T-Wolf Rank: #11 Alexey Shved

This is the third post in a series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Derek, Tom or Jonah will post a new player everyday for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well. Be sure to join in the fun/discussion using #TwolfRank.

First, let’s get this out of the way: It’s spelled A-L-E-X-E-Y. Not Alexy, or Aleksy. Even his last name is S-H-V-E-D, not Sheved. As an experienced copy writer already, name misspellings bother me — like finger nails digging into a chalk board.

Misspelling his name is a bigger mistake than you might know now, however. Because if Shved seamlessly transitions from the Euro game to the NBA just like Ricky Rubio was able to accomplish, than Shved has the talent to become a big name you’ll never want to misspell again.

As it stands right now, Shved is not a top-10 player on the Timberwolves for a couple of obvious reasons. One of them being his background. Sprouting as a talented young gunner in the Russian league, making that hop across the Pacific to the NBA won’t be easy. For one, he barely knows a lick of English. During his phone conference to announce the signing a week before the Olympics started, his agent had to translate back-and-forth for him. Secondly, the way Shved plays can be both scintillating and horribly frustrating. He plays with a lot of the same flash and swagger that Rubio does but isn’t always able to control it. He forces passes which lead to turnovers and he can toss up some pretty bad, contested jumpers instead of creating something else.

All negatives aside, Shved possesses a special type of game that could very well flourish in the NBA. He’s quick and limber with above-average ball-handling skills. He’ll easily be able to play both guard spots and has special skills to exceed at both — he is very diplomatic with his decision making off pick ‘n’ rolls, which makes him a solid backup point guard option and he has a great pull-up jumper and outside shot, which makes him a great option at the 2-guard.

If there was any coach that could hone in on Shved’s strengths and teach and discipline his weaknesses it would be Rick Adelman. Shved seems coachable enough — this is where the Rubio comparisons don’t match up at all — but he does seem to struggle with his own hype, or at least gets caught up in it too much. His cockiness, no, confidence translates well to the NBA but you have to harness it. A lot of these players that grew up playing in the grind parks around the country like Rucker won’t take crap from a scrawny Russian.

The first step for Shved is to realize he’s not the go-to guy — yet. Instead, if he approaches camp with an open mind and a team-first mentality — I believe AK47 can help with this — then he’ll be on the right foot. Be coachable and be confident instead of stubborn and cocky. There’s a huge difference.

Think of Stephon Marbury. Shved and Marbury share a lot of the same qualities on and off the court. They love to shoot and make plays and do a swell job of mixing it up. Off the court, they love the fame and attention that the NBA game can bring a player. But if you let your head get in the way of your development, you can find your way out of the league and playing in China much sooner than you should be.

Shved can’t let that happen. More importantly, Adelman can’t let that happen. Both Kahn and Adelman understand how special Shved can be. Adelman most likely knows how best to harness that talent and develop a fully functioning product. But it all comes down to Shved’s first two years in the league and his mental approach. At only 23, he has time to learn and study. Then, by the middle of his second year, I hope, he’ll be able to burst into the Wolves’ young core as the starting shooting guard. Only time will tell.

Be sure to join in on the fun using #TwolfRank on Twitter.

T-Wolf Rank: #12: Greg Stiemsma

Greg Stiemsma may have trouble getting off the bench for the Timberwolves.

This is the second post in a series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Derek, Tom or Jonah will post a new player everyday for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.

Jonah accused me of being likely to gush over Greg Stiemsma, probably because I love the Celtics and Stiemsma provided some surprisingly solid minutes for the C’s last season. But I promise to keep my gushing to a bare minimum (seriously!).

A list of Greg Stiemsma’s best basketball qualities:

  • He’s very tall.
  • He has excellent defensive timing, leading to some crazy shot-blocking numbers (seriously, 4.0 per 36 minutes last year? Absurd.)
  • He shot 54% from the field last year, which is serviceable, but also largely useless, since he only averaged two shots per game.
  • Did I mention that he’s tall?

None of these traits are mind-blowing, by any means. Certainly, the Timberwolves will be well-served having a better shot-blocker on the roster, particularly one not named Darko Milicic (also: someone who might actually give a crap). But Stiemsma’s only position is center, meaning that whenever he is in, Nikola Pekovic, who is much more productive, will be out.

This is the dilemma of Stiemsma, and it’s really not much of a dilemma. It’s much more important to play a productive player than it is to play an unproductive player who might prevent the opposing team from being productive. And honestly, aside from his shot-blocking, Stiemsma isn’t an elite defensive presence. He had a very high defensive rating, but much of that was a byproduct of the team he played for. He got lost on rotations too often, and he certainly isn’t an elite athlete (let’s be honest: you knew that by looking at him).

But I don’t mean to be crapping all over the Stiemer, either. He’s a fun player, even if the fun is somewhat ironic (sort of like a new-school, even taller version of Brian Scalabrine). He tries really hard, even if he isn’t always very good. He DOES block a ton of shots, and the lack of a defensive presence in the paint really hurt the Wolves last season. So maybe he will have more of an impact than I’m anticipating.

He also had my favorite quote of the summer (as I mentioned back in my reaction to the Stiemsma signing):

“It feels good to be wanted,” Stiemsma said. ”It feels good to have all your hard work pay off.”

I don’t know how well Stiemsma will play this season, but I can tell you this: it will feel good to cheer for him.

Join the conversation on Twitter: #Twolfrank. Here’s the best comment on Greg Stiemsma!

T-Wolf Rank: #13: Malcolm Lee

This is the first post in a new series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Tom or Derek will post a new player everyday for 13 days. As always, you can follow Derek on Twitter (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) as well. 

After Tom and I figured out the order for this T-Wolf Rank project, he volunteered to begin it with Malcolm Lee unless I had some attachment to Lee. I casually played it off like I barely knew who Malcolm Lee was and told him that maybe it would be better for me to take Lee and him cover the next ranked player since he was more familiar with him. And now, here I am.

On the night Lee was drafted and traded for, I’ll admit, I had no clue who this guy out of UCLA was. Then I learned that he was a combo guard who was very capable on the defensive end. He may have been an average shooter as a Bruin, but even if he didn’t improve as a pro, that was fine because there were other scorers on the roster.

That was the very moment when I joined the Malcolm Lee bandwagon.

Then came the surgery, rehab, and D-League stint for Lee. But finally, those of us who had been holding our breaths to see if Lee could exhale as he made his NBA debut on March 10th against the Hornets. Well, we found out what a rookie with no training camp who is recovering from surgery looks like as Lee played just five non-descript minutes, but at least showed some decent defense. That game sure didn’t help the Wolves fans who didn’t understand the Malcolm Lee hype beforehand.

I was at that game, and later that night, I would learn something that eventually caused my relationship with my girlfriend of several months at the time (Who bought us the tickets) to begin to unravel. So yeah, there is some level of association or attachment for me with Malcolm Lee.

As for Lee’s future, it’s difficult to use his rookie season as a predictor since it’s just a 19 game sample in a lockout shortened season. It will be fairer to reassess Lee after a full season with a training camp and preseason. Then we can ask, “Is he a better shooter than his .390/.200/.824 shooting percentages indicate”; “Will his turnovers and fouls per 36 minutes come down”; and “Can he grow into a non-offensive liability despite his defensive potential”?

Until then, Malcolm is #13 in our very first #TwolfRank.