MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves agreed Saturday to send Chase Budinger to the Indiana Pacers for Damjan Rudez in a swap of small forwards.
Budinger was beset by knee trouble for most of his stay in Minnesota and was unable to deliver on what he or the team hoped for after reaching a $15 million, three-year contract prior to the 2013-14 season. Budinger will make $5 million in the last year of his deal, but the Timberwolves found the market rather cool for a player so racked by injuries the last two seasons, despite the lure of an expiring contract.
In Indiana, Budinger will join a revamped Pacers team that is planning to play at a higher tempo after trading plodding 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert to the Los Angeles Lakers and losing hard-nosed power forward David West to the San Antonio Spurs in free agency.
If he can stay healthy, Budinger’s ability to move without the ball and read cutting lanes should fit well in coach Frank Vogel’s offense with veterans like George Hill, Monta Ellis and Paul George. In three seasons with Minnesota, Budinger played in only 131 of a possible 246 games. He was originally acquired right before the 2012 draft from Houston in a trade in which the Wolves sent a first-round pick to the Rockets.
George said Saturday he was on board with the significant changes to the roster.
“One of the things we needed to do was get better at picking up the tempo, but I didn’t know it (the roster changes) would be this drastic,” he said.
Budinger finally began to show flashes of solid play in the last month of the season as he finally got his legs underneath him. He averaged 6.8 points and 19.2 minutes per game last season for Minnesota.
But the Wolves are in the throes of a youth movement, and Budinger was buried on the depth chart behind younger and higher-profile players at the wing position like Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad. So he told the Timberwolves at season’s end he wanted to be moved to a more veteran team.
Rudez shot 40.6 percent from 3-point range in 2014-15 in his first year in the NBA after coming over from Croatia. If he stays with the Wolves, he would be a big boost in the shooting department for a team that was among the worst in the league from long distance last season. The 29-year-old Rudez, who is listed at 6-foot-10 and 200 pounds, averaged 4.8 points and 15.4 minutes last season for Indiana.
Rudez is another stretch power forward on a team that is already well stocked in the front court with Kevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns, Adreian Payne and Nemanja Bjelica.
But Wolves president and coach Flip Saunders told The Associated Press that he was intrigued by Rudez’s 3-point shooting. Improving perimeter shooting was one of Saunders’ biggest priorities in the offseason and he said Rudez would be given a chance to compete for playing time in training camp.
The deal was first reported by Yahoo Sports.
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