Tony Snell and Doug McDermott completely exploded in this past year’s Summer League even cultivating in a nickname of “The Summer Splash Brothers.” Their potent shooting and McDermott’s readiness for the NBA game gave Bulls fans hope and it seemed that the Bulls would finally have an abundance of shooting.
But reality came crashing in and we have yet to see the Summer Splash Brothers make an impact in the regular season. Tony Snell barely gets off of the bench and Doug McDermott looks overwhelmed at times during the regular season. The caveat is: It’s early. We’re 9 games in, but this Chicago team is built to win now. Giving McDermott and even Mirotic (who has a few hiccups, but looks to be ready to play right now) minutes in the regular season can only help in the long-run. It’s widely apparent that Tom Thibodeau’s defensive schemes are complex and difficult to learn. We’ve seen it in the past with Kyle Korver, who was a much better defender in 2011-2012 than he was the year prior. We’ve seen it with Marco Bellinelli who improved as the season went along. We are seeing it with Mike Dunleavy, who was lost at times last year and he’s a 12 year veteran of the NBA, but this year seems to understand the scheme and has become a great team defender. McDermott looks lost out there at times and frankly overmatched. I have no doubt that he will eventually catch up and be a fantastic player, but for this year’s win-now Chicago Bulls, he may not be the best choice.
Maybe Thibs should look down the bench to Tony Snell.
I’ve always been high on Tony Snell and the raw attributes he possesses. I even wrote about him before the season and said he could be the X-Factor for a Bulls championship run. Tony Snell put a lot of work into the offseason and you can tell he understands the defensive schemes better this season than he did last year. We’ve seen moments where Thibs would rely on him for defense down the stretch – for instance, against the Cavaliers. Snell played well into the fourth quarter and into crunch time and did fairly well defensively. Per NBA.com/stats, here is Tony Snell and Doug McDermott’s defended field goal percentage (the field goal percentage of the opponent when the player is defending the shot):
- Doug McDermott (overall): Defended Field Goal Percentage: 47.4% Opponent’s Average Field Goal Percentage: 43.2% Net Field Goal Percentage: +4.2%
- Tony Snell (overall): Defended Field Goal Percentage: 38.7% Opponent’s Average Field Goal Percentage: 42.8% Net Field Goal Percentage: -4.1%
In a small sample size, Tony Snell is defending really well and challenging opponent’s shots. In comparison, Jimmy Butler’s Net Field Goal Percentage for shots he defends is -0.7 this season, down from -3.1 all of last season. Obviously, Snell is doing a better job defensively this year, which given the previous pattern, is to be expected.
What should separate the two is offense. Offensively, Snell has been inconsistent and the knock on him seems to be his decision making and inconsistency. This year, he’s shooting a mere 36.4% from the field, but also 36.4% from three (4 of 11 on the season). However, McDermott has been pretty bad this year as well shooting a nice 48.7% from the field, but only 28% from three. He hasn’t been the floor spacer the Bulls thought he would be, but has been a nice surprise finishing at the rim. He’s shooting 73% (11 for 15) from the restricted area. In comparison, Jimmy Butler is around 65% on 30 of 46 shooting and Derrick Rose is at 61% on 11 of 18. He’s been really good there. Personally, I question whether or not Thibs is utilizing him correctly. He’s tried to plug him into the “Kyle Korver role” of running off a bazillion screens and hopefully hitting a three, but McDermott is much more versatile than that. He can post up and drive as well as simply shoot. In fact, Tony Snell might be more productive in that “Korver role” of utilizing screens to get open threes. Ultimately, both men are going to gain confidence as they receive playing time which may be a problem for Snell as he can’t get off the bench.
When you look at the Bulls’ best lineups in small sample sizes, Tony Snell is in three of the top six lineups sorted by plus/minus. My theory on that is there’s value in prolific offense, but there’s also value in decent offense and good defense. Tony Snell will provide good defense right now while McDermott continues to grow and learn.
I’m not saying Doug McDermott is a bust or Tony Snell is the next big thing, but history is the best indicator of the future and we’ve seen first year guys like McDermott take a full year to adjust to Tom Thibodeau’s defense. The Bulls are built to win right now and Tony Snell could help solidify that with his defense. Management is still high on him, fans and writers have soured on him, but maybe the Bulls could have a surprise rotting away at the end of the bench.
It’s funny that I’m even entertaining this. Pleading with Thibs to play a better defender? Man, how times have changed…