Chase Budinger cleared to practice, cleared to save us all


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Chase Budinger is nearing his return to the court

Chase Budinger was cleared today for full-contact practice after suffering a torn meniscus back in November against the Bulls. It goes without saying that the Wolves could desperately use his help even in the mean time with the current season rotting before our eyes.

As a matter of fact, let’s just review some numbers here:

  • The Timberwolves rank 28th in the league in field goal percentage, shooting just 43% from the field this season.
  • Along those lines, they rank dead last in 3-point field goal percentage, and it’s frankly not even close; they’re at 29% with the 29th ranked team, Phoenix Suns, shooting just shy of 33%.
  • The Wolves are 29th in assisted field goal percentage, which tells me that we’re short on spot-up shooters.
  • Back in January, ESPN Insider released to piece ranking the top corner-3 shooting teams in the NBA. The Wolves ranked 22nd with our best option from the deep corner being Luke Ridnour, who’s recently found himself slumping making just one 3-pointer in the past four games.

It’s no secret that the Wolves are the worst shooting team in the NBA. I can argue that pretty much most of it has to do with the onslaught of injuries but that’s a waste of time. Rather let’s all rejoice in the nearing return of Chase Budinger, right?

Budinger was brought in from Houston because he was a veteran youngster. Just 24 years old, Bud offers a unique mix of experience and youth that very few players on the Wolves currently embody. He’s a well-known shooter but has a special hop in his step that allows him to attack the rim fearlessly. With Andrei Kirilenko still out and Alexey Shved seriously slumping, Budinger figures to slide immediately into that starting 3-role over Gelabale or the first man off the bench, at the very least, once he gets here.

Budinger’s 3-point prowess is a much-needed weapon for Rick Adelman’s offense. I partially blame Ricky Rubio’s awful shooting numbers for the lack of spot-up shooters on the perimeter. Off of pick-n-rolls, due to the lack of able-bodied shooters, Rubio’s been forced to go up the middle and try to finish over bigger, stronger players. That’s not his strength. It should always be an option but his knack is to drive-and-kick, while drawing attention from the perimeter defenders. That’s where Budinger fits in. He’ll be able to give Rubio that extra option as opposed to just driving it himself.

Honestly, can you tell how excited I am to not have to watch Dante Cunningham mid-range jumpers be the only go-to play in the Wolves’ repertoire?!  Hooray!!

But as goes the story of all Minnesota sports, there’s always a downside to the good news. Adrian Peterson wins MVP, Vikings trade Percy Harvin. Twins lock up MVP’s Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau only to lose their primes to injury and disease-laden teams the last two years. Budinger is currently an unrestricted free agent set to hit the market this summer. Although the injury didn’t help his value, Bud’s services will certainly be sought after, especially by championship competitive teams looking for that extra shooter (The reason why JJ Redick was such a hot name at the trade deadline). The Wolves already have a whirl of an offseason coming up with the looming decision of what to do with Nikola Pekovic on top of a player option from AK47. The Wolves will be tight on cap space pending what they do with Pek, making Budinger a potentially difficult signee.

So Bud’s return could very well turn into a tryout for other teams, as the Wolves are leaps and bounds away from turning this season around. In the mean time, the Wolves do get to enjoy Budinger’s services and see what he can do with a month under Adelman and alongside Rubio — and soon-to-be Love. There’s no denying that Budinger is a major missing part on the current makeup of the roster but it’s also bittersweet knowing what may lie ahead come this summer.