Heading into the 2015-16 season, there are key players and teams ready to make the next step in their development. We start with Chicago Bulls 3rd-year swingman Tony Snell, who is in excellent position to finally earn a permanent spot in the rotation.
Here’s what he needs to improve on to make a strong impact for new coach Fred Hoiberg.
-Shot Consistency: Coming out of New Mexico in 2013, Snell was billed as a potential “3 & D” player with room to improve. While his defense has been pretty solid during his tenure in the Windy City, his shooting has been inconsistent.
Mainly a long-distance shooter, Snell has shot almost 35% from deep. Although that is definitely a respectable percentage, Snell’s shot remains erratic and does not pass the eye test half of the time. Instead of maintaining a high release point throughout his motion, he routinely drops his arm too far down.
Dropping his arm sends his shot off the mark and has a lower chance of going in. Off the dribble, Snell is not exactly a talented ball handler, so his release is all over the place when he raises up. Repetition and opportunity breeds success, however. Once Snell was forced into heavy minutes following injuries to Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Jimmy Butler, he played extremely well. During a nine-game span in February, he averaged 13.6 points/game on 58% shooting, including a 22-point performance v. Clevelnad right before the All-Star break.
To receive similar time next season, Snell needs to work on his balance and concentration when open on the perimeter. He will have plenty of chances to knock down threes with a healthy Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol in the lineup.
-Playmaking: So far, Snell has not shown much in terms of creating for others. Only an occasional “driver,” Snell looks for his own shot the majority of the time in favor of an open teammate. With most of his playing time at shooting guard, he is generally the recipient of swing passes on the perimeter (over 93% of his made three-pointers were assisted in 2014-15), so he does not normally have to create offense.
But Chicago is STARVED for more wings who can make something happen when the play breaks down. Snell is more of a one dribble pull-up guy but has shown flashes of getting all the way to the rim on straight line drives. Snell isn’t going to hit an opponent with a devastating crossover but is quick enough to get by his man and drop off to an open big or kick out to another shooter.
-Aggression & Confidence: Confidence, or lack thereof, has always been the main issue with Snell. At first glance, he is a long-armed wing with lockdown and shot-making capabilities. After taking a closer look, however, he resembles yet another young player who tries to fit in rather than stand out.
Heading into his third year with practically the same teammates from his rookie campaign, Snell should be comfortable enough to force the action and welcome mistakes, if they occur.
That means Snell needs to aggressively drive to the rim when he has the matchup advantage, come off curls looking to score and make key plays, without hesitation, when called upon in the clutch.
The Bulls need Snell to stay confident and consistent throughout the entire season. For Chicago to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, and beyond, Snell has to become a better distributor, a more consistent shot maker, and play with a much higher level of aggression. Timidity has held him back far too long; year 3 is generally considered the “make or break” season for young guards & wing players.
If he steps up and starts to scratch the surface of his potential, the Bulls will feature another two-way threat with sleeper upside.