“With the 20th pick, the Chicago Bulls select…Tony Snell.”
Those were some surprising words spoken at last year’s NBA draft. Snell, a guard/forward out of New Mexico, was not on a lot of Bulls fans’ radar last summer, but they are now happy he is in Chicago.
As a rookie, Snell still has to polish his game, but he has made a case for being a rotation player, and he has gotten coach Tom Thibodeau’s attention.
‘‘I’ve loved his attitude from the day he got here,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘The game’s important to him. He studies — every day he comes in. No matter what happened the day before, he has the same approach… He’s a great worker. I think he’s learning, and as time goes on, he’ll get better and better.’’
Snell is working on Thibodeau’s good side, and that is always a good thing to do.
Although Snell was known in New Mexico for having a good shot, his perimeter defense at the pro level is what has caught the attention of his coach and fans. He relishes tough assignments and usually does not bite for fakes that most rookies do.
Depending on what the roster looks like after Thursday’s trade deadline, Snell could find himself with major minutes. If he is up to the job, that could move Jimmy Butler to the small forward position to be the next Luol Deng.
Snell is just another example of the draft success the Bulls have had over the past few years.
Sure, in 2008 picking Derrick Rose was a no-brainer, but the Bulls have shown they can make excellent picks late in drafts.
In 2009, the Bulls selected Taj Gibson with the no. 26 pick. Jimmy Butler was the no. 30 pick in 2011, and in the same draft they traded for the rights to arguably the best player in Europe, Nikola Mirotic.
This is why the rebuild in Chicago will be a successful one. Not only will they get key players through the draft, they will also find gems in the draft.