When news broke that the Wolves had exchanged their 18th pick in the draft for Chase Budinger, the focus of the media’s attention was mostly (and understandably) on the ramifications for Houston’s pursuit of Dwight Howard. Howard is, after all, a much bigger fish than Chase Budinger. For most fans, the pursuit of a megastar like Howard is more interesting than the transition of an unremarkable role player like Budinger from one city to another.
But for Minnesota, Chase Budinger is a solid acquisition, one that will improve the Wolves immediately.
It was no secret last season that the Wolves were weakest at the wings. Michael Beasley, Anthony Tolliver, Martell Webster, Wes Johnson, Luke Ridnour, JJ Barea, Derrick Williams, Wayne Ellington and Malcolm Lee all spent time at the shooting guard or small forward positions and none were effective.
Ridnour was particularly out of his element, guarding the likes of Chandler Parsons, Metta World Peace, and many other bad matchups for his size (6’2). It should be duly noted, however, that Ridnour performed admirably, given the circumstances.
One of the strongest aspects in Ricky Rubio’s highly entertaining skillset is his ability to find open shooters on the perimeter. Too often last season, Rubio would drive into the lane, attracting the attention of a perimeter defender, and pass out to an open man, only to watch the shot hit the rim and carom away.
As a team, Minnesota shot 36% from behind the arc in the corner, well below the league average for one of the most efficient shots in basketball.
This is where Budinger can make an immediate impact for the Wolves. Budinger had one of his best seasons shooting from deep last year, dropping 40% from three point range, including 48% from the corners. Budinger is also extremely athletic and should be a fun weapon for the Wolves offense with Rubio in transition.
While Budinger fills one need for the Wolves, other questions remain regarding his defense. Budinger is an average defender, but he tends to get lost on rotations. Perhaps this can be attributed to his youth (Budinger is just three years into his NBA career), but Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman still hasn’t found his perimeter stopper.
Nor have the Wolves found the shot creator they desperately need. When a possession broke down for Minnesota last season, they often had no choice but to allow players like Michael Beasley or JJ Barea attempt to create a shot. Budinger is a catch and shoot player from behind the arc and rarely attacks the basket.
But beggars can’t be choosers, and last season the Timberwolves were indisputably impoverished on the wing. Budinger immediately improves the Timberwolves, and he fits well with Minnesota’s pieces that are already in place. Also worth noting: he is a known entity, which is considerably more than the Wolves could boast about whoever they would draft with the 18th pick.
Admittedly, draft picks can be fun. Draftees are unknown quantities, a characteristic which allows fans to dream about what they could be. But sometimes a team gets burned by a bad pick. Acquiring Budinger is safe, solid and a good start to the offseason for the Wolves.