Why “The Nightcrawler” Tony Snell Makes Luol Deng Expendable


(Originally published in 2013)
If you’re wondering why I nicknamed Tony Snell “The Nightcrawler” then I suggest you click here. My first thought upon seeing him was, “He reminds me of The Nightcrawler from X-Men!”

This article is not an attempt at attention-seeking hyperbole.  This is an honest opinion.  Tony Snell and his play will make Luol Deng expendable by season’s end.  There are number of factors why:

1) His salary: Tony Snell will make around $1.5 million (give or take a few thousand) until 2016-2017 when his team option comes up for $2 million.  Would you rather have 21 year-old Tony Snell or near 30 year-old Luol Deng and his bloated salary?  It’s a no-brainer with this collective bargaining agreement and the answer is Tony Snell.

2) His skillset is perfect for today’s NBA: 3 and D guys.  He has a great three point shot that’s just dying to get some consistency, he plays adequate defense, he’s about 6’7 and has ridiculously long arms, and his basketball IQ is top notch.  Basically, he’s a younger Luol Deng with a little less scoring ability (for now) and a better three point shot.

3) #TheEmergence of Jimmy Butler should be critical in this:  IF Jimmy Butler improves the way everyone thinks he’s going to improve, he naturally makes Luol Deng less valuable.  But if Snell is right there with him?  Snell can play the shooting guard position and Jimmy can slide to his natural position at small forward.  Imagine a unit consisting of Derrick Rose 2.0 (efficient, strong, smart, fast), Tony Snell and his three-point shooting, Jimmy Butler and his defense/three-point shooting, Boozer/Gibson, and Noah.  And if the Bulls can afford Mirotic (who has brought up some comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki) and continue to improve the bench?  That’s a fairly young team with reasonable contracts (a HUGE plus in this CBA) built for the future.

4) He’s impressing already:  Not just in preseason games, where his shot has looked shaky, but his decision making is top notch.  But he’s impressing coaches.  At media day, they even touted that he’s put on 100 lbs of muscle or something like that since Summer League! (It was actually 18. Just being facetious)  The more he improves behind the scenes, the more confidence Thibs will have in him.  I know Thibs has a tendency not to play rookies very much, but I believe we’re going to see a lot of regular season action from Tony Snell.  He’s a very mature young man who looks ready to at least play in NBA games.  Could be huge for his development and detrimental to Luol Deng’s future with the team.

So, there you have it. I’m not trying to bash Luol Deng or proclaim that Tony Snell is headed for the Hall of Fame, but I’m simply stating the obvious: His contract, his age, and his skillset will probably allow the Bulls to move on from Luol Deng and utilize that money from his potential contract extension elsewhere, such as improving upon the bench or acquiring a serviceable backup center that can give Noah some rest or prying Mirotic from Real Madrid.  Either way, I believe the future is bright for “The Nightcrawler” Tony Snell and the Chicago Bulls.