As our summer mainstay, Aaron's writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. Intent is to get you talking, thinking, and appreciating the myriad of wonderful folks who play in our favorite sports league. Today we continue with Chase Budinger, Jared Jeffries, and Tayshaun Prince.
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Follow Chase Budinger on Twitter at @CBudinger.
I actually really like this incoming situation for Budinger. He's not an incredible player, but he's serviceable, and he starts day #1 of training camp as the best wing in the Timberwolves wheelhouse. In Houston, he's found himself often slotted behind emerging prospects and fell out of favor with Kevin McHale after Adelman's departure. In Minnesota, he'll be playing a ton of minutes beside Rubio's incredible passing talent, and at no point will he really be asked to be anything more than what he is -- a sharpshooting, athletic, non-defensive swingman that has a penchant for threes and experience with the reigning head coach. He's not great defensively, but he's not bad either -- he's athletic with a long reach, and he tends to lay off his man and let his length do his job for him. It doesn't always work, mind you, but does it ever? In any event, the reality isn't nearly as bad as his reputation on defense, which can only be a good thing coming to a team that desperately needs to upgrade its defensive talent.
As for the threes? Budinger shot (no typo) 48% on corner threes last year -- and not on some paucity of attempts either, he shot 48 of 100 from there! Imagine that with Rubio to set him up. He's not incredible on catch-and-shoot threes, but if Pekovic and Love can work out some tough screens and disorient the defense, Budinger can get free and make life hell on the other team's perimeter defenders, which makes him the only Timberwolves wing with the ability to do that. Consider this: Budinger only shot 34% on above-the-break threes, which isn't phenomenal. But even that 34% number is better than any true wing player that was on the Timberwolves last season. Seriously. Even Budinger's worst three was better than the totality of any Timberwolves wing. It's a huge upgrade for the Timberwolves, and I think the pieces are in place for the Wolves to shock. As I was saying on Twitter last night, the Wolves are now in a gaggle of about five teams that could get the four seed if everything gels and they don't suffer injuries -- assuming OKC, SAS, and LAL have the top three seeds rather firmly held, that leaves the four seed totally up for grabs between MEM, LAC, DAL, DEN, and MIN -- all of which could be really good teams. Which also ignores Golden State and Utah, both solid young teams that could take leaps this year. Should be a really fun west.
Off the hardwood, Chase Budinger is a two-sport athlete. He actually grew up as a volleyball player, only switching to basketball full-time when he reached college and realized he'd make virtually no money if he followed his volleyball dreams. I learned this during the lockout, and immediately wondered if his second sport has impacted his NBA game -- to that end, I explicitly watched a few Rockets games watching nothing but Budinger's movements, both off-ball and on-ball, to try and answer that question. In short? It has. Budinger is a lot more comfortable on the court when he's moving around, following trajectories and gliding through defenders as he prepares to rise up and strike. He's more offensively effective when he's moving off screens than when he's simply standing around waiting for the ball, because his volleyball background has him so much more well-adapted to perpetual motion. It's actually pretty cool, when watching him as compared to other wings, to pay attention to how differently Budinger moves than other NBA players -- it's not jarring, and you have to be looking for it, but there's definitely a sense of volleyball fluidity in his motion that makes his off-ball stuff more engaging than the average bear.
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__F__ollow Jared Jeffries on Twitter by searching his name and finding endlessly cruel jokes about him____._
I'll admit, I'm not the biggest Jared Jeffries fan. I'm generally a bigger fan of players with interesting defensive styles that bring a strange mix of skills to the table, but something about Jeffries has always rubbed me the wrong way. His help defense is consistent, but I think the reason I tend towards being a bit negative on Jeffries defensively is his man-to-man defense, which suffers from some element of Amare disease. (For the uninitiated: Amare disease refers to the frustrating tendency from modern big men to produce game-changing defensive brilliance every few possessions and then completely to either take every remaining possession off or make boneheaded mistakes wrought in too much effort -- it results in a below-average defender, but gives a fanbase enough room to imagine what the player would be like if they stopped messing around and started applying themselves. It's torturous to sit through.) His help defense is brilliant, and his defensive skillset is interesting and original. And he tries very, very hard -- on the D'Antoni Knicks teams, Jeffries tended to be the one guarding the opposing team's best player, no matter their size, simply because nobody else on the team cared to do it. But the Amare tendencies in terms of quality variance aren't fun to watch, and Jeffries does tend to make one or two big-picture mistakes on individual defense every night.
