Chase Budinger: The Next Big 3 and D Wing?
After coming back from a knee injury that kept him sidelined the majority of his debut season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Chase Budinger stepped right back into his steady bench production, averaging 9.4 points per game in 22 minutes. This production is nearly equal to his production in his previous four seasons and this end of season play was a big factor in his signing of a three year, $16 million dollar contract with the Timberwolves.
On a per 36 minute basis, Budinger has steadily averaged around 15 points per game, with almost two three pointers made per game, according to Basketball-Reference. He has been a steady bench player for the Houston Rockets for four season and the Timberwolves for one partial season. He seems poised to have a breakout season if he ever gets an opportunity to play starter’s minutes but that seems to be delayed for at least one more year with the Wolves signing of Corey Brewer. Does Budinger have the skills to be a 3 and D wing player if given the opportunity?
Three Point Shooting
Budinger has had an up and down career so far from beyond the arc, as he as had one great season shooting threes (40% in 2011-12), one above average season (37% in 09-10 and two average seasons (32% in 10-11 and 12-13, respectively). So which is the real Budinger?
Let’s look at some shots from his best season, when he shot a shade over 40% in 2011-12 with the Rockets. The below represents his shot chart from that season, with an abundance of green zones, especially in the corners.
His technique is nearly perfect from that season, which shows that Budinger has the potential to be an elite three point shooter. Budinger will continue to get open looks and he has the ability to be an elite shooter, he just needs to capitalize on his opportunities. In these examples from two seasons ago, notice how Budinger’s form, from his jump to his follow through, is nearly identical on each release. This is indicative of a promising shooter and will be useful once last season’s video examples are highlighted.
Now let’s look at last season’s results. Although the sample size is relatively small, he struggled from beyond the arc, shooting only 32% after his return from his knee injury. There is an even bigger cause for concern after reviewing his shot chart, which shows some of his worst percentages came from the corner three point shot, which he needs to be able to convert to earn more minutes.
It is possible that this is just a factor of the small sample size and Budinger would have shot better over the entire season. However, there is one factor from reviewing the video that gives a glimpse into a possible cause to his poor shooting. While two seasons ago his form was replicated on each shot, that didn’t translate to his shots from last season, as he had slight differences in his form each time he attempted a three point shot.
It seems as though the biggest cause of this is that he did not create as much lift from his jump last season as he did in the prior season. It’s possible that this may be a result of his knee injury so Budinger may be able to easily fix this issue as he gets more playing time after his injury and becomes more confident in his knee. Whatever the reasoning, it appears as though this deficiency in his jump threw off the rest of his form, which decreased his accuracy.
The first frame is from the 11-12 season, while the frame below it is from last season. There is a stark difference in the height on Budinger’s jumps, which is one likely cause of Budinger’s struggles from long distance last season. It is a bit hard to recognize from the frames based on the
Since he had less power coming from his legs, he had to use his arms more to get the ball to the rim. It is a slight adjustment but it causes his shot to be off line, as his arm motion is slightly different on each shot to compensate for the difference in height he gets out of his jump. Not only did his jumps propel him to lower release points on his shot, they seemed to be different for each shot and this small variation can majorly hinder a jump shooter’s accuracy. This looks like one of the main reasons that Budinger’s percentage from 3 point land dropped so far last season.
The examples above from last season are a bit troubling but Budinger can get near to his 40% from two seasons ago if he finds his reliable form. If Budinger works out this kink in his shot and gets good height on his jump, he could return to his form as a 40% three point shooter, which will be valuable for a Timberwolves team who ranked last in three point field goal percentage last season.
Budinger has the ability to become an elite defender and could thrive in that role given the opportunity. According to Synergy, Budinger was an average defender in the small sample of games he played in last season, allowing 1 point per possessions in possessions categorized by Synergy where he was the primary defender. He demonstrated several positive aspects that provide a look into his potential as a defender and with some added experience, he could be leaned on to guard the opposition’s most dangerous players on a more regular basis.
Budinger has the length and quickness necessary to defend in isolation situations and to contest shots chasing a defender off a screen. He is quick enough to stay in front of offensive players and long enough to challenge shooters when he is chasing them off a screen. Some added strength could help him improve as a defender to fight off offensive players trying to take him off the dribble drive as well as when they try to post him up. He also showed a tendency to get screened, especially while guarding the ball handler on a pick and roll, so he needs to do a better job of recognizing the screen and avoiding it to stay involved in the play.
If Budinger gets the opportunity to play a more prominent role in the rotation this season, he may not become a top level defender but he has the skills and athleticism to be an above average defender. If he can combine that with an improved three point shot (harkening back to his 2011-12 form), he could become the Timberwolves’ 3 and D player and should find himself in discussion for the Most Improved Player.