Budinger Joining Familiar Faces With New Team

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

Chase Budinger said Wednesday seemed a little bit like a second draft night. The 6-foot-7 forward, going into his fourth season, was introduced to the Twin Cities media at Target Center after being dealt from Houston along with the draft rights to Lior Eliyahu in exchange for the Timberwolves’ 18th overall draft pick.

But this introduction was a little different. He’s coming to a team filled with familiar personnel, and with his experience in the league he and the Wolves are hoping he’ll be able to step in and make an impact with his athleticism, his ability to move without the ball and his 3-point shot.

“He’s been a solid player for all three years,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “And I think he’s just going to really help our group because of those abilities he has.”

Adelman knows quite a bit about Budinger’s skill set. Adelman coached Budinger for two seasons in Houston before coming to Minnesota last year, and his coaching staff—including assistant coaches Jack Sikman and T.R. Dunn—were on staff in Houston and are familiar with his game.

More than anything, Adelman said Budinger has the right mindset to make a difference. Not only does he work hard, but Adelman said he’s willing to learn and grow.

Budinger said he was excited to be introduced alongside Adelman and President of Basketball Operations David Kahn on Wednesday.

“I feel like, [this team] feels like the new Oklahoma [City],” Budinger said. “It’s a young team, a lot of young, great, athletic-type players. and I feel that everybody on this team could really get better together and really win a championship down the road.”

One thing Budinger provided for Houston a year ago was a spark off the bench—something Adelman highlighted from his two years coaching him, too. In 22.4 minutes per game last season, Budinger shot 44.2 percent from the field—including 40.2 percent from 3-point range—and scored 9.6 points per game. He scored in double-figures 29 times in 58 games and did so in nine of the Rockets’ final 13 games of the regular season.

With forward Kevin Love stretching the floor, center Nikola Pekovic bruising inside and point guard Ricky Rubio opening up shots with court awareness, Adelman said the Wolves are in need of players who are able to knock down the open shots from the perimeter. He said Budinger has always earned his minutes through his consistent play and will do the same in Minnesota.

“With Ricky especially, we were getting open shots. Unfortunately we didn’t always knock them down,” Adelman said. “I think the person on the wing not only needs to make shots, he ahs to have the ability to make the next pass. … Chase has the ability to do that.”

Kahn agreed.

“It felt this wasn’t a hard decision,” Kahn said. “Chase is a proven NBA player, and yet still young. But he’s demonstrated in our league that he’s got real capabilities, especially offensively. His ability to shoot the ball, dribble, pass, he’s got a very well-rounded game.”

He’ll be able to mesh that game with some familiar players along with being reunited with his former coaching staff.

Budinger said he played with Love during the club basketball season in high school, and he was amazed by Love’s ability to unleash outlet passes. He and teammate Brandon Jennings—now the Milwaukee Bucks’ point guard—ran a “fastbreak-a-thon” on the team. He has also worked out with Love in the offseason.

And Budinger, a former University of Arizona athlete, became acquainted with forward Derrick Williams during Williams’ freshman year with the Wildcats. He said he played pick-up games with him, noting his athleticism and skill. Budinger said Williams has improved every year.

Adelman said Budinger has the ability to play the small forward or shooting guard position—both slots are fairly interchangeable within his system, as Wes Johnson and Martell Webster both moved to both position last season. The biggest attribute with Budinger will be adding energy whenever he’s in the game and being able to create shots through his motion without the ball.

His coach said he’s got the ability to do both.

“He’s going to bring a work ethic to this team that we like in the way he approaches the game,” Adelman said.

“I have confidence if he’s in the game at the end of the game, he’s going to make big plays for us. I think that stuff is going to work itself out.”

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