Pistons Lead

What to Expect From Tony Snell


All of Pistons fandom rejoiced when they heard Jon Leuer was being traded for a 1st round pick last night. They were even more excited when they found out Tony Snell was included in this swap as well. Should Pistons fans be SUPER excited for Snell, though? Or is this just a reaction to finally removing Leuer’s salary while also getting an extra selection in the draft? Well, let us take a deeper dive into Snell’s game to figure out where we ought to place our expectations.

2018-19 Season Stats

Snell posted the following numbers this past season:

6.0 PPG (52% FG, 40% 3PT, 88% FT), 2.1 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.2 BPG

58.5% True Shooting, 12.9 Usage, 6.7% Assist Rate, 5.7% Turnover Rate

So anyone that is talking up Snell as an amazing starter, please look at those numbers and calm down. The standout numbers to me are the shooting percentages. All are what the Pistons need from a wing that supplements Blake and Andre. That 58.5% True Shooting shows he does not waste shots, regardless of when and where he takes them.

The stat that is worrisome is his assist numbers. Any assist rate below 10% is concerning, and anything approaching 5% requires a lot of film time with the player in question. Without truly knowing what Snell’s role was last season for the Bucks, I’d say this stat alone should keep all expectations for Snell in check.

Of what I did see from Snell on the Bucks last year, he looked to be a floor spacer. He was the guy taking the direct hand-offs from Giannis above the break for three pointers. He also attacked closeouts on spot-ups. Just from the 20 or so Bucks games I watched last year, his role wasn’t to move the ball around, but to keep spacing the floor for Giannis. Still, Coach Casey and his staff definitely need to get Snell in the film room to ask him why he generated so few assists.

There is a HUGE positive, though, in that a turnover rate around 5% is absolutely amazing. And again, this is something we can point to that shows Snell does not waste opportunities. No matter what his role was, he neither wasted shots nor turned the ball over. These are two necessary traits in role players that stick in the league for a long time.

Another great indicator for his success is his decreasing turnover rate. His first season in Milwaukee saw him post an 8.8% mark which he has managed to decrease every season since.

Projected Role

While I don’t expect him to start, he is going to be an integral part of the rotation next season. He played 1,304 total minutes for the Bucks during the regular season last year. That was 6th most on the team. This something he can at least replicate on such a wing and shooting starved team as the Pistons

I do think he can be a spot starter, though. He played in 74 games total and started 12 of those contests. The year before he played in 75 games and started 59 of those games. And the year before that (his first in Milwaukee) he played in and started 80 games. In all 3 of his years in Milwaukee he has posted True Shooting Percentages of 57.8% or greater, played at least 1,304 minutes, and checked in for at least 74 games.

He will be primarily used as a spot up shooter. He was one of the Bucks best players in that role as he shot 40.0% on 2.6 catch-and-shoot 3s per game. That would have been team best if not for Brogdon’s INSANE 47.6% on 2.8 catch-and shoot 3s per game. This also helps to alleviate some of the low assist concerns since he can just be catching passes from Blake and Reggie to give them the space they need to operate inside.

He also does have that added ability to drive off of spots ups and get to the rim. He doesn’t do this as much as you would like, but when he does man it looks awesome. This is the one area I would really hope Coach Casey and his staff can develop and utilize more.


He has also always been a committed defender and immediately becomes Detroit’s best perimeter defender. I mean, not every guy labeled a “good” defender has a video made of his defense as a coaching example to teach young guys the right way to play:

He has the strength and length to handle any NBA wing, as well as the quickness and patience to frustrate lead guards. The most impressive aspect of this video to me, is Snell’s ability to stay with and get in the face of Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, and Kemba Walker. No defensive assignment was ever too tough for Snell.

Final Word

So yes, Snell will be a rotation 3 & D wing who can occasionally start. Yes, his game is not exciting. And he is a super chill guy that makes Kawhi Leonard look like Chris Farley. But he is one of the best role players in the NBA. He is one of the best 3 & D wings in the NBA.

He was jettisoned by the Bucks for Detroit’s garbage, no doubt. Yet, this was due to the fact that Snell was a luxury the team could no longer afford. Khris Middleton is their second-best player and worth a near-max deal. And Malcolm Brogdon just became only the 8th player in NBA history to shoot 50-40-90. Both guys NEED to get paid and the Bucks NEED to keep them.

Thankfully Detroit reaps the benefits of the Bucks riches! Being a fellow Lobo (Snell and I both attended the University of New Mexico), I cannot in good conscious say I am completely unbiased on my views of Snell. Yet, the numbers and film all indicate what I feel about Snell. He will give Detroit the shooting and defense it so desperately needs and will be a big positive on the court.

Welcome to Detroit and hey Tony…Everyone’s a Lobo! Woof! Woof! Woof!


About Steven Pelletier

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