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Tony Snell Player Preview: A player who can hit 3s at high volume and defend? Yes, please

Tony Snell isn’t going to make headlines, he’s just going to do his job and open up Detroit’s offense in the process

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Tony Snell Christopher Daniels, Detroit Bad Boys

The first rule about Tony Snell is: You don’t talk about Tony Snell. At least that seems to be the modus operandi for the soon-to-be 28-year-old. He doesn’t make headlines, and that seems just fine as far as he is concerned. He just does his job.

Detroit doesn’t need rah-rah guys, they need guys who can hit open shots. Hopefully, that’s Tony our tiger.

Detroit swapped fan-favorite Jon Leuer for the 6-foot-7 wing during a summer deal with Milwaukee. Snell has this year at $11 million-ish and the 2020-21 season at $12 million-ish remaining on his contract.

Last season and over the summer

2018-19 game log

  • Started 12 of the 74 games he played in last year with the Milwaukee Bucks.
  • Logged roughly 18 minutes per game during the regular season but fell out of the rotation towards the end of the year. Saw limited activity during the Bucks’ nine game playoff run.
  • Connected on nearly 40% of his three-point looks (204 total attempts).
  • 55% of Snell’s 351 field goal attempts were three-pointers, 17% mid-range, and 28% came at the rim.
  • Recorded 120.6 Points per Shot Attempt PSA (points scored per 100 field goal attempts) ranking in the 92nd-percentile of wings. For reference, Wayne Ellington’s 117.7 PSA led the Pistons’ wings last season.

Snell might be best known for initiating the most talked about double-team in the history of pick-up basketball.

The story goes like this, Tony Snell and a few other NBA-ers were getting a run in over the summer when Snell, without warning, double-teamed Phoenix Suns’ star Devin Booker in the corner.

I’ll give you a few minutes to collect your thoughts.

Don’t believe me? Thankfully, the entire incident was caught on camera:

This exact video was viewed millions of times and provided way more internet content than any double-team (originating from human beings) ever should. SMH.

One Big Question

Can he remain a capable three-point shooter?

On 827 total attempts, Snell ripped the nets to the tune of 40% beyond the long-line during his time in Milwaukee. The straight shooting along with the size on the defensive perimeter are the main reasons why Detroit made trading for Snell a priority. While defense usually travels well, shooting accuracy may vary.

Detroit bombed almost 35 three-balls per game last year, sixth highest average in the league, and coach Dwane Casey has been adamant about continuing to make the three-point shot a vital part of the team’s identity. Needless to say, there won’t be a shortage of three-point chances for Tony Snell during the 2019-20 season, in fact, he launched 10 during a preseason win against the Mavericks.

Perhaps no other specific action is more important to Snell’s prosperity in Detroit than holding down the weak-side corner (and slot).

Like most modern-day offenses, the Pistons establish proper spacing by filling both deep corners. But if there is an absence of legit scoring threats occupying those corners then defenders pay them no mind.

Without directly placing blame on anyone in particular (video speaks for itself) too many Pistons’ possessions from last season mirrored below:

On those types of offensive sequences, the Pistons are hoping Snell can keep his would-be check, the circled fella beneath the next few words, from continuously sticking his nose in Blake Griffin’s or Andre Drummond’s paint business:

10% of all Detroit’s possessions ended in a corner-three last season which makes them a top-5 team in terms of corner frequency use. As the squad continues adopting and adapting to Casey’s offensive preferences, I’m willing to bet that number (relatively) skyrockets starring Snell as the prime beneficiary. A hefty portion will derive from the weak-side:

If Snell can continuously make teams pay at a reasonable rate then it will help to unclog the lane for penetration purposes.

Projected Role

Snell will join Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin on the starting unit. As stated earlier, his much-needed defense should translate with little need for any kind of long-lasting learning curve. It might be Thanksgiving or even Christmas, however, before Snell feels fully comfortable on offense.

Making things a tad easier for Snell’s adjustment period could be the relationship he developed with the 2018-19 MVP, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo is a 7-foot ball-handling big who is equal parts agile and power. He, more than most, has earned his nickname, The Freak. No member on the Bucks assisted on more Snell field goals (44) than The Freak did last year.

Blake Griffin is a 6-foot-10 ball-handling big who is two-thirds power and one-third agile. He, more than most, deserves a fucking nickname. No member of the Pistons assisted on more Reggie Bullock (73) and Wayne Ellington (23) field goal than the epithet-less Griffin did last year.

The resemblance of results between the two bigs and their wings exists not only in the box score (which paints a picture) but during on-court action as well (which paints a clear picture).

Giannis to Tony:

Blake to Reggie/Wayne:

Essentially, Snell is going to assume the same locations on the floor that Bullock and Ellington did, and a large part of that role’s responsibility is cultivating a relationship with Blake Griffin. He proved he could do it in Milwaukee which bodes well for an encore performance in Detroit.

For Detroit’s other bigs, Snell’s presence will be leaned on as a safety valve when options are low. Everyone on the perimeter, not just Snell, will need to give ball-handlers, bigs or otherwise, both stationary and moving targets:

Too often, both ball and player movement became stagnant last season.

Role players like Snell don’t have many plays called for them as the game progresses so expect to see Detroit consciously try and get him involved early to get the juices flowing:

The Pistons aren’t asking Tony Snell to be Tony Stark on offense, they’re asking him to be the player he already is. Seems reasonable.

His length on defense is just what the good doctor ordered. It’s no secret that wings from Boston to Los Angeles, especially after the mid-season trade of Reggie Bullock, around the NBA enjoyed little push-back when attacking the bucket. The Pistons can finally field a bona fide defender whose length will be put to good use on the perimeter:

Detroit trading for Tony Snell didn’t move the needle much at the local level let alone on the national scene, but that’s OK because the first rule of Tony Snell is: You don’t talk about Tony Snell.