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I woke up to Jerry Zgoda this morning in a delightful way. Not like that.
Take a look at this. Zgoda analyzes Ricky Rubio’s return to practice and the harmony that he and the Wolves’ new international star, Alexey Shved, will create in the backcourt. He makes a strong point, calling it the most “dynamic entertaining backcourts” in the league.
But the essence of being dynamic in the NBA is all about chemistry, something the Wolves have greatly lacked. We’ve seen it already this season with the barrage of injuries. It’s tough to create chemistry when your teammates have a knack for missing games and practice in place of the trainer’s table, therefore an effective, efficient set of players can be hard to come by.
The return of Kevin Love spells it out perfectly. Love’s first quarter back this season was remarkable. It was fueled off pure energy and emotion from his dramatic return, which was great for the fans. But soon after, we saw Love look disjointed for the rest of that game and a few after that even. He’s still putting up the numbers because, well, he is Mr. Numbers. But it’s visibly and painfully obvious that he’s still getting back into the flow of the offense and slowly but surely working to build chemistry with his new teammates.
Luckily, Rubio likely won’t go through that much of a learning curve upon his return. Rubio has already been touted as a chemistry kind of player. He’s highly unselfish, so much it’s almost a bad thing sometimes, and because of that he makes his teammates
better; he puts them in positions to score anywhere on the court. With Rubio, teammates learn to work off his flow because he is so good at what he does.
Shved has a similar approach to the game. He’s a creative playmaker, who looks to scramble a defense into dysfunction that leaves teammates open to score. But he’s also an above-average shooter that has yet to show his potential this season in that regard. He’s only shooting 39-percent, 31-percent from three-point line, but he’s proved in practice and film that I’ve seen from Russia that he has the ability to knock down open shots with ease.
Pairing Rubio’s playmaking ability with Shved’s hidden shooting stroke could form one of the league’s best backcourts, especially in the fourth quarter, given their tendency to outperform opponents in the clutch. This season, Shved’s putrid three-point percentage is a result of poor penetration, missed kick outs and Shved’s wherewithal to create his own, sometimes poor, shot. According to Hoopdata, Shved’s three-pointers are only assisted 52-percent of the time. A little context, Kevin Love, the Wolves’ best perimeter shooter last season, had 92-percent of his three-pointers assisted. Shved hasn’t had the luxury of a point guard who can pick and probe and kick out to him for an open shot. Many of his threes are forced or are open but only for a split second because they aren’t crafted well enough. Love’s assisted three-pointer rate was a direct result of Rubio’s special ability to find open perimeter shooters.
Shved’s going to thrive alongside Rubio for that reason alone. We’re going to see his three-pointers made and overall shooting percentages increase because he’s going to have more opportunities at open shots and more space because of how well Rubio draws defenders like a magnet. Shved’s not the only one who’s going to benefit from Rubio’s return; Nikola Pekovic will find more looks and Andrei Kirilenko will have more room to work the baseline off of cuts and on the receiving end of the patented Rubio bounce pass.
Rubio’s return means so much in terms of the offense, defense and overall culture of the team. He and Shved will stir opponents’ emotions on both ends of the court, forcing steals and creating plays and open shots. It’s going to be fun to see the end result, and it may come sooner than you think because chemistry means everything and these two should be able to hit it off sooner rather than later.