Milwaukee Bucks: New coach will need to weaponize Tony Snell’s shooting

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 05: (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 05: (Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

One of the keys for the Milwaukee Bucks’ new head coach will be to find a way to better utilize Tony Snell‘s three-point shooting.

At the end of his second full season with the Milwaukee Bucks, the perception of Tony Snell seems to be in a dramatically different place than it was 12 months previously.

A difficult finish to the season and post-season struggles would explain a lot of that feeling. Snell shot 50 percent from the field and 51.6 percent from deep in a first round series against Toronto in 2017, but managed only a meager 29.2 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from deep against Boston this year.

Of course, Snell’s shiny new contract can’t be forgotten in all of this either.

More from Bucks News

As a surprisingly reliable contributor in his first season with the Bucks, Snell earned just $2.3 million, while this season saw him paid $9.8 million in the first year of a four-year, $46 million contract.

For a team as restricted in terms of cap space as the Bucks are, it was always going to be essential that Snell performed on his new deal. The question worth considering at the end of year one of that deal is whether Snell did meet the team’s expectations after all.

Players are often measured against and compared to their peers in relation to contract value, but the reality is a player’s worth isn’t as translatable as that suggests. A player’s worth is directly tied to the need a team has for their given skill-set.

In that regard, Snell was re-signed by the Bucks to be a 3-and-D wing and for the most part the numbers suggest he fulfilled those duties this season.

Snell made 40.3 percent of his shots from three-point range in 2017-18, acting as the second consecutive season in which he’s managed to stay above the 40 percent mark.

Snell’s defense may have dipped slightly below the level of his previous season, but he still acted as one of the Bucks’ most consistent and engaged defenders. In a scheme guaranteed to lead to individual lapses, Snell’s problems rarely came in that department.

For the most part, Snell had a similar year to the previous campaign, but just happened to be paid a lot more for it.

The interesting wrinkle for the Bucks is that Snell could be utilized better. Without transforming his game, there’s a clear path for Snell to become a more impactful and influential player. Paid to be something of a specialist shooter, the Bucks simply need to encourage Snell to shoot more often and create plenty of opportunities for him to do so.

In spite of playing similar minutes and maintaining an excellent percentage, Snell’s three-point attempts dipped from 4.4 per game to 3.6 per game this season.

One of many things the team’s new coach will be tasked with will be to remedy that drop-off, but beyond the playbook that will also require working on Snell’s mentality.

Snell has been known as a player prone to bouts of fragile confidence throughout his career, and that was certainly evident through role changes and spells of turning down open looks during the recently completed season.

Zach Lowe of ESPN even wrote about “The on-again, off-again marginalization of Tony Snell” as the regular season wound down. Lowe laid out the primary reason why the instant reaction of Kidd and Prunty to bench Snell was a problematic one.

"“The engaged version of Snell is a perfect starter next to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton. He defends across three positions, and he’s shooting 41 percent from deep — unclogging the lane for Antetokounmpo’s rampages. He doesn’t need the ball.That same profile carries much less value on bench units in need of more off-the-dribble juice — even with Jabari Parker healthy. Terry is ancient. Brogdon is a fine shooter and canny screen-setter for Antetokounmpo, but a lot of his skills overlap with those of Milwaukee’s big three."

Shooters capable of knocking down 40 percent from distance are incredibly valuable around the league, but become even more valuable when paired alongside a star player in need of spacing. That’s exactly the situation the Bucks find themselves in with Snell.

As the Bucks conduct their search for a new head coach, there’ll be plenty of discussion about the impact an overhaul in scheme could have on both ends of the floor. That’s certainly true, but there are also a variety of simpler ways in which the Bucks can improve under new guidance.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks Roundtable: Discussing the head coach search so far

Understanding the potential value of Snell’s shooting ranks highly among them, and finding a way to get the best out of the former New Mexico Lobo could be a game-changer for Milwaukee.