This year’s draft class has the potential for a number of gems to come out of the second round. I think Dejuan Blair, Sam Young, Dajuan Summers and Marcus Thornton will all make an immediate impact this season. But another guy to keep an eye on is someone that we’ve all known about for years: Chase Budinger. Cue the eye rolls.
Even though I think Chase made a mockery of his draft status and did not enter the League when he should have, you cannot deny his potential. Should have stayed in school, should have left early, should have played volleyball. He’s no doubt heard it from all angles by the haters at this point. The start of his NBA journey may not have started the way he thought it would, being drafted 44th overall, but he is in a smart situation with Houston.
After a stellar Summer League (averaging 17.8 points and shooting a ridiculous 72.7 percent from three-point land) and a strong preseason, Budinger is looking more and more like a viable scoring threat for the Rockets this year. Through nine games in the preseason, he is averaging 11.6 points and nearly four boards per game.
Here’s a kid who was projected yearly to go in the lottery and bring Arizona back to the national promised land, and instead fell down on expectations. For the first time in his career, Chase is not being called upon to be “the guy.” Now, he can relax and simply play.
Scoff if you must, but anyone who Lute Olson deems the most talented athlete he’s ever coached, is legit in my book. I may hear snickers that no one is questioning his talent or athleticism, that we are questioning his leadership and if he can be trusted to finish games. To that, I actually agree. But the beautiful thing about the League is that not everyone is going to be a star.
Last year, John Salmons quietly went out and scored 18.3 points per game. Salmons was highly regarded coming out of Miami and had five disappointing seasons before breaking out in Sacramento. Instead of being asked to carry the majority of the team load, Budinger will flourish as a second or third option scorer. Granted, he does need to focus on adding a defensive presence to his game.
With T-Mac gone for who knows how long and no real offensive threats beyond Aaron Brooks, Budinger is going to get shots. If he can continue the output he has produced since the draft, the “Encinitas Enigma” will be a valuable contributor for the Rockets. Coin that phrase and tell ‘em who sent ya.
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