Bulls pick Tony Snell in first round of NBA draft; Erik Murphy in second
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com June 26, 2013 9:16PM
Are you happy with the Bulls drafting Tony Snell?
Updated: July 30, 2013 7:57AM
They’ve tried elbows, tackles and shoves. But as the Bulls have learned over three straight seasons, it’s not easy to bring down Goliath — at least not from close range.
In the NBA draft Thursday night, they added two outside shooters with first-round pick Tony Snell from New Mexico (20th overall) and second-round selection Erik Murphy from Florida (49th).
Whether that will close the distance between the Bulls and the three-time Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat remains to be seen, but the Bulls’ deficiency from three-point range had been staring them in the face all season, and the NBA Finals between the Heat and the San Antonio Spurs was a clear reminder of the importance of outside shooting.
The Bulls finished the regular season 21st in the NBA in long-distance shooting, hitting just over 35 percent. The top five teams were the Golden State Warriors, the Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Spurs and the New York Knicks — all playoff teams.
‘‘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.’’
His game has been on the Bulls’ radar for quite some time.
‘‘Tony Snell is a guy that we really had our eye on all year long,’’ general manager Gar Forman said. ‘‘We saw him early in the process. We scouted him a number of times. He’s a guy we targeted back in October, November.
‘‘What we liked about him was, first of all, he can shoot the basketball, but he also has terrific tools. He’s got great length. He’s 6-foot-7 ½ and he has a 7-foot wingspan. He’s a very good athlete, and we think he’s a skilled basketball player with potential to get better.’’
Snell was the 2013 MVP of the Mountain West tournament and second-team All-League as a junior. A scorer who can play the two or three, he ranked 10th all-time at New Mexico with 434 career three-point attempts, making 38 percent. As a junior, he averaged 12.5 points and 2.9 assists, shooting 42.2 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 84.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Where he truly excelled was as a spot-up shooter, hitting 40 percent from the field in those situations.
And while his shooting ability overshadowed his defense, if the Bulls picked him, they surely considered his defensive prowess.
‘‘I feel like I’m good enough to defend anybody,’’ Snell said. ‘‘I feel really good about that.’’
Coach Tom Thibodeau will be the judge of that.
‘‘For any rookie, the first part of it is coming in and learning how to be a pro,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Immediately, you have a responsibility to the team, and we’ll see where it goes from there.’’
The 6-10 Murphy led the Southeastern Conference in three-point shooting (.453) last season and figures to be another big who can open up the floor.
‘‘In the second round, to get Erik Murphy, again it’s something you’ve heard Tom talk about, it’s something you’ve heard me talk about, is improving our ability to shoot the basketball,’’ Forman said.
Snell will have an opportunity to be a rotation-type player if all goes well this summer, while Murphy may have more to prove.
But there was no question they both fill a need for the Bulls.
‘‘In today’s NBA, you can never have enough shooting,’’ Thibodeau said.