Neither is his offense, come to think of it. Last season, Jeffries shot 41% from the field -- this included shooting under 50% in the restricted area, not making a single shot in the paint outside the restricted area, and shooting a hilarious 36% from midrange and 21% from the corner three. Even for an offensive player generally regarded as so-so to poor, that's startlingly bad. He's OK at a few offensive tasks outside of shooting -- for instance, Novak and Jeffries had an excellent two-man game last season where Jeffries would set a (sometimes slightly dirty) screen to get Novak open and Novak would obligingly jump to the open shot and make the three. But his shooting and scoring is so downright bad that it often doesn't matter. Still, all this said? I can't abide Knicks fans like this particular lady, who create "I Hate Jared Jeffries" campaigns and scream to the heavens about how bad he is. At least Jeffries gives a damn, you know? He hustles, he works, and he doesn't complain about the concentrated monstrosity that is the New York media. I've not once heard Jeffries complain about the insane and unrealistic expectations Isiah's bad contract thrust upon him. I can't fully appreciate his defensive game, though it's decent. His offense is a horror show. But if Knicks fans like the ones in the comments here can learn to love him, why can't everyone learn to at least accept him?
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Follow Tayshaun Prince on Twitter if he ever gets one.__
What is there to say about Tayshaun at this point of his career, honestly? He's finally falling off. His post scoring was never absolutely great, but it was passable -- last season he fell off a cliff and shot only 26% from 3-9 feet. His long jumper and his elbow midrange were still about the same as always (that is, not as good as he thinks despite the fact that he takes a million of them a night), and he made a few threes on slightly above league-average percentages. He also had a bit more trouble getting up than he used to. In 2011, Prince led the league in at-rim field goal percentage with a 77% mark -- that declined to 63% this year, which is still good, but certainly not league-leading. He's an effective ballhandler for such a strangely proportioned man, sporting the ninth lowest turnover percentage among rotation players in the entire league last season. But overall, I'd say he's a bit of a negative on the offensive end -- as I outlined in the Greg Monroe capsule, the Pistons seemed content to completely ignore Monroe's talents for virtually the entire season. Prince's ballhogging to take awful midrange shots he shouldn't be taking was one of the big reasons for that.
On defense, he's still somewhat effective. Prince has a ridiculous amount of length, with a wingspan essentially matching that of a quality center -- because of it, he can bother players from farther away and at lower risk of fouling. He averaged about one foul per game last year, which is pretty incredible given that he's generally guarding the best player on the opposing team. The problem with Prince is that as his back problems get worse and worse and his speed decreases with age, he's gotten less able to cover star wings. Putting Prince on LeBron used to at least distract LeBron, a bit -- now he doesn't do jack against him or any other truly elite offensive player. Prince ceded his place as the best perimeter stopper in the league years ago. He's basically an old, degraded cover band who had a top-10 single early in his career, a few decent albums, and finally has reached the stage of the career where he's touring for god-knows what reason and while it's still entertaining it's a bit embarrassing for those who remember how good he used to be.
I don't think Prince's current contract -- $28 million over 4 years -- is terrible in every context. It's terrible in the one Prince is in, though. Look, as talented as he once was, Prince is absolutely not worth $7 million dollars a year to be the 3rd or 4th best player on a lottery team. As the 3rd or 4th guy on a contending team with a lot of great bench pieces, playing the Shawn Marion role on some futuristic Dallas team? Sure -- THAT'S a situation where his contract would've make a ton of sense. But no contending team wanted the risk that came with Prince's back injury, and Joe Dumars apparently wanted to continue making himself look like a fool. So instead of pulling a Marion and riding out his waning years on a team that's got the talent to fit him in, he's spending his waning years chucking up bad shots at the expense of Greg Monroe and pretending to be one of the game's top stoppers on an abhorrent defensive team. At least he's got his ring, I suppose. Is there anyone else that's a little surprised that Shawn Marion has ended up to have more longevity than Prince, and has remained a core piece to a very good team as long as he has versus Prince becoming something of a liability? Kinda crazy.
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At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next group. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. Weagle bailed everyone out, because barely anyone got any of these guys right. (Which is fine with me, as honestly, I'm not huge fans of any player we've covered today, heh.) Anyway. He got 2/3. Wonder if anyone can get 3/3 on this set...
- Player #91 is on his last legs, and he's nowhere near where he once was. But that Phoenix training staff has been great for him.
- Even while Bosh was in Toronto, Player #92 was still the big man who Triano would assign to cover the best opposing big man.
- I can't believe I thought this was going to be a good signing for Phoenix back when it happened. Oh well. Player #93 is in New Orleans, now.
Mulling over whether to do evening capsules. May do it, may not. We'll see. If not, see you next week!
P.S. ... what the hell was that, Orlando?
P.P.S. ... no, seriously, what?!