Tony Snell's Future Impact

Tony Snell's Future Impact

Last night in Toronto, Tony Snell came out firing to the tune of 17 points in 18 minutes. He didn't hesitate when left open, drove when he saw an opening and got out of his own head, which was a problem early in the season. Obviously, Snell cannot duplicate such a performance to the point of making it consistent, but he can build on it. Snell had an awful December in which he got just 5.7 minutes and scored 0.8 points a night, and turned that to averaging 13.6 points in February by playing close to 30 minutes a ball game. Now, he's come back to Earth this March where he's at 9.6 points in near 33 minutes.

So while it's fair to say Snell is at this point inconsistent, it's important to notice the strides he's made. His current production, although far from steady, is worlds ahead of the December he had, suggesting he's starting to figure things out. Last night proved a tremendous lesson for the second-year man, as there were no hints of doubt or second-guessing himself, the most usual tendencies found in young players.

At a long 6'7 while gifted athletically, Snell possess larger potential than I suspect even he realize. His long ball is rounding into form, as he's closing in on 40% from deep for the season, while increasing his volume, and he's just now learning to use his dribble against players who close out on him hard. With his long strides, Snell is capable of getting to the rim a lot quicker than most players, and the sooner he understands this, the better. His 49 total free throw attempts on the year by far signals the biggest weakness in his offensive game, which is the fact that he mostly goes down the middle when the lane is wide open. Unlike Jimmy Butler, Snell still shies away from contact from anyone who position themselves between him and the basket, regardless of body size. It'd be understandable if Snell saw Dwight Howard or Marc Gasol rotate over, but he's making the drop-off pass even against point guards who have no chance of stopping him due to his length.

At 23, Snell is nearing an age where most players are discovering exactly what they can do out there on the court, while laying the groundwork for the kind of player they're going to become for the remainder of their careers. Snell is currently looking like a future three-and-D wing, but that seems to be aiming short of what his body and capabilities suggest. He's a surprisingly adept ballhandler for someone his height, and has on several occasions made split-second passes that indicates his grip and feel for the ball is a lot better than originally believed.

Going forward, it's unlikely Snell becomes a top-notch all-around player. He's never been a good rebounder, even despite his long arms, and while his passing instincts look quite underrated, he is yet to play with enough confidence to run sets for the Bulls for extended runs, something Butler started doing this year. For all his physical tools, Snell might top out as being a solid scorer who at times can rely on his passing pending match-up. This would be perfectly okay given his draft position, but I wonder if Snell could further advance his game in areas that'd optimize him for playoff basketball. It wouldn't kill him to lower his turnovers, seeing as 28 of his 43 on the season have come on passes, which is a high number given his somewhat conservative passing pattern of mostly swinging the ball around the perimeter. No one is asking him to become Muggsy Bogues in that department, but if he's bound to become a low-volume player overall, he might as well focus on limiting mistakes to the point where he constantly is an asset on the floor.

With Snell having the skill-set that he does, it'd make perfect sense to develop him in a similar fashion as to his former teammate, Kawhi Leonard. San Antonio didn't put any pressure on Leonard, and made sure the offense ran through Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, while Leonard would play and learn simultaneously. Snell has a similar opportunity with the depth of the current roster, but injuries and line-up shuffling is making it difficult to solidify his role.

That's why it might prove beneficial next year, to start Snell full-time to once and for all give him a chance to break out in his own right. Playing alongside Butler will undoubtedly minimize the pressure on him, especially if they are to see plenty of minutes together. Butler can play both wing spots, and while Snell projects as being capable of doing the same, it would be interesting to see if there is a spot where he feels more comfortable. His length and ability to cover large areas on the floor would make life hell for opposing shooting guards, but his speed and agility could prove even more beneficial against larger, but slower, small forwards.

Either way, throwing Snell into the fire, but under safe circumstances, is something that could finally give everyone an idea of what his ceiling actually is.

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Tags: jimmy butler, tony snell


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  • Another nice article. Great to have you writing again.
    Send Snell to live with Butler in a cramped apartment with no tv and internet this summer. Just lifting and buckets. How about how great Jimmy looks after a several week layoff. He was incredible last night. Hopefully Derrick can do the same

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    In reply to piggy7:

    I actually think that could work. Look how butler following Deng around did for his game ? I think butler is going to end up having a better career then Deng.

