Milwaukee Bucks: Tony Snell Provides Stability In Khris Middleton’s Absence

Arriving in a trade just before the season started, Tony Snell has performed admirably in covering Khris Middleton‘s minutes in the starting five.

Since Khris Middleton went down with his hamstring tear, the Milwaukee Bucks have looked towards Tony Snell to fill in for one of the best wings in the game.

Losing Middleton was a huge blow, causing most Bucks fans to temper their expectations for the season. Now with a record of 18-17, expectations are shifting to dreams of playoff success, though. Those hopes fall behind the play of the young duo of, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, but Snell has done some key things in Khris’ absence.

Offensively, Snell does a lot of things that help Giannis and Jabari impact the game. First of all, he’s not going out of his way to look for his shot.

The 25-year-old has been a low usage player throughout his career, averaging 12.7 percent this season and just under 14 percent for his three seasons in the league. To give you a comparison of a similar non-ball dominant, defensive wing, Tony Allen has a usage rate of 18.2 percent this year.

Snell limits himself to wide open driving lanes, open kick out threes, and rotates the ball to Giannis and Jabari. The less possessions he uses, the greater the opportunity and freedom for Giannis and Jabari to influence the game.

Another area where Snell really helps the team on offense is spacing the floor. He’s never been a prolific three-point threat, shooting at 34.9 percent for his career, but he’s good enough to make you guard him.

The Bucks were a team in desperate need of spacing last season, so it should come as no surprise how critical it was to surround Giannis and Jabari with capable shooters. One major result from that has been opening up the lane, and now Giannis leads the league in points in the paint per game.

Despite the former New Mexico Lobo’s low usage rating and average three-point shooting, Snell doesn’t hesitate to put up an open three off a kick-out. If his man leaves to challenge in the lane, he won’t be able to make it back in time to contest. Picking your moments well when you’re closer to the periphery of the game can make you a very important role player.

Defensively, Snell does so much good for the team. Even though he only averages 0.4 steals per game, he still manages to make an impact on that side of the floor. The best quality he brings on the defensive end is his ability to stay in front of his man. He’s not jumping passing lanes for a break away steal, so he’s just always in the position he needs to be.

It’s very hard to drive past Snell, as he’s not chasing ball fakes, hip shimmies, or head fakes. He’s waiting for you to actually make your move before he reacts. I know it’s common to point to his lack of steals and blocks and say, “he’s not making a difference”, but his influence is extending beyond the box score as Giannis explained after the team’s win over the Thunder.

Snell has the defensive capabilities to guard opposing point guards too. The Bucks decided to give him the duty of slowing down Russell Westbrook, who ended up having one of his lower assist nights of the season. If he can step into the Klay Thompson role of guarding the opponent’s best perimeter player, he becomes quite the weapon for the coaching staff.

Snell has also proven to be a solid help defender and may also be Milwaukee’s best player at helping off his man to challenge an open three caused by rotation. He brings a steadiness to the team that the stats may not show.

Snell doesn’t possess the same level of talent as Khris Middleton, but he’s been a great plug in piece this season. In truth, it’d be hard to imagine the team being in contention for a playoff spot without him.

The versatile wing could also be a huge addition to the bench, should Khris make it back this season. So far, Tony Snell’s best quality has been his ability to accept his role within the team. That could be just what he needs to stay around beyond this year too.

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