Budinger Making His Presence Felt This Preseason

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman knew during his days in Houston what forward Chase Budinger can bring to a basketball team. In their two years together with the Rockets, Budinger’s athleticism, ability to find and hit open shots and hard-working demeanor all complemented Adelman’s offensive system.

This offseason the Wolves looked to overhaul their wing positions with guys fitting those criteria, and in a pre-Draft trade Budinger and Adelman—as well as several other members of the coaching staff—were reunited from those Houston days. During the preseason, everything Budinger was billed to add to the roster came to fruition.

And this week, he kicked it up a notch.

Budinger is coming off a two-game stretch against Detroit on Wednesday and Milwaukee on Friday in which he averaged 20.5 points per game, shot 9-of-13 from 3-point range and injected bursts of energy into an offense that harbored 20-point leads at different points in each contest. For the preseason he’s averaging 13.3 points a night and shooting 53.1 percent from beyond the arc, making him the team’s top 3-point shooter heading into the regular season.

As far as the coaching staff is concerned, there are no surprises here. Moving without the ball, cutting, finding open looks and knocking down shots at a high clip are reasons why Budinger was brought in this offseason.

“He’s a smart player,” Adelman said. “He’s going to get to the open shot.”

A season ago the Wolves didn’t have trouble getting open looks—but they often struggled making them. That led to action this offseason. In bringing in a sharp-shooter like Budinger, all of a sudden Minnesota has a threat who can connect from anywhere on the floor with high efficiency.

Not only that, but Budinger understands his role away from the ball and helps with the fluidity of the offense when he’s on the floor. Assistant coach Terry Porter said Budinger is a good fit in the corner offense system and provides hard cuts and good reads with the basketball. Even when he doesn’t have the ball the defense needs to honor his ability to connect, and that opens up space for the Wolves’ post players.

“I think everyone was excited to acquire him because he gives us a piece that really fits the schemes that coach really wants to try to run,” Porter said. “He’s familiar with coach’s system, he’s familiar with the offensive and defensive schemes. It makes it great, and it’s going to be even more effective when Kevin [Love] and Ricky [Rubio] are on the floor. Even know it’s shown, the fans can see because of his ability to read and be in the right spot.”

Budinger’s 3-point impact could be pretty important to the Wolves this season, particularly while the team awaits Love and Rubio returning to the court. So much energy derives from a 3-pointer, and in back and forth games that becomes a crucial element.

In Winnipeg against the Pistons, the Wolves held a 23-point lead before Detroit went on a 21-1 run and cut the lead to three. By game’s end the Wolves pushed that lead back to 19, and part of their run in that fourth quarter had to do with big 3-point shots. Budinger alone had 15 of the team’s 27 points in the fourth, including three 3-pointers and 12 of the team’s first 14 points in the frame. At that point the Wolves had re-opened an 18-point lead with 6:33 to play.

“He can really shoot the ball,” forward Derrick Williams said. “He’s another athletic guy that we have on our team that can really shoot and spread the defense. He can dribble, too. He can get to the basket, attack, do multiple things out there. You need guys like that who can do multiple things, and it just adds to our team.”

Budinger said he’s gotten more and more comfortable hitting those 3-point shots during his career, and his role within Adelman’s offense caters to his strengths. It’s one of the reasons he was excited to come to Minnesota and rejoin Adelman and his staff.

That combined with a group of teammates who have good court vision and are able to find him when he’s open.

“I’m very comfortable in the system,” Budinger said. “I feel I know where to be pretty much any time during the game. But it’s also a credit to my teammates, who find me as well, to know where I’m at and to continue to give me open shots as well.”

This preseason Budinger showed the type of skill set he brings to the Wolves on the offensive end, and it’s a welcomed addition. If this exhibition slate is a precursor for things to come, Minnesota has a rotation perimeter player in Budinger who could really impact games throughout the season.

“When we got done [last season], coach really tried to evaluate which players were out there, which players would really fit this system,” Porter said. “Who could he add to this system that could really benefit and really help Kevin and Ricky and [Nikola Pekovic]? I think there was always some interest there with Chase.”


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