Wolves lock up Budinger, Kevin Martin
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves entered unrestricted free agency with two priorities at the top of their list — add a shooting guard with range and bringing back Chase Budinger.
Within the matter of a couple of hours on Tuesday, new team president Flip Saunders accomplished both of those goals.
The Timberwolves agreed to a four-year, $30 million deal with shooting guard Kevin Martin and a three-year, $16 million with Budinger, according to two people with knowledge of the deals. Budinger’s deal includes a player option for the final season. The people requested anonymity because an official announcement has not been made.
The agreements, which can’t become official until July 10, were two strong moves to address the team’s woeful outside shooting last season. The Wolves ranked dead last in 3-point shooting percentage last year, and Saunders made it a point to get more shooters to complement point guard Ricky Rubio’s slick passing.
Both players are intimately familiar with coach Rick Adelman’s corner offense, a system that is predicated on quick passing and moving without the ball. Martin played for Adelman in Sacramento and Houston before taking a bench role in Oklahoma City last season. He averaged 14.0 points and shot 42.6 percent on 3s last season and was looking for a chance to get back into a starter’s role.
The 6-foot-7 Martin will get that in Minnesota, which has been looking for a bigger shooting guard after playing the undersized Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea in that role for most of last season.
Budinger averaged 9.4 points and shot 32 percent from 3-point range last season. He only played in 23 games thanks to a knee injury that derailed a promising start to the year, but Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman and new President Flip Saunders made no secret of the fact that they badly wanted Budinger back in Minnesota.
The Timberwolves paid Budinger a visit at his San Diego home on Sunday night, arriving just after the market opened at 9:01 p.m. on the West Coast. Budinger also entertained an offer from the Milwaukee Bucks, but ultimately decided to remain with the Timberwolves and a coach he has grown very fond of in his short time in the league.
Budinger played for Adelman in Houston before arriving in a trade prior to last year’s draft. His ability to shoot from the perimeter and move without the ball paid immediate dividends, helping him fit right in with the system Adelman was still installing in his second season with the Timberwolves.
Budinger’s high-point last season came early on in a game against the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 9. He scored 18 points in the game, including the game-winning layup with less than 1 second to play that came after he made the kind of cut to the basket from the 3-point line that few other Timberwolves players showed the instincts to make. But the very next night in Chicago, Budinger tore the meniscus in his left knee and did not return until late March.
The Timberwolves sorely missed him. They had to rely almost exclusively on the pick-and-roll on offense, something that Adelman has historically been reluctant to do in favor of his more free-flowing, motion-based corner offense. But without Budinger there to make cuts away from the ball and come off screens, the Wolves had to simplify things.
After Andrei Kirilenko declined his $10.2 million option with the Wolves to become a free agent, a starting job opened at small forward. The promise of significant playing time, coupled with Adelman and pass-happy point guard Ricky Rubio, no doubt played a role in his decision.
Now the Wolves will likely turn all of their focus to restricted free agent center Nikola Pekovic, who is expected to receive significant offers on the open market once Dwight Howard makes a decision on where he is going. Saunders has said that the Wolves, who can match any offer made, will do whatever it takes to keep him.