T-Wolves trade pick to Rockets for Budinger

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Timberwolves have traded the No. 18 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft to the Houston Rockets for Chase Budinger and the rights to Lior Eliyahu.

Budinger, a small forward, has spent his entire career with the Rockets after being traded to Houston on draft night in 2009 from Detroit. He was the 44th overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Arizona. In three seasons in Houston, he’s averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds, coming off the bench in the majority of his games. Budinger, 24, scored 35 points at Target Center on April 13, 2011, which remains his career high.

“We’re excited to add a player like Chase who is a proven shot-maker and also has an excellent all-around game,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said in a statement. “Chase knows Rick Adelman’s system well after playing for him in Houston, and he will be a good fit for our team.

The Timberwolves’ Rick Adelman coached the Rockets from 2007-2011, a tenure that included Budinger’s first two years in the league.

“Chase was an integral part of our team in Houston my last two years as coach there,” Adelman said in a statement. “He will help our perimeter game with his athleticism and shooting ability. Chase’s game has improved in each of his first three seasons in the NBA, and we look forward to that continuing here in Minnesota.”

Budinger is known for his 3-point shooting (40.2 percent last season) and dunking ability (2012 NBA slam dunk contest participant). His 3-point accuracy ranked 20th in the league last season and likely was a particular draw for the Wolves, who struggled in that area last season. Budinger finished with 88 3-pointers in 2011-12, power forward Kevin Love with 105; the duo could make an impressive combination from beyond the arc next season.

Though the 6-foot-7 Budinger is listed as a small forward and stronger at that position, he can also play shooting guard. The Timberwolves’ biggest need going into this offseason was for a strong shooter at either of those positions. Budinger shot 44.2 percent from the field last season, which would have been good for sixth-best on the Timberwolves and third-best among the team’s starters. Of those starters, only Love (44.8 percent) and center Nikola Pekovic (56.4 percent) had a better mark than Budinger.

The Wolves now hold only one pick in the draft, No. 58.

Eliyahu, a 26-year-old forward, was drafted by the Magic as the 44th overall pick in 2006 and later traded to the Rockets for cash. He has never played in the NBA, but the Rockets retained his draft rights. He spent the 2011-12 season with Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Israel and has played on the Israeli national team.

DraftExpress.com is reporting that Eliyahu will participate with the Timberwolves in Las Vegas Summer League in July and that he has a decent chance of making the team. Eliyahu has traveled to the United States previously to work out for the Rockets.

With the trade, the Rockets now hold the 14th, 16th, and 18th picks in the 2012 draft. The team is reported to be hopeful of making a trade with the Magic for All-Star center Dwight Howard. With so many young players already on the team, it’s unlikely the Rockets would benefit from using three more draft picks in 2012.

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