    Therefore Snell following Butler around could only help his overall life, plus I really think Butler would love to give back and mentor someone like Luol did for him

  • In reply to piggy7:

    That is actually a great idea, I'm still flabbergasted at how much Jimmy was able to improve his game just by watching film of guys like Michael and Kobe and then going out and working by himself. Maybe some of Jimmy's toughness could rub off on Snell, who could certainly use some Tomball in him.

  • I do believe Snell should start next year if we don't find an upgrade for Dunleavy(not very hard to do) on the market. Throw him out there next to Butler, Rose, Mirotic, etc and see how he does.

  • Snell may help the Bulls win a few playoff games this year. While both Snell and Brooks can lay some eggs, they both can go off and impact a game big time. An extra win each series could mean a title.

    Hopefully when Rose gets back both his body and head are in the games.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Yeah I think the concern is where his head is at more than his body.

  • Snell is posed to be a solid wing player. His physical abilities are exactly like Sottie Pipen, so with the right mentorship and hard working, we may be surprised on how good he can be for the Bulls. Rose, Butler and a developed Snell could result in a very strong back court/ elite trio. In the meanwhile, McD will continue to develop and provide depth to SF position. The future of the Bulls is very bright with their current roster.

  • In reply to BullsDynasty:

    Pippen was a vastly superior athlete(in addition to just being taller/bigger) and then he got to work with and learn from Michael everyday. Who knows what Pippen would have been without Michael. Pippen actually hit the weights hard and developed a much stronger upper body. Don't know if Snells physique will allow him to do that.

  • How many people here even remember Mugsy? Lol.

    Nice post, a lot of good points, though I disagree that Snell is gifted athletically, at least by NBA standards. He is a long strider but looks like a pretty average athlete to me. Still, he's a good enough athlete to be a solid defender once he gets a better feel for the game and as long as he keeps developing his shot, he'll be a valuable contributor. I don't see him developing the all-around game, including passing and driving and rebounding, to ever become a starter but he's already surprised us, maybe he'll surprise us some more.

    I don't think starting Snell will be best for him. Let him take on easier matchups in a bench role. He's just now gotten good enough to handle that much, let's not go overboard.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I'm in your camp, believe it or not I hope that I'm wrong too.

  • While I agree that miraculously Snell has made incremental if inconsistent improvement in his offensive game, to me he still looks like no more than a take what the defense gives you player on offense. Thats fine as a role player, I'm not sure that cuts it as a starter. Even with his 3 pt percentage around 40% he still often looks like he is just throwing up a shot just to take a shot, kind of a wing and a prayer approach. Maybe this too will go away with more experience. I'd say that he has a shot at the 3 part of 3 & D.

    While I also agree that Snell looks like he should be a superior athlete and thus defender with his 6'6" frame and wirey build, he really doesn't evidence superior athleticism on the court, especially on the defensive end. If you actually follow him closely, he is always trailing after his man, basically reading the player name on the back of his jersey rather than the team name on the front of the jersey. He is horrible at pick and roll defense, usually sticking like velcro to the player setting the pick and usually going under the pick even when there is room to beat it by going over. This is likely because he too knows that when he goes over he always ends up chasing his man from behind. Additionally, he is dim witted, making him slow to recognize and react to what he should be doing on the court, which also makes him look slower physically. I suppose that this might be overcome with work and experience, or it might be the case that he just isn't smart enough to be a good NBA defender.

    My sense is that while you can get away with playing Snell at SF for shorter stretches against second units or even in an emergency due to injury, that he is best suited to SG, both physically and skill set wise. Which if you are actually planning to start him, raises the question of Butlers best position. I used to say it was SF, because it seemed like his physical style made it his best position defensively, and offensively his game never looked like a classic SG. His success offensively this year gives me pause on what truly is his best position. I still think that he struggles running around picks all night long chasing the smaller shooting guards(Bradley Beal just kills him), but his physicality and size seem to give him an advantage on offense.

    Finally, I'm not sure why everybody has to keep bringing up Leonard. As I said the other day, if I went to the same highschool(or as Edward noted, played on the same team) as Kate Upton or Charlotte McKinney would that make me a supermodel. Snell and Leonard are not in the same universe as players, athletes, nevermind mentally or even body type. Leonard is vastly superior on all counts. This faulty Leonard comparison is probably why everybody wants to keep massively overrating Snell's defensive play. Right now, I'm not sure that his results are much if any better than the corpsedog, and as the name implies, he's nearly dead. I'd say Niko is a better defender and we see how he still struggles on a nightly basis.

