We know why the Houston Rockets traded Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 18th pick in this week's NBA draft. As Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported, the Rockets are dead set in acquiring as many assets as they can in order to either initiate a series of deals or package each of those assets in a deal that would land the team disgruntled Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. The Rockets, who have long sat on the sidelines with heaps of good enough players, solid picks, and potential maneuverability have also long been left wanting as they attempt to trade for That Big Franchise Dude; and don't seem to mind that Howard is telling associates that he won't re-sign with the team when free agency hits in 2014.
Dwight also told Judge Smails, "I want a hamburger, no a cheeseburger. I want a hotdog. I want a milkshake. I want potato chips …"
What's just as defined is Budinger's new role with the Timberwolves. The athletic wing hasn't progressed much since entering the NBA in 2009, but any resemblance of his leveled-off production showing up in Minnesota will be a marked improvement on what the Timberwolves featured at the small forward and pure shooting guard position last year. Yes, things were that bad.
Budinger's not that bad. He moved his 3-point shooting up to over 40 percent last season, he doesn't rebound or dish much, but he doesn't turn the ball over much either. Not a lot of free-throw attempts, but he doesn't send opponents to the line all that much either. Just your typical, maybe-a-step-below average player, with room to grow before he hits his prime.
And that sort of player would be a major improvement over what the Timberwolves featured on the wing last year.
In Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson, Anthony Tolliver and (to a lesser extent) Martell Webster, the Wolves handed nearly 4,500 minutes of playing time over to four players who combined to put up a single-digit Player Efficiency Rating. Now, it's hard for wing types to put up a major PER unless they gobble up rebounds, assists, and crank up that usage rate, but this was a ridiculously lacking bunch and one of the bigger mitigating positions in the NBA — even considering the team's lottery status.
Budinger doesn't go great guns, he's managed around a 14 PER throughout his three-year career, but that uptick really does make a difference. To sop up minutes with mistake-free play and improved shooting? That's a boon. And to grab an established player with the 18th pick? It's not the flashiest deal in the draft, but history points to this working as the right move. At any position, much less one Minnesota needs like it needs street salt.
We like it when teams get what they want. Now let's watch to see if Houston gets what it wants.