The morning after the Heat eliminated the Bulls from the playoffs, a bleary-eyed Tom Thibodeau squinted into the sun that shined outside the Berto Center and made his desires known.
“We need shooting,” Thibodeau said.
Anyone who watched the Heat-Spurs NBA Finals would agree. From Danny Green’s record-setting 3-point performance for the Spurs to Ray Allen’s clutch 3-pointer and Shane Battier’s Game 7 heroics beyond the arc for the Heat, shooting is needed for every team, particularly one that employs Derrick Rose.
Tony Snell, welcome to Chicago.
The Bulls used the 20th pick in Thursday’s NBA draft on the New Mexico wing, who connected on 38 percent of his 434 3-point attempts in three seasons for Steve Alford’s Lobos. Snell, who has a wingspan near 7 feet, 9-inch hand length and very low 4.9 percent body fat, has the tools and athleticism possibly to become a strong perimeter defender able to guard multiple positions.
But make no mistake: His role, particularly with the expected free-agent departures of Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson, will be to put the ball in the basket from range.
“I can see myself be a good catch-and-shoot [player] or come off curls and shoot,” Snell said. “I can shoot really well. I don’t compare myself to anybody. I just play my game.”
Later in the evening, the Bulls added another sharpshooter in Florida power forward Erik Murphy. The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder, taken with the 49th pick, averaged 12.2 points and 5.5 rebounds last year, while leading the SEC by hitting 45 percent of his 3-pointers.
Snell averaged 9.2 points while missing just one of 105 games in his three seasons at New Mexico. So he’s durable. He’s also long, though not considered a strong rebounder, ball-handler or decision-maker yet. There are questions about his aggressiveness.
His most productive season came last year, when he averaged 12.5 points and shot 39 percent from 3-point range. If he can adapt quickly, Snell will be called on to back up both Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng on the wings, and knock down open looks from Rose’s penetration.
“It’s crazy knowing I’m going to the Bulls,” Snell said. “I watched [Michael] Jordan play my whole life. I watched Derrick Rose, and he’s a really great player. I can’t wait to play with him.”
Snell’s first team workout after the NBA predraft camp in Chicago ended up being with the Bulls at the Berto Center. The Riverside, Calif., native said he had a good feeling from that moment that the Bulls liked him.
At 6-foot-7 and 198 pounds, Snell said he hopes to get stronger. He has an organization that will demand that, and a solid role model to follow: He teamed with Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard in high school. Leonard had his own coming-out party in this year’s Finals.
“Both of us are hard-working,” Snell said. “I know how hard he works and what it takes to be a great player.”
As the 20th pick, Snell is scheduled to make roughly $1.4 million on his rookie-scale contract. He will be the ninth player under contract for a team also expected to bring back Nazr Mohammed as its 10th roster spot, and already is above the projected luxury tax line.
Alford moved on from New Mexico to UCLA after the Lobos’ first-round exit, but Snell credited his former coach with improving his game.
“I learned a lot from Coach Alford,” Snell said. “When I first got in, my footwork was terrible. I kept chopping my steps. He really helped me with my footwork and emphasized the defensive side. He taught me how to be mentally tougher.”
That’s a trait the Bulls and Thibodeau also demand. In fact, Snell revealed plenty shortly after the Bulls drafted him. General manager Gar Forman and Thibodeau called Snell to congratulate him on realizing a lifelong dream.
“Then they said be ready for the workouts,” Snell said.
Born: Nov. 10, 1991
College: New Mexico
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 198
Position: Shooting guard
Last year: 12.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game, .422 FG, .390 3PT, .843 FT
FYI: Shot 60 percent from 3-point range in earning Mountain West tournament MVP honors, after being named third-team all-conference during the regular season.
Born: Oct. 26, 1990
Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 240
Position: Power forward
Last year: 12.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists per game, .516 FG, .453 3PT, .784 FT
FYI: Led SEC in 3-point percentage last season as first-team all-conference pick by coaches and media, then helped Gators reach Elite 8.