Yesterday, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks played a preseason game. These two teams met last Friday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the Bucks defeated the Wolves - I don't recall the score at this time. On Wednesday, unlike the first meeting, the game was televised and henceforth available online this morning.
Shouts to Russian Bee for the torrents.
These are notes. This is one preseason game. We are observing a small sample.
Recent rumors have suggested that Flip Saunders and the Wolves are "shopping" Chase Budinger. Subsequently, Budinger's preseason production and performance has been under the microscope and, because he's playing well, an outcry of supporters have insisted against trading the 26-year-old wing player.
Speculating Budinger's potential value on the trade marker seems trivial. He's played in merely 64 games over the previous two seasons. I don't believe anyone has seen enough, for long enough, to make a legitimate offer.
Anyways, here's what Budinger is doing well thus far and what Wolves fans hope he will do on a consistent basis throughout the regular season.
This is the obvious one.
Below you'll see Ricky Rubio feed Thaddeus Young, who goes to work on the low-block. After Young draws the double team, he passes back out to Rubio before the ball swings to left-arc. Budinger then connects on the three-pointer.
Budinger is lurking in the upper-left corner of this image. I understand it's hard to see him.
This GIF is meant to spotlight the Bucks' defensive rotations. Rubio's man drops to double Young, causing the defender assigned to Budinger to rotate on to Rubio. Now, Budinger had enough room to connect in this instance, but greater spacing could be achieved if Rubio doesn't venture inside the three point arc. It's a good possession though there's certainly room for improvement.
Below, Budinger's ability to connect from three-point range is a factor, even though he doesn't touch the ball.
Like the first image, the defense doubles the ball on the far-block and the Bucks must rotate. Tasked with either closing on Young (not his job) or fronting Budinger (his assignment in this rotation), Chris Middleton attempts to accomplish both. He is not successful. Had it been Rubio, or any Wolves player who isn't a threat from outside, perhaps Middleton performs an impactful contest on Young's shot.
Make the defense pay...
A simple concept, but the Wolves, as a team, have struggled to connect from three-point range over the previous few years.
Get used to this crossing action, we've already seen tons of it.
This time, Anthony Bennett is the forward on the elbow as Budinger and Zach Lavine swap sides using Bennett's body as an extra screen. Jared Dudley (there are worse defenders) elects to stick with LaVine but O.J. Mayo tries to do the same. Thus, because the defense doesn't communicate assignments, Budinger is left open for long enough to rise up and fire for three.
This is a simple example, though not especially sophisticated, but these are the type of plays that add up and acumulatively impact the outcome of a game.
Not So Good
Budinger isn't exactly a great defender.
Above, Budinger embraces contact and bounces off Jerryd Bayless.
Bayless is a small player, yet Budinger really doesn't make an effort to try and go around him. Thus, O.J. Mayo is left open and it appears as though, after fighting through Bayless, Budinger anticipates Young will switch over to Mayo. He didn't seem intent on sticking with the shooter at the wing. Instead, Budinger absorbs Ersan Ilyasova's screen and retreats toward the basket as Mayo releases the shot.
This is a communication breakdown. Eventually, the Wolves will be more accustomed to playing with each other as the season progresses. Developing chemistry on the court, one would imagine, should help eliminate mistakes like the example above. Another example is shown below.
Look, this is not entirely Budinger's fault. Nikola Pekovic doesn't make an attempt to contest the shot, but there's no way Budinger should be expected to get around it. If Pekovic stepped out on Mayo, he and Budinger could have trapped the ball in the corner - a tough area to pass out of if you're the offensive player. Overall, this example of poor defending may simply be a byproduct of having Budinger and Pekovic on the floor at the same time.
I don't believe Budinger will be traded, at least not anytime soon. He does good things, but has flaws too.
Will Budinger stay healthy for an entire season? We'll have to see. Stay tuned, more notes will be published later today.