If you only look at his junior year statistics at New Mexico (12.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.9 rebounds per game), Tony Snell appears to be nothing more than a nice pickup in the early portion of the second round.
But after impressing scouts at the NBA Combine in Chicago, there’s talk that the 6-foot-7 guard/forward could sneak his way into the latter part of the first round on June 27.
A first-round pick might be a stretch for the former Lobo, but he is one of the top catch-and-shoot (42.2 field goal percentage and 39.0 three-point percentage) prospects in the 2013 Draft Class, with a smooth stroke, good perimeter footwork and an ability to move well without the basketball or off of a teammate’s pick.
Snell doesn’t have elite ball-handling skills, but he can get to the rim rather easily with his long strides, a 6-foot-11 wingspan and first-rate athleticism.
The Riverside native has the shot, the length and the lateral quickness to play the three at both ends of the floor but at 200 pounds he lacks the frame and upper body strength to stay with a majority of the league’s top-flight players at the position.
In addition to concerns about his potential tweener status, Snell’s motor should also be considered a major issue. While he got hot (double-digit scoring in nine of last 10 games to finish the regular season) at just the right time in 2012-13, when things were going bad for the former New Mexico standout, they went real bad. Either he’d continue to throw up bad shot after bad shot, or he’d disappear.
In the Lobos’ six losses last season, Snell averaged just over 10 points per game and shot 36.3 percent from the field. On the year, he had seven 20-point contests, but also had eight games where he made two field goals or less.
While he was certainly streaky in 2012-13, Snell didn’t exactly help himself out by getting to the charity stripe. As a junior, he made 84 percent of his attempts from the free throw line, but often settled for floaters lane rather than letting his dribble take him to the basket.
Snell averaged an abysmal 2.9 free throw attempts per game and on nine different occasions never even took a trip to the line – including New Mexico’s second-round loss in the NCAA Tournament to Harvard.
Bulking up will go a long way towards distinguishing what Snell is at the next level, but he’ll also need to develop a pull-up jump shot and some semblance of a desire to crash the glass (2.6 rebounds per game in 2012-13) at both ends of the floor.
Snell has an NBA-caliber shot that he can get off in most situations due to stellar mechanics and the elevation he puts on the ball. However, he also benefited from playing in an offense at New Mexico that was predicated on ball movement and player motion.
With that said, isolation offense should’ve come a lot easier to him than it did in college. If Snell is to improve in that area, he’ll need to work on his upper body strength in the weight room, but also commit to adding a mid-range game opposing defenders will have to respect.
How he would fit with the Suns
With Michael Beasley still under contract and Wesley Johnson potentially coming back for 2013-14, the fit doesn’t seem like a natural one when it comes to Snell.
He’s a superior passer than the aforementioned Beasley and Johnson, but the last thing the Suns need is another one-dimensional wing player, who shuts down at the first sign of trouble.
There’s a lot to like about Snell’s game — especially if he can add some muscle to his frame – but at No. 30, Ryan McDonough and Co. would be wise to select someone who could come in right away and contribute at a set position.
At least at the moment, Snell doesn’t seem like that guy. While he’s drawn comparisons to fellow Martin Luther King High School alum Kawhi Leonard, the San Antonio Spurs forward was far more of an NBA-ready product going into his draft in 2011.
And 1 … A second-rounder to consider
Erik Murphy. The 6-foot-10 forward out of Florida is still growing into his body, after adding around 20 pounds of muscle over the last two seasons. However, he’s a post player who can get physical on the block but who also likes to shoot — finished second only to Creighton’s Doug McDermott in the jump shots per game by big men in 2012-13 — from the perimeter. During his senior season, Murphy shot 51.6 percent from the field, 45.3 from three-point range and 78.4 percent from the line.
Because of his rather soft touch, the Rhode Island native served as a pretty solid option for the Gators in pick-and-pop situations or in designed set shots from the wing.
At 240 pounds, Murphy developed a decent back-to-the-basket game over his final few years in Gainesville, as well. He has above average feel around the basket and can connect on hook shots consistently with either hand. The former Florida standout’s physical maturation has also allowed him to be a more aggressive player on the defense end, especially in the paint. Where he could become a defensive liability in the NBA, though, is on the glass (4.5 rebounds per game in 2011-12 and 5.5 per game in 2012-13) or away from the basket.