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Ho Hum: The Milwaukee Bucks and Tony Snell’s Mundane Career Year

Tony Snell is one boring dude. He doesn’t often slam home awe-inspiring dunks, knock down fancy looking jumpers or play gasping defense. Fans hardly pay him any attention on or off the court. He’s easy to miss. Have you ever seen that “selective attention” video? The one where a bunch of weirdos are passing a basketball back and fourth and a dancing bear randomly walks through the middle of the experiment and NOBODY watching the video sees him. Well, Snell is that bear except on the Bucks. Few watching the game notice him, but he has a huge impact on the outcome of games.

Snell is having a career-year in a multitude of ways, but, again, nobody notices. A lot of that has to do with the amazing success the rest of the Bucks are having. It’s easy to miss everything that’s going on when Milwaukee is competing for the best record in the NBA, has an MVP and a coach of the year candidate and has a sensation named Splash Mountain who’s sweeping the league.

Regardless, we must begin paying homage to Snell and his contributions to this Bucks team. When he signed a four-year, $46 million extension to stay in Milwaukee many analysts thought the franchise overpaid for his services. In fact, many analysts still hold that belief.

Snell is making $10.6 million this season and that’s only going to increase. He’ll see $11.4 million next year and $12.2 million (with a player option!) in 2020-21, the final year of his deal. When the Bucks acquired him from the Chicago Bulls in October of 2016 he was mostly seen as a cheaper player than the expiring contract of Michael Carter-Williams whom they shipped to the Bulls in return.

Fortunately, Snell took off in Milwaukee as much as an uninteresting player like Snell can take off. In 2016-17, his first year as a member of the Bucks, he averaged 10.5 points per 36 minutes and eclipsed the 40 percent mark from downtown for the first time in his career. He played a career-high 29.2 minutes per game that year and was a great fit with the Bucks. He earned his extension.

Fast forward two years and Snell is having a bounce back campaign after faltering with playing time and confidence last year under the Jason Kidd-Joe Prunty misadventure. He’s averaging a career-best 13.1 points per 36 minutes and a 60.5 percent true shooting percentage. His win-shares per 48 minutes (.127) have never been higher.

Even better, Snell is the only wing to have played in every game this season and has survived Mike Budenholzer’s gauntlet of a rotation. A rotation that has seen players like Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo and Sterling Brown alternate between seeing all pine or the floor at different points of the season.

Snell has survived by sticking with what got him into the NBA in the first place. He has no delusions about being a superstar, an All-Star or even a starter. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have those aspirations. Instead, he plays his role and plays it perfectly.

Snell’s usage percentage of 13.6 is the highest it’s been since he came to Milwaukee, but that still fairly low. You’ll most commonly see him in the corner or on the wing just lulling his defender to sleep. As soon as his man focuses his attention on one of the numerous weapons the Bucks have Snell will strike:

Snell, who’s shooting 55 percent from the left corner this season, begins this play there as Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova set double ball screens for Malcolm Brogdon at the top of the key. As Lopez rolls into the paint, Snell’s man unexplicably leaves him wide open in order to help and Brogdon hits him with a well-timed and decently executed skip pass for a wide-open 3. Lame but successful.

As D.J. Wilson of all people is quickly bringing the ball up the floor following the defensive rebound, the Atlanta Hawks defense gives him all the attention in the world. However, as two defenders are miscommunicating about guarding Wilson that means Snell runs right past both of them like he’s invisble and gets open for a catch-and-shoot three in an area where he shoots 48.3 percent from. Humdrum but successful.

This time Snell shows a little hustle as he tracks down the offensive rebound off of Lopez’ miss. As he corrals the ball in the corner, the Miami Heat defender literally runs away from him. This happens more than you think with Snell. He then has all the time in the world to knock down another corner three. Uneventful but successful.

Snell takes 59 percent of his shots from downtown according to Cleaning the Glass. That’s his lowest percentage since coming to Milwaukee and that all has to do with the extra room on the floor. More than ever we’re seeing Snell drive the lane and throw down the hammer in the most Tony Snell (read: Boring) way.

Even when Snell jab steps the bad Lopez into nothingness and yams on a poor help defender it comes on a watered-down level.

Regardless, Snell is a major contributor for the Bucks and will have a large impact on just how far they can go in the playoffs. Snell is someone who can play either wing position and can defend them as well. He can give Khris Middleton breaks from guarding the opposition’s best wing without too much of a drop off.

Even if you don’t know he’s out there, his teammates have a good understanding and even greater appreciation of the tools he brings to the table. Snell is a model of consistency for the Bucks and a glue guy that every legitimate championship contending team needs to have. He knows his role and will leech off the weaknesses of his opponents. Come the end of the season, Snell’s boring style of play could pay off in a very exciting way.

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