A freshly shorn Tony Snell took the court for his first action of the 2014 Summer League Saturday night, in a winning effort, as the Bulls LVSL squad defeated the Clippers 86-70.
Most of the attention was, rightfully so, focused on Snell’s teammate Doug McDermott, the #5 scorer in the history of the NCAA whom the Bulls traded two first rounders for back in June. Where McDermott looked a little outmatched defensively and out of position offensively, Snell controlled the game from the opening tip. While his stats were impressive (27 points and 4 rebounds on 10-14 shooting from the field, 5-7 from three in 32 minutes), it was his demeanor that was most impressive. Oft criticized for his passiveness, Snell was in full attack mode all night, running the offense, guarding everyone from Jon Brockman to Delonte West and, most importantly, leading the team.Much like Jimmy Butler
After the arrival of Pau Gasol and, potentially, Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls frontcourt depth should be fairly solid, with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Gasol, Mirotic, and a random 5th big (note: Anthony Randolph or Cameron Bairstow). Their backcourt will certainly be bolstered by #TheReturn of Derrick Rose, and probably Kirk Hinrich and/or D.J. Augustin. It’s the swing positions that seem to be the biggest area of need. Mike Dunleavy, given he’s not traded, is the nominal starter at the small forward, where Jimmy Butler will handle the lion’s share of minutes at the 2. The Bulls apparently think McDermott can guard 3s, which is very much still up in the air, and after that, there’s only Snell, Mirotic (whom the Bulls mistakenly seem to think can play the 3) and whichever bargain basement additions the Bulls are liable to make. It’s likely that Snell will need to contribute more consistent and meaningful minutes than last season, which saw his playing time and production oscillate wildly, much like his jumpshot.
His jumper wasn’t in question tonight but it was the aggressiveness with which he attacked the rim that surely had some Bulls fans flashing back to another impressive LVSL debut after a lackluster rookie season for a Bulls G/F: when Jimmy Butler was consistently the best player on the court for the 2012 squad. If Snell can come anywhere near Butler’s breakout season two years ago, he’ll help shore up one of the biggest positions of need for a team that needs to improve to contend not only in the Eastern Conference, but in it own division, what with that LeBron fellow around again. Speaking of, Snell’s first in game action last season was a woeful few minutes against the best player in the world in the opener last season. LeBron is proof enough of how rapidly things can change in the NBA. Tony Snell isn’t looking for something so drastic or Earth-shattering. Just turning the corner. That’s all he needs.