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Updated: March 30th, 2013 11:03pm
Wessel: Wolves need to lock up Chase Budinger for long term

Wessel: Wolves need to lock up Chase Budinger for long term

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1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves will face a slew of difficult decisions this summer, but what to do with Chase Budinger isn't one of them.

Re-signing the shooter needs to be a priority.

The deal will likely cost the Wolves around $4 million dollars per year, which is a hefty raise from the $800,000 he is making this season. It'd be worth the price tag even though Budinger missed 59 games after knee surgery and has slowly been getting his legs back underneath him the past seven games.

After back-to-back double digit efforts, Budinger's return regressed a bit in Saturday's 99-86 loss to Memphis. He scored just two points on 1-of-6 shooting while the team as a whole struggled offensively against the physical Grizzlies.

The Wolves haven't been able to get much of a look out of Budinger, but that shouldn't matter much. David Kahn should have started drafting up a contract after his out-of-nowhere cut to the basket to beat Indiana 96-94 in November when the season still held promise.

It was probably the best moment of the season and a great example of the high basketball IQ -- something rare around these parts -- Budinger possesses.

Budinger's absence was painfully noticeable this season. The Wolves have struggled to spread the floor and knock down 3-point shots, and that is exactly what Budinger was brought in to do when they shipped a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for him last summer.

He has been playing with a minute cap that has been tough to increase lately because the Wolves have played six games in the past nine days. Budinger said this week has been the first time since returning that his knee isn't in pain the morning after a game.

But even in his still-expanding roll, teammates and coaches say they notice a difference in the amount of space he opens up on the court.

"He really helps us because he spaces the court," Adelman said. "People are aware of him whether he makes (the shot) or not. When Kevin (Love) came back briefly, he didn't shoot it very well, but people weren't leaving him.

"I think Chase gives us that and gives us really good ball movement. He is another guy you want to see finish the season on a positive note here and get himself ready for next year."

The thought around Target Center is Budinger will almost surely be inked to a deal if Adelman indeed returns next season.

It didn't take much sleuthing to figure out that the trade for Budinger had Adelman's -- not Kahn's -- fingerprints all over it. Budinger played for Adelman with the Rockets, and Adelman has always said he is a perfect fit for the system.

The respect Adelman has for Budinger is mutual, too. Budinger raved about the opportunity to once again play for the legendary coach when he arrived last summer. Budinger, in his usual polite way, more or less said that he wasn't a fan of Kevin McHale's offense in Houston and felt he wasn't used properly.

A long-term deal in Minnesota just makes sense for Budinger and the Wolves. He will definitely get offers elsewhere, but all indications are this is the team he wants to play for going forward.

Kahn -- or, more likely, whoever gets Kahn job after he is 86ed -- has a lot of difficult decisions to make, chiefly what to do with Nikola Pekovic. But this shouldn't be one of them.

The front office must've had visions beyond this season for Budinger if they were willing to give up a first-round pick to acquire him with one-year left on his rookie deal. That shouldn't have changed because of an injury-derailed season.

Sign him up.

In this story: Chase Budinger, Nikola Pekovic
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