    Going into next season with Snell penciled in as a starter is certainly no better and likely worse than going into it with Dunleavy, who is a better shooter, taller(better rebounder and defender) and has a much higher BBIQ. Getting another starting caliber wing should be the top priority for next season, along with backup point(perhaps 3rd guard of the combo guard variety) and 4rth big. If Snell is just the backup SG, I'm fine with that, his offense has improved enough to think that he can be a rotation player, not top of the rotation, but in the rotation.

    anyway, nice discussion today and yesterday about both players, one who looks like he has a future with the Bulls and one who should have been gone years ago.

  • Snell's growth has definitely been an underrated bright spot. I was worried he would never have the opportunity to get a real shot but he's stepped up and showed that he can at least be a rotation piece. While he continues to learn the game and get better, I don't think he'll be relied upon in the playoffs if everyone is healthy. But I think another offseason of adding muscle and continuing to gain confidence in his shot will help Snell take the next step and be a starter-caliber player. To me, those are the biggest components to his next step of growth - getting stronger and gaining confidence in shot.

  • Whether you agree with the idea of Tony Snell starting to possibly expand his game or not, that was a well thought out and well written article and a pleasure to read. Thank you sir/Mort.

    Humble Pie: I was one of the biggest if not thee biggest detractor of drafting Tony Snell, and while his collegiate defaults on rebounding and steals continues into the pros, there's no doubt the young man is now doing many of the things required of an NBA wing including shooting from the perimeter and slash and burn driving when opportunity strikes. I.e he's looked legit and entertaining to watch and I appreciate that. And while he's looked lost at times defensively, there are other stretches where he's shown solid lateral quickness and effort to adequately defend his position.

    And I'll say this too. As much as I/we mocked Tony's seeming impassive, expressionless "zombie" like countenance at times, the guy seems to have a competitive spirit and even a subtle look of determination is detectable once you get to know him as a player watching over time. It's really not personal or shouldn't be when people bag on incompetence unless the critic themselves is a crank i.e unhappy, unfulfilled person. This means you too Kirk. Seemingly solid citizen and all around decent guy. Just PLEASE stop playing basketball. And the harsh slings and arrows of the spiteful fan while not always easy to withstand, Tony Snell has persevered and come a long way so my congrats to him. Hopefully he can keep solidifying his place as a solid 3-D wing Bulls fans can root for.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Speaking of the hangdog, he kind of didn't suck last night, although Vasquez was lighting everybody up from 3, and Lou Williams seemed to score at will also.

  • Mike Dunleavy led the Bulls in rebounding last night with 7, nobody else had more than 5. Kind of a weird night on the boards. I guess when you shoot over 60% and the other guys are over 50% until late in the 4rth there just aren't many boards to go around.

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    Good counter piece.
    At best Snell could be a good 6th man, or instant offense, once his shot falls with some consistency, but he's not starting material.
    I wish they'd stop comparing him to Kawhi Leonard too. It's unfair to compare a Finals MVP to a player who may or may not make the Bulls playoff roster. If I would compare Kawhi to anyone, it'll be Jimmy Butler, and I'd rather have Kawhi over Jimmy all day everyday. Those huge mitts of his are lethal on the court, and he's a much better scorer than Jimmy despite scoring averages.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:


  • I've always liked Tony Snell. I still consider him as the X factor and is our best option at the 2 next to Jimmy. I think with Butler back that's going to take a lot of the load off and he can provide a spark off the bench. It's pretty difficult to gauge how high his ceiling is because so much of his performance is pending on his confidence. But if he can make it in the league as a 3 and D rotational player off the bench then good for him. That's leaps and bounds better than the d league status he was flirting with earlier in the season.

    Also as a side note lately Hinrich hasn't been looking too bad. While nothing to brag about, he hasn't been a huge liability to the team as of late. Just something I wanted to point out because even though he wasn't my top choice or second as a backup pg, he's still apart of this team and with Rose's sketchy knees you just never know.

  • By the way did anybody notice that with last nights win the Bulls are now finally at .500 over their last 38 games, since hitting the highpoint of the season record wise at 25 -10.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Double by the way, is anybody else surprised that Taj only played 14 minutes last night. I doubt that he too is on a minutes restriction. I wonder how he will react if that becomes the norm and it is not due to his injury.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    He'll only have until the end of the playoffs to be pissed about it, because he certainly should be traded this summer.

    And not that I care about the feelings of someone being paid $8 million a year, but he really does deserve to go to a team where he can play as much as he should. It's not his fault Niko came over and is such a great talent that he has to play more than Taj.

  • Well put.

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