A former second-round pick by the Houston Rockets, Budinger may not be a starter in Minneapolis, but he is a versatile shooter that is a valuable backup at the 2 or 3.
“I would like to come back,” Budinger told the Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda. “I like the organization, I like the staff, I love (head coach Rick) Adelman.”
Budinger will likely demand a raise from his $800,000 salary, with ESPN1500’s Dana Wessel predicting his asking price to be in the $4 million range. But with only five players under contract through 2014-15 (per Spotrac.com), the Wolves have plenty of room to fit him in.
The team’s first priority will be re-signing center Nikola Pekovic, who will probably demand $12 to $14 million per season, but it should not overlook Budinger's importance.
Budinger only played 23 games this year, but the La Jolla, California native is an outstanding outside shooter (40.2 percent from downtown in 2011-12) who can also throw down some monster jams and rebound the ball.
His versatility makes him a strong backup at the 3, where an aging Andrei Kirilenko (32) and a budding Derrick Williams (21) will compete for a starting spot. He could also start alongside Ricky Rubio in the backcourt.
All season long, the Wolves were looking for a perimeter shooter that could spread the court. Kevin Love is probably the best outside shooter on the team…and he is a forward.
Minnesota will probably take a look at free agency to address the need, especially with J.J. Redick available, but there are no promises that he or any other big-time shooter is coming to town.
The team is best served by looking internally. Alexey Shved shot well at times last year, but the guard doesn’t play very well with Rubio. Elsewhere, Brandon Roy’s knees will probably force him to retire, J.J. Barea is streaky and Williams is still working on his outside game.
That leaves Budinger as the best internal solution.
In order for him to come back to Minnesota, Budinger says Adelman needs to return (per Zgoda):
"That’s a big part of it,” he said about the coach who taught a second-round draft pick in 2009 the NBA game. “Our relationship, he knows how I play. I work well in his system. It’s [Adelman’s decision] going to weigh big."
Newly anointed general manager Flip Saunders recently told Bruce Brothers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he expects Adelman to be back and Budinger feels that the 66-year-old coach will return as long as all is right with his wife, Mary Kay Adelman, who suffered from seizures during the 2012-13 season.
“I think there are questions,” Budinger told the Star Tribune. “He has always been family first and, with his wife it’s going to be family first. But knowing him, he loves to coach. He loves this team. So it’s a tough decision for him to leave.”
For the time being, Budinger is headed to San Diego in the offseason where he will work out with fellow NBA players like Luke Walton, Richard Jefferson, Jared Dudley and Deron as well as Mo Williams.
His No. 1 goal is to strengthen his leg following his knee injury this year. "It’s a big summer for me personally, just getting my leg stronger, back to where it was," Budinger said.
"It’s still not 100 percent. It’s still weak. I’ll do a lot of rehab, a lot of weightlifting to get my body back."
He has also left open the possibility of returning to the University of Arizona to play with fellow former Wildcat Derrick Williams before the season starts. After all, you can’t have too many Williamses in your life.
But in all seriousness, this is a good sign. It looks like Adelman is going to return and Williams and Budinger could end up being a one-two punch at small forward next season.
Trust me, the Wolves will be better off with him on their team.
All quotes were obtained first-hand, unless otherwise indicated.
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