MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves were in the market for a capable perimeter shooter, ideally a veteran with experience in coach Rick Adelman’s system to help balance a frontcourt-heavy roster. The Houston Rockets could be looking for something much, much bigger.
The teams made a move to address both needs just two days before the NBA draft: The Timberwolves have acquired swingman Chase Budinger from the Rockets in exchange for the 18th overall pick in the draft, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person requested anonymity because the deal has not been officially announced.
The Rockets now have the 14th, 16th and 18th selections in a draft that many scouts think is one of the deeper classes in years, a load of ammunition that could help them make a play for one of the stars who could be available, including Orlando center Dwight Howard or Atlanta forward Josh Smith.
It’s the second straight summer that the Rockets figure to be very active in trying to add some size and skill to their frontcourt. Last year they had a deal in place that would have landed them Lakers big man Pau Gasol, but NBA commissioner David Stern, acting on behalf of the league-owned New Orleans Hornets, nixed the trade, which would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers.
Now, after missing the playoffs for the third straight season, Rockets GM Daryl Morey again is in search of a blockbuster deal to push them back into contender status in the Western Conference.
The Timberwolves see themselves as a team on the rise behind Adelman, point guard Ricky Rubio and power forward Kevin Love. The Wolves faded late last season after Rubio went down with a knee injury, exposing the roster as one with too many point guards, power forwards and centers and not enough playmakers and shooters on the wings.
Michael Beasley struggled with injuries and inconsistency, Wes Johnson couldn’t find his shooting stroke and Martell Webster never got fully into the groove after preseason back surgery.
Budinger should help. He averaged 9.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and shot 40.2 percent from 3-point range in his third season with the Rockets. The former second-round pick out of Arizona played his first two seasons under Adelman in Houston, so he has familiarity in the coach’s corner offense and has demonstrated the ability to knock down open jump shots.
The 6-foot-7 Budinger also has the athleticism to get to the basket and a knack for moving without the ball.
The Rockets also included the rights to Israeli Lior Eliyahu in the deal, which was first reported by Yahoo Sports.
The trade shows how much input Adelman has in personnel matters with the Timberwolves. As the season drew to a close, Adelman lobbied hard for the team to add more veterans. He wasn’t interested in bringing another rookie, especially with a fairly low draft pick, into one of the youngest teams in the league, and his familiarity with Budinger no doubt helped team president David Kahn make the deal.
“It’s part of the business,” Budinger told KRIV-TV in Houston. “The Rockets want to do something and they have got to pay for it.”
The trade also helps Minnesota from a financial perspective. Budinger is due to make $942,000 next season and could become a free agent after next season. The modest salary gives the Wolves more salary cap room than a guaranteed three-year deal for a first-round draft pick, which could open up their options for other moves in free agency, which begins July 1, or through trades.