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updated: 6/28/2013 10:22 AM

Bulls grab player who can shoot, defend

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  • New Mexico's Tony Snell averaged just 12.5 points per game last season, but he hit 22 of 39 3-pointers in the Lobos' last five games of the regular season.

      New Mexico's Tony Snell averaged just 12.5 points per game last season, but he hit 22 of 39 3-pointers in the Lobos' last five games of the regular season.
    Associated Press

  • New Mexico's Tony Snell is looking forward to playing in Chicago, saying, "I can't wait to work with (Derrick Rose) and help the team get wins."

      New Mexico's Tony Snell is looking forward to playing in Chicago, saying, "I can't wait to work with (Derrick Rose) and help the team get wins."
    Associated Press

  • Video: Snell goes in first round

 
 

Heading into the NBA draft, it was tough to distinguish or separate any of the half-dozen or so tall shooting guards that figured to be available with the No. 20 pick.

The Bulls gave it a shot, selecting 6-foot-7 Tony Snell, a junior from New Mexico, ahead of Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Allen Crabbe, Archie Goodwin, Glen Rice Jr., Jamaal Franklin and others.

"Snell was a guy we had targeted for quite a while," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. "When he was there, we were really happy to pick him with that 20th spot.

"It's just the combination of his length and his athleticism and his ability to shoot it. I think he's got a nice handle, also. When we watched New Mexico during the year, there were times that he would push the ball in transition or initiate offense."

Snell averaged just 12.5 points last season, but owns a nice shooting stroke and is billed as a strong individual defender. He also has long arms (a 6-11 wingspan), which is something that appeals to the Bulls.

"I feel like I'm good enough to defend anybody, so I really feel good about that," Snell said in a phone call with Chicago reporters.

The Bulls need to improve their 3-point shooting, so Snell projects as a future option at shooting guard. Even if the Bulls start next season with Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler at the wings, Deng is entering the final year of his contract and there is no telling what the future holds. Butler's not going anywhere, but could easily slide down to the small forward slot.

During the last five games of the regular season, Snell knocked down 22 of 39 shots from 3-point range and averaged 19.8 points. Then in a first-round NCAA tournament loss to Harvard, he scored just 9 points and hit 4-of-12 shots.

A native of Riverside, Calif., Snell was a teammate at King High School of San Antonio rising star Kawhi Leonard. The two also share similar hairstyles, but are different as players. Leonard was frequently a double-digit rebounder in the Finals, while Snell is more of a finesse player and figures to be primarily a perimeter shooter.

"Both of us, we're hard-working," Snell said of Leonard. "I see how hard he works and I know what it takes to be a great player. The position he's in right now, he did a fantastic job and I feel like I can do the same thing."

In a Los Angeles Times article from the spring, Snell's mother, Sherika Brown, said she used to park him in front of the television when he was a baby and they'd watch Michael Jordan's Bulls games together.

"It was crazy knowing I'm going to the Bulls," Snell said. "I watched Michael Jordan play my whole life, but I never knew I was going to be here. I've watched Derrick Rose; he's a really great player. I can't wait to work with him and help the team get wins."

Snell did fine in his phone interview, but he is widely billed as having a shy, quiet personality. Brown described her son in a feature story in the Albuquerque Journal.

"Ever since kindergarten his report cards have always said, 'Tony is a real nice, quiet kid,'" Brown said. "He's always been that way. He's the same kid now, just older. He's like his father, who didn't talk much. And my father didn't talk much. It was their demeanor, and it's his now."

For some high projections about Snell's pro career, you could turn to his agent, former UCLA star Mitchell Butler:

"When you look at what he brings to the table, what he's capable of doing, it's scary," Butler said recently in the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "He could be the Paul George of this year's draft if he gets with the right team, the right coach, who really digs into his heart and presses him to bring out all of his talent."

In the second round, the Bulls chose 6-10 Florida forward Erik Murphy. He's a classic "stretch four," a forward-sized player who likes to shoot 3-pointers. Murphy shot 45.3 percent from 3-point range last season while averaging 12.2 points per game.

This draft figured to be unpredictable at the top and it certainly lived up to its billing. Few analysts outside of bulls.com writer Sam Smith had Cleveland going with UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the top pick.

Indiana's guard Victor Oladipo went second to Orlando, Georgetown forward Otto Porter went third to Washington and Charlotte followed by selecting Indiana center Cody Zeller at No. 4.

So while most people thought the Cavaliers would choose between centers Alex Len and Nerlens Noel with the top pick, but both players dropped. The 7-1 Len, a Ukraine native who played at Maryland, went to Phoenix at No. 5.

Noel, recovering from ACL surgery, went No. 6 to New Orleans, but was then traded to Philadelphia. The Sixers shockingly gave up all-star guard Jrue Holiday and got the Pelican's first-rounder next year, protected in the top three.

Michigan point guard Trey Burke dropped to Minnesota at No. 9, then was traded to Utah for the 14th and 21st picks, which is an early contender for shrewd move of the night.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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