Tony Snell has had himself quite the last week. After a DNP-CD against the Rockets, Snell had his best game of the season against the Pelicans, putting up 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting overall and 5-of-6 from three. The second-year man expectedly fell back down to the earth against the Magic, but then something amazing happened: A career-high 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting and 4-of-6 from three against the Kings. Then 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting overall and 4-of-6 from three against the Cavaliers, PLUS strong defense against LeBron James.
Watching Snell make literally almost everything these last few games has been stunning considering the start of his career. This is a guy who nearly went all of December without a field goal. This is a guy who shot 25.0 percent from three in January. This is a guy who would make a wide open three and then not even come close on the next two.
Getting more playing time certainly helps matters, but outside of a few DNPs, he got pretty consistent minutes in January. In the last seven games of January, he didn't play less than 20 minutes in any of them and still went 6-of-25 from three. He simply wasn't very good, and while there was some noticeable improvement in his game, it's not like the bar was very high. I had basically written him off as a bust.
But now it seems like Snell could throw up a shot with his eyes closed and it would go in. I mean, that's basically what happened here (via NBATitleChase.com):
Now, Snell obviously isn't going to be putting up 20 points a game and shooting 70 percent going forward, because come on. This could be an aberration and he goes back to struggling in the near future. I'll admit I'm still not totally sold on him simply based on a few big games, although we're finally seeing some evidence that he can be an effective NBA rotation player.
But one thing I'm sure of is that this apparent emergence of Tony Snell must mean less Kirk Hinrich in our lives when Captain Grit returns from a turf toe injury.
When the Bulls were scuffling in January (sans Mike Dunleavy), poor offense was nearly as big a problem as the porous defense. Chicago scored 103.7 points per 100 possessions in January, per NBA.com, several points down from the first few months of the year.
Hinrich's poor play and utter inability to be a credible offensive threat (just look at this game log) played a big role in the offense taking a dive. The Bulls scored just 100.2 points per 100 possessions with Hinrich on the floor in January, the second-worst on the team to only Joakim Noah, per NBA.com. And I'm sure you'll be completely shocked to find out that the offensive rating was a pitiful 92.8 with Hinrich and Noah on the floor together in January.
You've all seen the screenshots of Hinrich standing in the corner with not a defender in sight, and it doesn't take a basketball savant to figure out how much that hurts an offense. Hinrich's man often sags into the paint, which kills spacing and driving lines, especially with Noah out there as well.
Hinrich can occasionally beat you by knocking down open threes, but his three-point shooting has steadily gotten worse as the year has gone on. And if he's not hitting open threes, he's just not giving you much (or anything) on offense as a 2-guard. You can't really run plays for him, and he's not effective off the bounce or in the paint. Even his assists have gone way down.
Contrast that to what we've seen from Snell the past week. Him knocking down open shots is huge in its own right, because that'll force opposing defenders to guard him out to the three-point line, which wasn't really happening before when he was tossing up a bunch of bricks. But what I've really liked is Snell's off-ball movement and cutting, which has resulted in easy baskets like this (via @DawkinsMTA):
While Snell's recent play has made him worthy of a bigger role, I don't necessarily feel like Hinrich should fall out of the rotation completely when he and Jimmy Butler are healthy. (Although it wouldn't bother me one bit.) Hinrich still has value as a limited-minute guy who can run the second unit and play capable defense, especially with Aaron Brooks regressing a bit.
But at this point, there's simply no reason for Hinrich to take any of Snell's minutes. Even when the inevitable Snell cool-down comes, he remains a more dangerous threat and is just as capable on the defensive end with his length and athleticism. We'll see if Tom Thibodeau can contain himself and limit Hinrich's minutes.