Team: New Mexico
Position: Small Forward
Expected draft position: Late first to early second round
|2012 - Tony Snell
College career: A relatively low-profile recruit, Tony Snell played a key role as a second or third option on some very good New Mexico teams. Snell excelled as a catch and shoot player, taking advantage of New Mexico's motion offense to knock down almost two a game as a junior while making 39 percent.
Snell was a key contributor during New Mexico's NCAA Tournament teams and saw his role expand to include more ball handling duties as a junior. While he's not a natural playmaker and struggled at times to take care of the ball, he managed to raise his assist numbers as a junior when asked to take on a larger role.
Offense: Snell is a great shooter with the length and form to be a major shotmaker at the NBA level. Snell's game should be reminiscent of James Jones' in that he'd likely spend all of his time spotting up behind the arc. Although he has the potential to be able to score off of pindown screens, half of his shots last year were threes, a percentage that will only go up as he settles into a more complementary role.
There are two red flags that jump right out when examining his collegiate careers as a whole: he rarely drew fouls and struggled to score efficiently inside of the arc. These things are related. Snell doesn't finish well around the basket and lacks the instincts to get to the line at a good clip. Considering that he was playing against smaller, slower defenders in college than he'll see in the pros, he's unlikely to be able to improve his performance without spending a lot of time improving his ball handling abilities and developing a convincing shot fake.
Defense: Despite unimpressive block and steal totals, Snell should be able to develop into a decent defensive player. He has the size and length to bother jump shooting wings and works hard in spite of his offensive responsibilities. Even though Snell lacks the strength and tenacity to be a true stopper, he should be able to do a decent job sticking with other shooting specialists and preventing all but the best scorers from lighting him up.
One area where Snell definitely needs to show improvement is on the glass. Say what you will about his role in the offense and light frame, NBA-caliber athletes -- even point guards -- do better than the 3.4 boards per pace-adjusted 40 minutes Snell pulled down last year. Even notoriously poor rebounders like Kyle Korver and Chauncey Billups were much better on the glass in college. If anything is going to prevent Snell from sticking in the NBA, it's going to be his inability to contribute in any way other than shooting and playing man to man defense.
Pro potential/Wizards fit: Snell's game reminds me a lot of a player who is already a Washington Wizard: Martell Webster. Similar to Webster, Snell's a rangy shooting specialist who can excel in situations in which his role is to make open three point shots and play passable, if not elite defense.
The problem is, he's just not that good.
While Snell's shooting and length are good, they're far from great. His poor athletic indicators and relatively-advanced age for a rookie don't bode well for his future. While he should get a close look from a number of teams due to how in demand his skillset is, he's unlikely to be anything more than a fringe player unless he shows the ability to contribute in other areas.
Even his vaunted shooting, which is a skill that should translate to the next level, is dependent on his ability to round out his game. There's no reason for defenders to not close out aggressively every time the ball swings to him and that's going to make it far more difficult for him to crack the 40-percent barrier that tends to separate the truly valued shooters from the replaceable ones.
Can he do it? Sure, and he could be a decent value pick if Washington can get him in the middle of the second round. That said, this is the part of the draft where simply making a team as a 12th man can be considered a success. Snell might be able to pull that off, but is it really worth using a roster spot on him when there should be low-cost veteran alternatives that might be better players on day one?