Meet Tony Snell

Late last night it was announced that the Pistons had traded Jon Leuer for Tony Snell and the 30th pick in the draft.

Why on earth did the Bucks do this trade?

They are fairly desperate to clear up any and all space they possibly can. I’m not totally sure that they will waive and stretch Leuer but even if they don’t they will save like $4 or $5 million this coming season and then not have the extra year of Snell’s contract. If they do stretch Leuer they will save like $10 million this coming season. They’ve got a lot of guys to pay on this roster.

It had been reported the past few days that the Bucks were trying to move either/both of Tony Snell and Ersan Ilyasova and were willing to attach their first round pick to do it. While it is surprising that Leuer was the best they could get back, that is clearly where they are.

Who is Tony Snell?

Tony Snell is a 6’7, 213 lbs, 27 year old wing. He was born in California but spent most of his childhood in Phoenix Arizona and played his college ball at New Mexico for three years before entering the NBA draft. Snell was the 20th pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls where he spent his first three seasons. With the Bulls he was mostly seen as a project who was a rotation player from the moment he arrived but never really blossomed. After his third season the Bulls traded him to the Bucks for Michael Carter-Williams.

With the Bucks Snell shot better from 3 and got more minutes as a complimentary player around budding superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Snell started 80 games his first year with the Bucks and 52 the next but this past season saw himself start to fall to the edge of a really strong and deep Bucks rotation. He dwindled to the back-end of the rotation this season and barely saw the floor in the playoffs. With that said it is worth mentioning that the Bucks rotation was so comically strong by the end of the season that this is hardly a sin.

Snell arrives in Detroit with two seasons remaining on his contract, making just over $11 million this season and $12 million the next. The last season is a player option which he is very likely to take.

The Good:

Snell is a perfectly acceptable rotation wing which is something the Pistons really needed! He his a solid and proven shooter who can will hit open shots that are created for him which will be huge for the Pistons. Last season they almost always had at least two non-shooters on the floor, they now can have a starting lineup of Jackson/Kennard/Snell/Griffin/Drummond and have 4 plus shooters on the floor. Snell is also a fairly active cutter which will help to ensure he doesn’t get too stagnant around Blake Griffin post-ups.

While not a terribly effective driver, Snell is a good enough athlete that when defenses give him a lane to hit (often off a Snell pump fake) he can get to the hole quickly and finish there, he occasionally will unfurl his ridiculous wing-span and huge hands and absolutely stomp the ball home. These traits also make his cuts more effective, he’s sure handed catching the ball on the move and can finish with authority.

Snell has a very good shot profile, he knows what he can and cannot do. Most of his shots come from beyond the arc, and those that don’t tend to be at the rim. He will rarely try to do stuff in the mid-range and isn’t a ball stopper.

On offense he could almost be compared to Bruce Brown this past season. Not going to do a lot, but he also isn’t going to get in the way of the Pistons better players which is a skill in of itself, except that Snell is a good enough shooter to actually help get guys out of the way of the Pistons better players.

On defense Snell is a solid worker who can defend multiple positions. He’s strong enough to bang with bigger dudes, his length helps to contain quicker players, and his head and effort are usually in the right place. His huge hands and wing span help to make him a decent rebounder for his position. His stout frame allows him the possibility to play some small-ball 4 and survive which will be nice.

The Bad:

First off, as nice as it is to swap Leuer for someone who can, yaknow, play, Snell is overpaid and there is a real sacrifice in the Pistons picking up that extra year. The Pistons will still have a great chance to totally re-do the roster after the coming season with Galloway, Jackson, and possibly Drummond entering free agency, but taking on Snell’s contract will make that a little less easy.

As for his game, it basically comes down to that Snell is fairly competent as a complimentary piece but not capable of really anything else. There is very little about his game that stands out as anything beyond “ok”. His defense is fine but he isn’t any sort of a stopper, he is an accurate shooter but he isn’t always willing to pull the trigger, never shoots off the dribble, and takes a while to load up his shot. He can’t create for others at all and his best move is to get defenders to bite on a pump fake before going to the rim, if there’s any real resistance there he is pretty much toast.

Basically, there’s a reason that even in his best season where he started 80 games and played 30 minutes per night he still only scored 8.5 points per game before slowly slipping further and further down the Bucks rotation the next two seasons. He is the sort of guy you can live with while also knowing it’d be nice to have someone who can do more and it’s really that simple. Snell always needs other guys to create looks for him and even then he isn’t dangerous enough to cause real fear in opponents.

Where will he fit?

Hard to say given that both the draft and free agency are still to come. The Pistons could be making their way to a significant trade (with 3 picks now in their pocket and supposedly chasing more they actually have the picks to package) and the roster he ends up playing on is very different than the one right now.

That said, if things stay mostly the same, Snell will likely start at small forward or be the first wing off the bench depending on if they add another veteran wing this offseason and whether they want to start Kennard or have him keep doing the 6th man thing. Either way, Snell is likely to at least play 24+ minutes per night, the Pistons need on the wing for guys who can hit open threes and defend at a competent level is just too great for him to not be at least a mid-rotation guy.

On paper he is a snug fit with the Pistons starters. He doesn’t need/want to take the ball away from Blake Griffin or Reggie Jackson, he should have a steady feed of open corner threes off of Blake post-ups and Jackson/Drummond pick and rolls, and his activity off the ball will help tip the Pistons away from the stagnation that they felt at times last season. The simple act of consistently hitting open 3s will be a welcome sign from a small forward on the roster after last season.

Defensively he is far from a stopper but the Pistons won’t need to panic every time a big wing comes to town, getting torched by elite wing scorers will still be an issue but less likely to be an every night occurrence.

Upshot for the rest of the roster:

The Pistons desperately needed to add at least one veteran wing who they could count on to play 30 minutes per night and not ruin things. Playing him that much is stretching Snell’s abilities but if Griffin, Jackson, and Drummond stay healthy and perform like they did last season he will fit alright. This trade gives the Pistons flexibility to spend more of what little money they have on a backup point-guard if they want, also more flexibility to not force too much on any wings they draft. Other than that though, other than having slightly less of an already small amount of money this offseason, not a lot has changed. Getting another wing should still be their first priority, but if things fall they can at least know they have one competent wing.


Really solid trade. There is a chance that Leuer, after getting a full offseason of health, can actually play next season and the Pistons whiff on the draft pick and this ends up being a poor trade for the Pistons, but for now it looks very good. Snell is overpaid but he should fit great in terms of both position and style, while the Pistons also got an extra shot on the draft. Some people’s reaction to the trade may be overestimating the abilities of Snell a bit, he will never impress you too much, but this is good.

Lastly, I would just like to remind people that before he got hurt Jon Leuer was a decent player and it’s too bad he did get hurt because the Pistons could’ve used him the past couple of seasons.

In the end, a solid trade. Not a great one, not one that will alter the franchise in a huge way, but one that will help make the Pistons a better team now and in the future.