Landing with the team seemed like a flip of the coin, seeing as how the Bulls were in need of both a big man and a wing player.
Given what was a foregone certainty, that Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli would bolt for greener financial pastures via free agency, it’s not hard to see why Snell was Chicago’s choice at No. 20 in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft
With the drafting of Erik Murphy in the second round and the signing of Mike Dunleavy, it’s apparent that Chicago's front office is trying to floor a better offensive team.
Snell’s shooting ability definitely fits into that evolving team dynamic and sets him up with the opportunity to prove he belongs with Derrick Rose and company.
As the rookie gets ready to embark on the first phase of his NBA career, let’s take a look at what Snell can do make his mark.
No. 1: Defend the Perimeter
It all starts with defense for head coach Tom Thibodeau, and Snell is well aware of that.
Jeff Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times quoted the following from the former University of New Mexico standout back in late July:
I understood that as soon as the Bulls [drafted] me. If you’re not playing well defensively, you’re going to get exposed. And there’s no point in you going out there if you keep getting scored on and you’re not playing good defense, so I really take pride in my defense.
Snell certainly has the physical attributes that would help him become a monster defender if he completely embraces the team’s philosophy.
DraftExpress.com lists his wingspan at a sprawling 6'11.5" and reports that he has great lateral movement.
Snell will be guarding players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Danny Granger several times a season. Those aforementioned traits could help him become effective in containing those All-Stars as he learns Thibodeau’s system.
Fortunately, it looks as if he is actually built to be a contributor to the team’s stellar defensive reputation, as opposed to being the kind of player whose defensive inadequacies have to be masked by others.
So Snell’s first priority should be remembering to stay in front of his assignment, challenge shots and use those long arms to disrupt the passing lanes.
No. 2: Hit Open Shots
Does Tony Snell have what it takes to be a part of the Bulls' long-term plans for success?
While Snell’s defensive potential was probably a factor when the Bulls were scouting him, his shooting was probably a bigger factor when the final decision was made to call his number on draft night.
Snell shot 39 percent from three-point land during his two years in the Lobos basketball program, hitting 1.95 shots for every 5 attempts.
Last season, the Bulls were 20th in the league in team three-point percentage, shooting a paltry 35.3 percent from beyond the arc. Snell’s precision adds an offensive element that was seriously lacking.
Adding to that long-range accuracy is his ability to catch and shoot as well as shoot off of screens.
NBADraft.net rates his jump shot at nine out of 10 and points out that he is especially dangerous going to the left off of picks.
With an offense that is predicated on Derrick Rose breaking down an opponent’s defense to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates, having another player who can move into position to receive a pass and knock down the open shot is going to be most beneficial.
It is going to be Snell’s job to show not only that he can move without the ball but that he can also think his way through the thickets of defenders, pop out where he can be seen and make the field goal.
No. 3: Watch and Learn
It has been Thibodeau’s practice during his head-coaching tenure to rarely play the upstarts.
Even though Jimmy Butler is now the starting shooting guard, he played in only 42 regular-season contests for an average of 8.5 minutes during his rookie year.
Last year rookie Marquis Teague saw the floor 48 times in the regular season and had a slightly smaller amount of playing time than Butler, with 8.2 minutes per game.
The chances for Snell to show what he can do will be limited, so he will have to demonstrate that he is a willing student of the game.
Snell’s size gives him the versatility to drift between playing small forward and shooting guard. The Bulls have some pretty exemplary players for him to study and emulate.
Long-time veterans Luol Deng and Mike Dunleavy will model how to navigate the game’s more subtle aspects, while Butler will be able to relate some of the more complex aspects in a way that the youngster will understand.
Outside of the players with similar positions, Snell should watch the other key players like Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah to see how all five guys on the court rely on one another at both ends.
Since actual floor time will be extremely limited, Snell will have to use team practices to exhibit what he is learning.
The combined old-school ethic of Tom Thibodeau and John Paxson emphasizes a player paying his dues.
Given the praises of his former coaches, it seems like Snell will be up to working for the chance to prove his value.
If what those coaches are saying is true, the Bulls may have struck late-first-round gold again.