This is the ninth 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 every day for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.
Ok, close your eyes for a second. No seriously, close them. Ok, now open them again so you can keep reading this post. Now, picture an NBA player. This guy is 6’7. He shot 40% from 3-point range last season, and 48% from the corner. He’s incredibly bouncy and participated in the 2012 dunk contest. He averaged 1.5 free throws and six rebounds per 36 minutes. Who am I talking about?
I’m guessing your reaction to that description was “Hey jackass, I know you are talking about Chase Budinger because I read the title to the post and he’s dunking in that picture, plus the caption says his name, plus you guys have already told us all these stats on Howlin T-Wolf before at some point or another.” Shut up, jerk. The reaction I was going for was this: “Meh, he sounds better than Wes Johnson.” Then you’d be exactly right.
When the Jazz made the playoffs, the Wolves had two choices: hope that a good wing fell to them by some lucky mistake, or package the pick with other players for an upgrade over Wes. After Kevin Martin’s name was thrown around a bit, many fans were underwhelmed when news broke that Chase Budinger was our prize for the 18th pick. I’m honestly not sure why. Predictably, most of the best wing players (Jeremy Lamb, Austin Rivers, Terrence Ross) were all snapped up well before the 18th pick, and quite frankly, I never saw the appeal of gambling on a Terrence Ross. But despite his athleticism and 3-point shooting, Budinger isn’t really elite at any one thing, which makes him a bit of a letdown to some people, I suppose.
But, unlike Wes, he is good at SOME things. Or, perhaps more accurately, he is consistent at several things. While Budinger’s 3-point shooting took a leap last year (from .325 to .406), the average of both years (.366) is still better than Wes Johnson or Luke Ridnour, the two players who spent the most time at shooting guard for Minnesota last season. He has shot roughly the same percentage, averaged roughly the same amount of points per 36 minutes and grabbed about the same amount of rebounds every year, and he has improved slightly as a defender. 72.2% of his shots came from either the restricted area or 3-point range, and just 17.8% came from the dreaded mid-range, from which Beas and Wes spent so much time inefficiently gunning.
Here’s the thing: we know what we are getting with Chase Budinger. And considering how much of last year was based on potential (IF Barea works out and IF Beasley gets better and IF Wes doesn’t suck and IF Love, Rubio and Pek all stay healthy), quite frankly, I’m sick of potential. I’m sick of upside. I’m ready for a player who we know will be productive MOST nights, not just on random nights against the Clippers.
We covered this extensively when the trade happened, of course. While Budinger might not have the star power of, say, Eric Gordon or other pipe dream shooting guards that we may have envisioned in Minnesota, he IS a significant upgrade, and significant upgrades could potentially be the difference between the Wolves as a lottery team and the Wolves as a playoff team. That level of improvement would be plenty good enough for me.