It’s time for our player outlooks this season to take a look at a wing who can go from, “wow, this guy is amazing” to “how is he on an NBA team” within one reset of the shot clock: Tony Snell.
Tony Snell will never reach the heights of stardom in the NBA.
But, he should never fully stoop to the lows of the latter in the opening of this.
He still has the feel of an obscure European draft prospect after three seasons in the NBA, which is leading to a great amount of uncertainty as he heads into the last year of his rookie deal. The 6’7” feathery small forward has seemingly every attribute needed to succeed.
He’s long. His shot is pure and he shoots it relatively well from deep – 36 percent last season. And he seems to care a lot.
Snell is an exceptional teammate. He is the first guy standing up to cheer on a great play, even if the guy has just taken his spot in the rotation. With so many boxes checked, confidence and the subsequent lack thereof have contributed to his up-and-down career.
Snell has averaged 5.3 points per game and a player efficiency rating of 8.2 in his first three seasons. He averaged the same of amount of points last season, but posted a PER of 6.47, which was good enough for sixth-worst in the NBA.
He has had every opportunity to cement himself into the rotation since he was drafted in 2013. And just when it looks like he might firmly secure a spot, the fleeting momentum he has accumulated comes to a screeching halt.
The former New Mexico Lobo once drew comparisons to Kawhi Leonard, for actual basketball reasons, and not just their shared high school alma mater and braids. Snell no longer has the braids and the Leonard-esque pipe dream has drawn its last breath.
But, he might be even more stoic and less talkative. So hey, let’s call it a wash.
When Snell plays well, he looks like a guy who most teams would love to have. He has smooth form and an almost elegant release on his jump shot. He pours in high arcing three-pointers with ease. Snell moves well without the ball, cutting to the basket and finishes strongly during his fit-to-be-in-the-rotation stints. He even plays the passing lanes on defense.
The video below from his season-high 22-point night against the Toronto Raptors (he cracked double digits only 12 times all season) is a great example.
But these nights have become as rare as the United Center crowd showing enthusiasm.
Snell played in only 64 games in 2015-16; the fewest in his career. He failed to see the court in 16 of the last 22 games and scored a total of only 107 points after January 20th. He looked like a freshmen called up to varsity for a good-willed cause on most nights.
He is still well liked by his teammates, who tried to will the ball into the basket for him last season. Stacey King showered him with love when he could (as he does with every Bull) in the hopes his bravado would rub off on the 24-year-old through osmosis. Still, Snell has yet another chance to crack the rotation in 2016-17.
Jimmy Butler and Doug McDermott are the only players listed ahead of him on the depth chart at small forward. With Justin Holiday gone, and Denzel Valentine and Paul Zipser likely getting playing time, along with positions really being up in the air for now, Bulls fans should expect to see the “Snelly Cat” to begin the season.
There is nothing holding Snell back but himself. He can become a seasoned NBA veteran, or he will become another NBA case study of the should-of, could-of, would-ofs without a second contract.
He is scheduled to make $2,368,327 this upcoming season in the last year of his rookie deal. This puts the Bulls in an interesting spot. There is little chance they offer him an extension before the season.
And the following season marks decision time: make him a qualifying offer or not.
Take a look at this detailed dive into what options the Bulls have regarding Snell’s future. If he doesn’t prove himself quickly, it seems likely they try to move him.
The inaugural, and maybe only “Three Alphas” season will be Snell’s last gasp to prove he can be a stable rotational player one last time.