For the last three seasons, the Minnesota Timberwolves got younger, acquiring long, lean, athletic players with potential, some real and others imagined.
But going into this offseason, the Wolves no longer need to get younger. The NBA team needs a couple of veterans with some experience, either in their prime or just about there, who can provide stability for a team that lacks consistency.
You can argue that Chase Budinger, the player acquired this week for the team’s first-round draft pick, isn’t that player, but he fits the job description.
The Wolves were unlikely to find a starting-caliber small forward or shooting guard with the 18th pick Thursday night, so that choice was either going to be a project that might require a couple of seasons to develop or a foreign prospect that wouldn’t be available next season.
Budinger seems like a better fit than either of those scenarios. He’s been in the league for three seasons with Houston, two when Rick Adelman coached there. Last season, he averaged 9.6 points and shot 40.2 percent from 3-point range.
After a year of watching Wes Johnson, Martell Webster and Michael Beasley clang 3-point attempts from the corner, it would be nice to see someone who could make them with regularity.
Budinger is not a starter on a playoff-caliber team, but he’s a nice weapon off the bench. With Ricky Rubio able to get in the lane, and defense needing to respect Kevin Love, wherever he is on the court, Budinger should find a lot of open shots. Last season, the Wolves were forced to play Luke Ridnour at the 2 guard a fair amount, and he’s just not big enough.
The Timberwolves made some nice strides last season and were a fringe playoff contender before Rubio was injured. With Rubio and Love as solid building blocks, the team has regained some relevancy.
This offseason, the Wolves didn’t need to get younger, they need to get better. Trading a mid-first round draft choice for a more proven player was a step in that direction.
But it can’t be the final move the team makes this offseason. The Wolves need to let Beasley go, and Webster seems to have no role here. Darko Milicic continues to be one of the team’s biggest mistakes.
Was Budinger the best player they could have gotten for that pick? We’ll never know.
However, it was better than picking up another unproven player that might never make an impact in this league.
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at email@example.com, check out his local sports blog at www.mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.