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NBA Draft Profile: Can Tony Snell become a silent assassin for the Houston Rockets?

Tony Snell has a bundle of talent and a tremendous physical profile. Can he harness it and have a successful NBA career?

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Snell is one of the hardest guys to pin down in this draft because of the conflict between his talent and his impact; he's tremendously skilled, but his questionable motor has always left scouts wanting more.

With 6’7.25" height, a wingspan of 6’11.5", and blazing numbers of 10.32 seconds in lane agility, 2.84 seconds in the modified lane agility drills and a solid 36.5 inch vertical, Tony Snell has measurements that make NBA scouts pant with lust. I am drooling just typing those numbers. Yet despite being one of the best players on the team in a mid-major conference MWC, Tony Snell averaged an anemic 12.5 points and 2.6 rebounds a game. New Mexico had tougher competition than people think, as they had to face NBA talents like Anthony Bennett and Jamaal Franklin multiple times, but he played inferior competition overall and frankly should have better numbers.

What makes Tony Snell really special, however, is that beyond all the awesome measurements, he also possesses an extremely valuable skill: a tremendous jumper. Tony Snell’s jump shots are picturesque. His long arms and overall length mean his release point is often out of reach of even the best shot blockers. He follows through with his shot beautifully with very little wasted motion in his mechanics and has an exceptionally soft touch, which all culminates into one silky smooth jumper with a perfect arc.

It’s no exaggeration that he may be one of the best shooters in this draft next to Ben McLemore and Allen Crabbe. Snell excels in catch and shoot situations, but he does not limit himself to spot up shots. He is very actively seeking open space by bobbing and weaving through screen and curls, and is extremely quick to set, gather, and release after getting the ball.

During his last season, 48% of his shots were 3 points shots where he made 39%. He can heat up for an extended period of time, and when he’s in a zone, he is nearly unstoppable. He was named MWC tournament MVP, when he absolutely caught fire and scored 53 points on 52% shooting, including 60% from deep.

However, the pretty jumper is both a blessing and a curse, since it is also the main reason why Snell essentially squandered his physical gift on offense. He is a very tall shooting guard with very long arms, quickness that rivals NBA point guards, and actually somewhat advanced ball handling skills. However, he only takes 18% of his shots at the rim, which is borderline criminal.

He almost exclusively limits himself to taking jump shots and settles way too much. He uses crossover dribbles very effectively to get into the paint and score, habitually driving left and finishing right. Although he seems tentative with his ball handling, the skill is very much developed but underutilized. Despite shooting a scorching 39% from deep, his overall field goal percentage is merely an average 42%.

A very minor flaw in his shooting form is his average release speed, and that impacts his shooting because that his shot can be disrupted fairly easily. When his shots are contested, despite his superior length, solid elevation, and excellent mechanics, his percentages drop drastically, more so than what you would expect of a shooter of his caliber and height. Physicality also heavily influences Snell’s shooting because of his slight frame. He can and will be pushed into taking off balanced shots on the perimeter. That lack of strength may be one of his biggest reasons why he was never completely confident using his otherwise, outstanding body.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tony Snell is fairly disciplined. He knows very well his length and height is by far his greatest weapon and uses them effectively. He keeps his feet on the ground, rarely biting on fakes. Instead of jumping into shooters in shot block attempts, Snell stays upright and takes a quick hop straight up with his hands vertical, which actually resulted in a surprising amount of blocks. He is quick enough to keep up with most guards, and when he does get blown by, he can effectively chase them down and contest their shot.

Closing out is also a strength because his quickness and length. However, like his offense, his style of play on defense doesn't seem consistent with his tools. An athlete of his caliber with his physical tools should be able to dictate the terms of engagement on defense, but Snell plays very conservatively and reacts to his opponents rather than engaging them aggressively. Once again, his strength poses a problem. Snell can be overpowered, which is a concern in the NBA where even some point guards have overpowering games.

Snell is a somewhat enigmatic prospect because the mismatch of his outstanding tools and his inconsistent impact. Lack of strength and deficiencies in certain skills do not explain his inconsistencies and low impact because players have done better and more with less. This is a player whose team interviews will be critical to his draft position.

He seems to understand his strength and utilizes them well, but I think he may have less weaknesses than he believes. He is not blatantly lazy, but can be perceived as not playing hard. He does not often asserts his ability to dominate a game, and has mainly shrunk against better competitors this season. The mental makeup of a player sometimes is the hardest thing to change, but if a team thinks they can do it, Snell may end up the steal of the draft. He needs a change in his way of thinking, which could be the difference between becoming Kawhi Leonard or becoming Darius Miles. Did I pick my comparisons because of cornrows? Yeah, I did.



Pros: phenomenal physical profile, long, agile and can really jump. Shoots like a dream. Disciplined player. Looks like Kawhi Leonard (not really).

Cons: Does not always bring it, has a tendency to disappear in games. Plays worse than his ability would suggest. Looks MORE like Darius Miles than Kawhi Leonard.