The Case for Playing Alexey Shved


The Philadelphia 76ers’ guard rotation has been odd this season. Sure, they’re playing their two best players, Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten, a healthy amount; that’s expected. But the way the team has handled other guards playing time has been very strange.

Hollis Thompson has been getting a ton of playing time at the two. Chris Johnson was tried and failed miserably at the same spot. Wroten’s gotten extensive time at both guard spots, even though he’s probably best served as a shooting guard next to MCW rather than a backup point guard. And, probably most strangely, Alexey Shved’s spot in the rotation has been completely fluid.

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When Shved has been given increased minutes, he’s always performed well. His three highest minute totals (season opener against Indiana and the losses at Dallas and San Antonio) have resulted in his three best scoring efforts of 18, 18, and 19 points, respectively. However, he’s also rode the pine several times this year; seven minutes in a loss to the Knicks, ten minutes in a loss to the Blazers, and DNP-CD’s earned against the Celtics and Nets.

Shved’s had some nagging injuries this year, of course; he’s missed time with low back soreness and a hip flexor strain. However, when he has been healthy, he’s still been an inconsistent part of the rotation. Given how Shved has played this year in relation to the Sixers’ strengths and weaknesses, that should not be the case.

There are two major knocks against Shved that are probably hurting his chances at consistent playing time in the guard rotation. First, he’s not a good defensive player; Opponents are shooting 8.7 percent better than their average with Shved guarding them, per SportVU, and the Sixers are 7.2 points better per 100 possessions with Shved on the bench. He’s also not a good three-point shooter, hitting just 29.1 percent from downtown this season. The Sixers are a team that likes the three-ball and when trying to build a strong defensive identity, and Shved doesn’t fit that mold.

However, Shved’s strengths are in line with some of the Sixers’ biggest weaknesses on the offensive end. For one, Shved’s finishing really well in the restricted area. He’s hitting 58.5 percent in that area this season, a very solid number for a guard. For comparison, Wroten, the team’s best driving guard, converts at 54.6 percent. Shved’s also getting to the line a good amount — 7.1 free throw attempts per 36 minutes. Plus, unlike the rest of the team, which is the worst free-throw shooting squad since the 95-96 Portland Trail Blazers, Shved can actually convert once there, hitting 83.3 percent on the season. Overall, Shved’s been the team’s most efficient scorer this season, with the second highest true shooting percentage of the regulars (54.5 percent), and he’s the team’s most efficient per minute scorer, at 20.9 points per 36 minutes.

The Russian guard is also a willing and able passer and ball-handler. He  has the third-highest assist percentage on the team behind Wroten and Carter-Williams, at 32.6 percent. Shved never really gets the chance to be the team’s primary ball-handler with the two other ball-dominant guards around, but he’s excelled in that role when given the opportunity. In 159 minutes that Shved has seen playing time without either Carter-Williams or Wroten, the 76ers’ offensive rating is 96.2, they’re assisting on 61 percent of their made baskets, and Shved has been lethal, posting a true shooting percentage of 61 percent and an assist-turnover ratio of 2.36.

The Sixers would be well served to have Shved do more on-ball work as a backup point guard option. He’s been very solid in limited minutes in this role this season, and to get the most effective Shved, that’s how he should be used. He’s a liability defensively, especially on the ball, but throwing him out in lineups with K.J. McDaniels and Robert Covington as the other wings might be a good way to counteract this. He can’t hit threes, but no one on the team can. Letting Shved become more involved would really help shore up the offense, and even if they sacrificed a tiny bit on the defensive end, the offense is enough of a dumpster fire as it is that any improvement on that end is worth some small step-backs defensively. Alexey Shved deserves to be playing more, and if he did, it would really help this team out.