The Tony Snell for Michael Carter-Williams swap was about one thing – chemistry. At a surface level, Carter-Williams’ time in Milwaukee was productive, averaging over 12 points and 5 assists; however,he struggled to establish himself in the offense or develop any rapport with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Jabari Parker.
Nearly 60% of Carter-Williams’ shots were within nine feet of the rim. That was troublesome for two reasons. The first is that it was out of necessity; MCW is a terrible three-point shooter, averaging 25% for his career from beyond the arc. This allowed defenses to play off him and dare him to shoot from the perimeter, and he was unable to punish them.
The second is that the Bucks’ two cornerstones, Giannis and Jabari, operated in the same spaces as Carter-Williams, but more efficiently, so Carter-Williams’ skill set was redundant. This meant that if the Bucks ever tried playing all three together, their offense became clunky and predictable.
Since MCW could not take advantage of the opportunities that Giannis and Jabari created by defenses collapsing on them, it was clear that he was going to be relegated to the bench this season, most likely as a sixth man.
Khris Middleton’s injury spelled an abrupt end to Carter-Williams’ time in Milwaukee. The Bucks desperately needed an athletic wing player, and the most dispensable player on the roster was Carter-Williams.
Tony Snell is an interesting addition. The Bucks saved almost $1 million with the deal, and addressed a hole following the Middleton injury. However, Snell is unproven, and while there are many comparisons to the team’s trade for Middleton a few years ago, the move is still a gamble.
In three seasons, Snell has only surpassed 20 minutes per game once, and started less than a third of the games he has played. Snell is coming off a disappointing year with his field goal percentage plummeting from 43% to 37%. What’s interesting is that Snell shot well from beyond the arc at 36%, a huge need for the Bucks. The major drop-off for Snell was from inside the arc, where his field goal percentage nosedived from 49% to 38%.
Luckily for the Bucks, Giannis and Jabari will be doing most of the heavy lifting for the team scoring wise and in Antetokounmpo’s case playmaking as well, with the only real offensive burden for Snell being to knock down open threes, something he should excel at.
An interesting note is Snell’s affinity to shoot the three from the wings, but not from the corners.
Note the green hexagons at the wings. On such shots, Snell shoots 5% better than league average, which could bode very well for the Bucks. A wrinkle that the Bucks could use is having Snell screen for the primary ball handler and pop out to the wing for an open three.
What’s worrisome is that Snell is awful from the corners. When Giannis and Jabari drive to the rim, one of the easiest kick-outs is to the corner. Snell will have to demonstrate an ability to hit those shots at least at an average level.
If the Bucks decide to go small and utilize Snell at the 4, those corner threes become even more important. Those are the shots that Warriors generated for Harrison Barnes the past two seasons in their death lineup. Barnes’ inability to hit those shots was a central reason, as to why the Warriors squandered a 3-1 lead in the Finals to the Cavaliers. If Snell can convert those kinds of opportunities, he will be setting himself up for a massive payday this offseason.
Snell’s only competition for the starting shooting guard position is Rashad Vaughn, who is coming off a disastrous rookie year. If Snell is able to hit the three, and play plus defense, he is going to get paid.
As it stands, the Bucks have Snell under contract for this season and can extend a qualifying offer to him this coming offseason and match any offers he receives.
With teams around the league investing in versatile wings, who can shoot the three and play defense, Snell could be a great pickup for the Bucks, if he pans out. However, if he underperforms the Bucks could be off the hook with him as soon as after the season, making the trade a low risk move.
Ultimately, this trade probably would not have happened if not for the Middleton injury, but the team was able to address a need, and acquire a player with just enough upside to be a legitimate role player moving forward, given his fit with the rest of the roster, something Carter-Williams, just could not have done.