota jersey. While looking at Kirilenko, Kahn became interested in flashy guard Alexey Shved. The quick and lengthy guard caught his eye and he snagged him from CSKA Moscow. Right before the 2012 London Olympics, Kahn signed the free agent to a three year, $10 million dollar contract. Those Olympic games put Shved and teammate Kirilenko on showcase for Wolves Nation, providing a nice teaser for the following season. Shved and AK-47 led Russia to a bronze medal that year. Alexey averaged 11.4 points, 6 assists and three rebounds per game in the Olympics.
Coming into a 2012-2013 with many new faces, the Wolves had an experimental season that saw Kirilenko essentially become the most crucial player on this team with Kevin Love out of commission. AK-47 took Alexey under his wing, teaching him the ways of the Association, doing anything he could to help him adjust to his new life in America. On November 22, 2012 Shved scored a career high 22 points versus Golden State. Things were looking well for Shved in America. He was invited to play in the Rising Stars game alongside Ricky Rubio a season ago. As the season went on, the rigorous 82 game schedule got to Shved, as his scoring and production plummeted from double digit scoring early on, down to just 4.8 points per game in April. The season started out great and for some reason, which maybe only the front office knows, it went downhill and he plummeted into a largely minus player for the last half of the season. It looked like Shved didn't even want to be on the court with the other guys. But with injury problems, Shved saw himself play in 77 games and start 16 of them for Adelman and staff.
This offseason, AK-47 opted out of his contract and took a whopping $7 million paycut to play for the Brooklyn Nets. Instantly, when the season started, we could all tell something was still "different" about Shved. During the preseason, he was able to play against the team he was on prior to joining the NBA, as CSKA Moscow came to the Target Center. They defeated the Wolves 110-108, but Alexey looked as if it was a homecoming of some sort, even though he struggled mightily. Up until this last week, he looked downtrodden, defeated and has played with no confidence. His shot wasn't falling (shooting 27% through last week) and he has been prone to poor shot selection and form. He can't finish on his drives, or even create his own shot. Defense has never been a strong point to Alexey's game, either. This season he is averaging a 4.2 points per game, playing around 12 minutes per contest.
I'm not saying that Shved was or could be a Ricky Rubio type; their games are very different from each other and Ricky has a much more natural knack for the game despite his recent struggles. But remember, he was supposed to offer a lethal three ball and length from the guard position we haven't had before. When Saunders came in, he trimmed some of the fat off of this squad, clearing cap room and such. There must have been something that Saunders and Adelman liked enough about Shved to keep him around. Sure, his money is guaranteed, but Flip could have dumped him off somewhere like he did with Derrick Williams. His time is running out to make a permanent mark on a potential NBA career, and his recent uptick in play is encouraging. Otherwise, this could very well be another one of David Kahn's failed experiments coming back to haunt the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In the month of January, Alexey is averaging nine points and two assists a game, a major improvement on the rest of his season. With more playing time from Adelman, it should give Shved more confidence on the court.