Tony Snell’s rookie season was not a terribly smooth one. He spent the first 12 games or so barely playing, then was suddenly thrust into the starting lineup, then became something of a key bench cog, then went back to not playing very much. His calling card coming in was his shooting, something that never really materialized this year, aside from the occasional explosion. But overall, I think there’s a lot to build on here.
The Numbers (per-36): 10.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks, 1.3 turnovers, 38.4% FG, 32.0% 3PT, 75.6% FT, 8.0 PER, 1.6 WS, .063 WS/48
The Good: As much as I liked him, there’s not really a whole lot of good here, at least statistically. Snell finished at the rim better than I would’ve expected (55.1 percent, per Basketball-Reference) and shot well from mid-range, though those are both very small sample sizes. I liked what I saw from him in terms of his passing, and his confidence never wavered, even as he continued shooting around 30 percent from deep late in the season.
Defensively, Snell was inconsistent at best. He had moments here and there, but got lost too much for my taste. The good news is that rookies — especially ones playing in Tom Thibodeau’s system — almost always take a year or two to adapt to NBA defense, and Snell did well enough for Thibs to play him quite a bit more than I expected going in. Snell appeared in 77 games (12 starts) and totaled 1231 minutes. That means he played about 16 minutes per game. For comparison’s sake, Jimmy Butler played 359 minutes in his rookie season, so Snell must have been doing something right.
Snell also appears in the Bulls’ best lineup by net rating, along with DJ Augustin, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. That group posted a +32.2 net rating in 74 minutes together, which ranks among the very best in the league for lineups playing at least 50 minutes together. Replace Jimmy with Kirk Hinrich and you get the Bulls’ sixth best lineup by net rating. Maybe it’s nothing, but I have to believe Snell was doing something right.
In the playoffs, though Snell’s individual numbers were ugly, the Bulls performed significantly better when he was on the court. With Snell out there, the Bulls were +8.4 points per 100 possessions, scoring 108.8 and allowing 100.4. With Snell on the bench, they were -7.3 per 100, scoring 98.6 and allowing 105.9. The sample size (46 minutes) is small enough that this is probably just statistical noise, but I thought it was interesting.
The Bad: Obviously, any time you’re shooting 38 percent from the field and 32 percent from deep, that’s bad. But as I wrote in March, that overall field goal percentage is a little bit misleading. More than half of Snell’s shots came from deep, dragging his overall mark down significantly. He shot over 45 percent on twos, so maybe we’d feel differently if Snell hadn’t taken so many threes. I expect Snell to extend his range this summer.
Otherwise, his defense wasn’t great — understandable — and … well, his celebrations could use some work. Otherwise, there’s not a lot here to get mad at. The big thing is the shooting, and I’m not worried about that.
The Grade: C-
The Future: In the short term, Snell is probably safe as long as he isn’t traded for Melo. I am personally against such a trade, as I believe the Bulls should stay away from Melo unless they’re going to get him at their price, but people keep bringing this up, so there you are. I think Snell sticks around and becomes a key bench cog next year after stretching himself out to the NBA three-point line. But there’s a ton of uncertainty for pretty much everyone this summer, so who knows?