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Budinger: Unrealistic Expectations

Posted by naterb on January 3, 2009

Chase Budinger

Chase Budinger

Over the last six games, not three, we have seen Chase Budinger’s numbers dropping off withstartling consistency. During that span his points per game is down to 13.3 and he’s shooting 30% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc. If you want to categorize this as a slump, and not just a shooting slump, be my guest. Afterall, the first five games of the season he was averaging 23 points a game, and shooting roughly 71% from the field and beyond the arc. Trust me, however, when I say that there is a reason for the, at times, erratic production we’ve seen from Budinger over the past two seasons. That reason is unrealistic expectations on Budinger.

During the past two seasons we have seen two more distinctive inconstincies – a four game anomaly in December ’07, and a three game anomaly in February of ’08. Combined, Budinger averaged 10.5 points, shot 30% from the field, and a meager 18% from beyond the arc. He eclipsed 10 points on three separate occasions with his highest total being 18 points. During that game Budinger shot 36 percent, but managed to get to the line for 9 of those points.

These three slumps, or anomalies if you will, are a product of Budinger trying to be something he’s not – a go-to guy. Sure, Budinger has the capability of dropping upwards of 30 points on a team but we can’t expect that type of production every night. Unfortunately, the team make-up the past two seasons has required that Budinger be a primary weapon on offense. That’s our first mistake is not only expecting him to be that, but demanding it of him because we need that type of player on the floor.

Let’s put Budinger’s play into perspective. Pretend that, heaven forbid, Budinger had gone to UCLA instead of Arizona. Budinger would have offensive weapons around him like Darren Collison, Kevin Love, and Josh Shipp to name but a few. Budinger would start on the wing, but he wouldn’t be the focal point of the offense. Budinger would resume a role player position similar to that of Michael Roll this season. In this context the 10.5 and 13.3 points per game averages wouldn’t be a “slump” but an unexpected surprise.

My point here isn’t that Michael Roll is as good as Budinger is, or that Budinger would be averaging that – chances are he’d be averaging closer to 14 or 16 points per game as a role player. My point is that Budinger has the player attributes of a role player, not a leading scorer or primary offensive weapon.

Still don’t believe me? Take a look at his freshman year and you won’t find a single slump. Sure he had a few games where he didn’t pour in the points, but you can’t find a single stretch that was marked by poor shooting and poor offensive production. Budinger was not the go-to guy on the team – that belonged to Marcus Williams – and he had a good offensive cast around him with Shakur, Radenovic, Williams, and McClellan. Of course, it helped that he had Olson coaching that year too.

That’s the second unrealistic expectation we have on Budinger, and don’t even realize it. Budinger has shown little growth in the last two seasons – under the coaching of O’Neill and Pennell. Don’t get me wrong, they each had/have their strengths as coaches and have developed Budinger a little bit. We’re not expecting a small development out of Budinger, we’re expecting him to transform from a role player into a leading scorer. Should we really expect that a couple of interim coaches are capable of that type of player transformation?

Bottom line is this, until we can step outside the performances and see the scenario in its full context we will continue to be disappointed in Budinger. Budinger is NBA quality, but he’s not your go-to guy, and he doesn’t have the skill set to be the focal point offensively or defensively. If you want to be disappointed in something, be disappointed in the circumstance that has put Budinger into a role he was never meant to be in, not in Budinger himself.

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