Chase Budinger is an elite shooter

Chase Budinger doesn’t “look” like one of the most athletic players in the NBA, but he is.  In the open court he flies at the basket as if the court were made of trampoline (if that’s an actual material); it’d be difficult to name 10 guys who’re more capable of catching out of reach lobs and slamming them through the rim.

But being a great athlete doesn’t guarantee playing time, nor does it make you a useful basketball player. After starting this season being relegated from “starting small forward” to “occasional guy off the bench”, Budinger has struggled to find a consistent job with the team, and given his noticeable on-the-ball defensive flaws, it was pertinent he mold a specific skill set and fit himself into one of the roles that every consistently successful team has.

In his third year with Houston, Budinger realized that for him to get minutes he’d need to excel at something new, and right now he’s doing it. Instead of filling in as the well-rounded glue guy we expected him to be before the season started (a position Chandler Parsons has admirably taken), Budinger has come into his own as one of the most consistent three-point shooters in the entire league.

Here are a few statistics to show just how tightly the three ball has been braided with  Budinger’s strengths this season.

  • Last season his percentage of points scored on three-pointers was 34.9%. This year it’s at 46.3%, and climbing. This number is higher than J.J. Redick, Klay Thompson, Anthony Morrow, and Mo Williams. That’s how one-dimensional Budinger’s been (which isn’t meant as an insult).
  • 125 of his 168 spot up jumpers have been from behind the three-point line (where he’s shooting 43.2%).
  • He’s making 47.3% of his threes from the corner. When you factor in the number of attempts, Budinger is behind only Ray Allen in terms of efficiency shooting from that spot.
  • In his last 10 games he’s averaged five attempts from downtown per game, which is what the likes of Ray Allen, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant have been doing all season.
  • 14 of his 39 made baskets in transition have been three-pointers, and he’s shooting 48.3% from deep when Houston’s attacking defenses off a missed basket or a forced turnover.

Moving forward as a member of the second unit that could always use a scoring punch, Budinger has shot the ball well enough to deserve more specific after time-out (ATO) plays drawn up specifically to get him wide open three-pointers—misdirections and stagger screens. Think Kyle Korver or Ray Alen. Also, utilizing Budinger more off screens instead of strictly as a spot up shooter from the corner or in transition would only help the team in ways that indirectly open things up for others. The threat of shooting the three is great, but actually receiving those three points is better. Budinger stretches the floor, making the game easier and greatly increasing opportunity for various penetrators like Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry, Chandler Parsons, and Courtney Lee.

About a month ago on ESPN’s NBA Today Podcast, David Thorpe said NBA coaches like to treat their players like chess pieces, which is to say they want consistent strengths and consistent weaknesses on a nightly basis. Without debating the merits of whether or not that’s good or bad in terms of restricting both their player’s various abilities and their team’s chances of winning, if Kevin McHale can trust Chase Budinger as his most dangerous three-point shooting option it makes game planning for opponents MUCH easier. It also cuts out some of the negative parts of Budinger’s game that might result in wasted offensive possessions. For example, from 5-9 feet this season he’s shooting 21.9%. He’s also absolutely grotesque in isolation, scoring three of an attempted 14 shots in that situation this season.

When you watch the Rockets play, don’t you expect the ball to fall through the net each time Budinger cocks the ball over his right eye and launches one of his perfectly formed shots from deep? He’s become so successful to the point where not having him on the court in both clutch and end of quarter situations could be a major restriction on Houston’s offensive production. Given the loss last night, and their general disappointing play in the past week, it’s questionable whether or not the Rockets make the playoffs. But if they do, Budinger and his game-changing shot could be the difference in whether or not they’re capable of knocking somebody off.

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

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