HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Across 34 years, among all the franchises of the NBA jacking up 3-point shots since the rule and the arc were established for the 1979-80 season, no team shot them as often and as badly as the Minnesota Timberwolves last season.
The Wolves’ .305 percentage was the worst in league history for a team that, by God, kept on shooting them anyway — averaging 18.0 per game. Injuries to some of Minnesota best players hurt their accuracy – even if a perimeter shooter was healthy, he might face more close-outs with big men Nikola Pekovic or Kevin Love absent on a given night. So, too, did the Wolves’ annual struggle to find competent players at the shooting guard position. Too often last season, coach Rick Adelman was stuck with an undersized tandem of Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea.
Those concerns – about the shooting and the depth chart — seemingly both got addressed Tuesday with reports that Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders reached agreements with two free-agent shooters.
One is familiar: Chase Budinger, who played last season for a $885,000 salary, reportedly will get a huge raise on a three-year, $16 million contract to return. The other one is new to Minnesota and was considered one of the top 15 or so free agents in this offseason market: Kevin Martin, who is said to have reached agreement with the Wolves on a four-year deal worth an estimated $28 million to $30 million.
Budinger, 25, will try to have the success envisioned by him and the Wolves prior to his knee injury (meniscus) last fall, which limited him to 23 games — 15 from March 21 on. A 6-foot-7 forward, Budinger spent his first three seasons in Houston, two with Adelman. Reunited in the Twin Cities, he seemed perfect for the ball-and-player movement that the veteran coach runs offensively. Healthy now, he’ll try to fit perfectly again.
Martin, 30, is a professional scorer, period. Twice in the past six years, the 6-foot-7 product of West Carolina ranked in the NBA’s top 10 in scoring and from 2007-2011 averaged 22.4 points, made 38.5 percent of his 3-pointers and got to the line for 8.4 free-throw attempts per game.
Martin established himself with the Sacramento Kings, who drafted him 26th overall in the 2004 Draft. Then he became a central figure in two major trades. In 2010, he went to Houston in a three-team, nine-player transaction in which his role was to step in for former Rockets star Tracy McGrady. Like Budinger, Martin was coached there by Adelman.
Last October, Martin was shipped from Houston to Oklahoma City in the Thunder’s desire to cushion the loss of guard James Harden, the third option on OKC’s 2012 Finals squad whose contract demands exceeded the team’s budget. Coming off the bench the way Harden had as the league’s top Sixth Man, Martin averaged 14.0 points – lowest output since his second NBA season – but at 18.2 points per 36 minutes, he was only slightly off Harden’s 19.3.
But his ballhandling, passing and rebounding were a step back from his predecessors. And OKC didn’t make it out of the second round.
Now Martin joins a team that would be grateful for help in making it into the first round. Minnesota hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004, a drought that this reconfigured crew hopes to end with Budinger and Martin getting open for Ricky Rubio assists and Love outlet passes.
And at a combined 37.7 percent from 3-point range in their careers, the Wolves’ lowly 2012-13 ranking is bound to improve.