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The more GM Gar Forman and coach Tom Thibodeau talk about Tony Snell, the easier it is to understand why the Chicago Bulls selected him with the 20th pick in Thursday's NBA draft.
He has the length they are looking for, he can play both spots at the wing and he has the ability to knock down long-range shots, but, most importantly, he's a hard worker. On paper, he fits the mold of the type of player that Thibodeau thinks he can plug into his system. On paper, he appears to be the same kind of player Jimmy Butler was coming out of Marquette two years ago -- except with a more-developed jump shot at this stage of his career.
|Tony Snell is 6-foot-7½ and has a seven-foot wingspan.|
"The thing we really liked about Tony is, first of all, he's got the tools you look for in a 2-guard," Forman said on ESPN 1000's draft show. "In that he's 6-7½, he's got a seven-foot wing span. He's got terrific foot speed. He's a good, long, live athlete but along with that, he can shoot the basketball, and he's got a nice, fluid stroke. He shot 39 percent, almost 40 percent from 3. And he's got a skill level handling the ball and pass the ball. He can be a secondary handler; I think he'll be able to play off as he progresses, so all those things kind of stood out to us."
Aside from the work ethic, which is essential for any player trying to come in and crack Thibodeau's rotation, it's evident that the Bulls wanted to bolster their anemic 3-point shooting from last season. As a team, they finished 20th in the league, but after trading Kyle Korver away last summer because they didn't want to go deep in the luxury tax, Thibodeau didn't really have a go-to long-range threat. The Bulls are hoping that Snell and second-round pick Erik Murphy can turn into those types of threats over time.
After watching Danny Green, Ray Allen, Gary Neal and Mike Miller, among others, rain down 3s in the NBA Finals, Thibodeau knows how important it will be to have shooters to space the floor when Derrick Rose returns.
"I think it's important in how we build our team and move forward," Thibodeau said. "And if you watch San Antonio and Miami in the Finals, you can see that they surrounded their best players with great shooting -- and that's something that we've done here. Of course, it was different last year with Derrick being out. But getting Derrick back, the more shooting that we could add the better."
Shooting is secondary to Thibodeau, though; defense will always come first. Given the way the veteran coach has handled rookies in the past and the fact the Bulls already have a solid core in place, the odds are stacked against Snell or Murphy making a major impact next season. But if they can show the ability to play defense and knock down shots, there's always a chance.
"He's an athletic wing that can shoot, and he has great length," Thibodeau said of Snell. "We think he'll be a good fit. Our scouts who've studied him all year felt strongly about him, that he has a big upside. And from what I'm told -- and they've watched his practices and his games and I've watched a number of games -- he's a great worker. So that's the first step, and he's got to fit in and learn the NBA game first."
The Bulls thought highly enough of Snell that they decided to take him instead of another big man who would have given them some younger depth behind Joakim Noah.
"They're both needs," Forman said when asked why the Bulls went with a wing man instead of a big man. "So you know in the past what our philosophy has been. We're going to take who we think is the best player available. We've got needs at both spots [but] we thought Tony was the best player available at that spot, but we did take a hard look at some of those bigs also."
With all the ups and downs the draft provided, the Bulls seem content with the players they were able to land. In a summer that Forman knows might not be very busy for his team because of a lack of cap space, the organization is glad that it added two guys on rookie deals who have a chance to contribute.
"It was a very interesting draft," Thibodeau said. "Guys were projected all over the place. Guys that were [projected] at 20, sometimes you saw them at 40, and guys who were at 10 you saw them at 20. Guys at 20, you saw them at 10. It was pretty wild. But we thought that both guys fit, and it addresses a need with the shooting. So we're very pleased with the guys that we got."