After three years in the league, is there still any hope for Tony Snell?
The short answer here is: probably not. But it's August, so I think this is the right time to talk about this a bit.
If there's one word to truly describe Snell up until this point in his career, it's ‘enigma’. Three years in, so many opportunities burned through, we're still trying to figure out what Snell is, exactly. Throughout his three years, we've seen these little spurts where we're able to see signs of what Snell could be. But just as quickly as those spurts came, they vanished.
Coming out of New Mexico State, the thought with Snell was that with his size and shooting ability, there was potential for a ‘3 and D' specialist. It’s a role the league was trending towards at the time. There was even thought he could become Kawhi Leonard (his high school teammate)-lite. Don't laugh at that, it was an actual thought at one point in time.
Yet it's this same idea that he still has those specialist skills, along with various areas of weakness on this team, that presents Snell with any sort of hope to carve out a role next season. Let's take a look at some reasons for hope.
Lack of Shooting
It's been well-documented by this point that the Bulls biggest need going into next season will be shooting, with having the trio of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler. In looking at the current roster, their only reliable shooters from beyond the arch are Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. Snell, through three years, is a career 35.1% shooter from deep. If he can continue to hit three's at just around that clip, it'll move that needle towards a spot in the rotation.
Lack of Defense in the Backcourt
Butler aside, defense isn't to be found among the guard and wing positions. This is where the 'D' part in the ‘3 and 'D' aspect comes into play. If Snell can be competent defensively, on and off the ball (he's been pretty bad with the latter), there's a chance. While we'll take the following stat with a large grain of salt, last season Snell somehow managed to post a 97.0 defensive rating.
Lack of Depth on the Wing
Wade and Butler will be the starting wing duo when the season tips, that as much is a given. But behind those two, things start to get a little spotty (depth chart via ESPN):
McDermott will surely have his spot in the rotation at the backup small forward position, but outside of him there's really no surefire backups. At this point, one could assume that rookie Denzel Valentine would be the other primary backup, but then again that's not really a sure thing. How Valentinte adjusts to the speed of the NBA, offensively and defensively, and can his shot translate will be key. If he struggles coming out of the gate, that very well could open the door for Snell.
The biggest thing with Snell is going to be consistency. It's the one area where he's truly struggled with through his three years in the league. It's crazy, but Snell is probably going to get yet another crack at earning spot in the Bulls rotation. In order for that to happen, he needs to be consistent, with his shooting, defense and more importantly, his decision making.
This upcoming season is critical for Snell, who will enter restricted free agency next summer. If he can finally put it together it will bode well for him. If continues to struggle like he has, his future on the Bulls and in the league isn't optimistic.