Fans of the Atlanta Hawks are surely hoping that there is a bigger transaction sure to come after it was reported on Thursday that Atlanta was acquiring the services of veteran wing Tony Snell, in addition to Khyri Thomas – who will reportedly be waived – in exchange for Dewayne Dedmon.
A 29-year-old veteran with seven seasons in the league, Snell becomes the most accomplished three-point shooter the team has had in the brief Trae Young era. He has converted more than 40 percent of his more than 1,000 attempts across the past four seasons.
He also brings value on the defensive end. Before sliding in to a bit of obscurity of recent, Snell was broadly considered one of the players that best fit the definition of a 3&D role player.
On the defensive end, he does not offer an exceptional option defending at the point of attack, although he can be passable there in a good number of match-ups. Rather, he uses his length, smarts and ability to work hard to pull in from the weak side, all while still being able to get back out on a shooter on the perimeter when the ball is reversed from the strong side.
As Travis Schlenk works to build a roster for this season intended to earnestly contend for a playoff spot, it will be interesting to see what direction the team takes regarding defensive scheme. Snell would be an excellent fit in a switch-based approach, especially if the switching is contained within the 1-4 spots (both guards and both forwards). He would also be an exceptional option defending on the wing while the center helps on ball screens away from the paint. Regarding the latter, teams need rangy, active wings that can help into the paint until the center can retreat back toward the rim.
Snell is also a reliable team defender and decision maker. He consistently puts forward the effort to take care of his assignment and responsibility.
Offensively, Snell may be exactly what the doctor ordered, considering what he can do when spotting up off of the ball. Under the direction of head coach Lloyd Pierce, the Hawks have generated an optimized shot profile in each of the last two seasons.
Last year, Atlanta was eighth in three-point attempts, but also dead-last in percentage. For the 2018-2019 season, the Hawks were third in attempts and roughly league average in makes.
Trae Young might create more open jump shots for his team than any other player in the league. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that they should staff the roster with guys who can make perimeter shots. Snell is unquestionably one of those.
In scrutinizing Snell’s offensive fit a bit further, it will be interesting to see how he will fit what the Hawks do with their “pistol”-based action and other sets that depend upon the dribble hand-off (DHO). Snell has always been a bit of a limited ball handler and has been mostly relegated to roles that don’t call for him to act as a creator.
Especially when Young is drawing the attention of more than one defender, Atlanta loves to lift their wings from the corner into a DHO set up and transition into pick-and-roll type action. There really is not a reason that Snell can’t do that, it’s more that he hasn’t been often been called upon to do it.
What he did last year in this area was, in fact, encouraging. Last season, Detroit operated an offensive scheme that relied upon all guards and wings to attack the paint with the dribble when the opposing defense extended itself to chase shooters off of the three-point line. Snell shot an effective 58.3% on drives and generated 31 assists and just three turnovers on 172 possessions. That will more than work if it translates to Atlanta.
The previous year in Milwaukee, he, as has been the case for most of his career, mostly stood in the weak side corner. From there, Snell registered 132 drives which led to a field goal percentage of 47.4 and just ten assists as compared to seven turnovers.
It is hard to attack the paint from the corner. Maybe Pistons head coach Dwane Casey found something in Snell by empowering him to attack more from different spots in the offensive half court.
That is different than working off of actual ball screens. Still, there should be plenty of opportunity to optimize how he fits into the offensive attack.
Maybe the best part of Snell’s fit with the Hawks is that he is a player that, based upon reputation and track record, will do his job with more than satisfactory effort. He also will not care about touches and stats, with no real concern with his minutes and whether or not he helps close competitive games. The description perfectly applies to starting center Clint Capela (acquired at the trade deadline last season) and Snell.
Also when you are building a team around an ultra-high usage point guard, you usually can’t have enough players like Snell in the rotation.
The average fan might not be super excited about his acquisition, especially as the free agency period nears. However, there a number of real ways that Snell is well positioned to help his new team on the wing.