ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Experts move ex-Lobo up in their mock drafts
You’d never know it from talking to him.
But after working out in front of general managers, coaches and scouts from all 30 NBA teams last week in Chicago, former Lobo Tony Snell’s stock is rising again approaching next month’s NBA draft. It’s a far cry from the initial reaction in April to his announcement he was leaving the University of New Mexico after his junior season to turn pro.
“It’s been fun getting to go up against elite players and working out for all these teams, showing them what I can do,” Snell said Thursday. “I think I’ve been doing good. I’m just trying to show them I can be a consistent player.”
In the eyes of some NBA draft prognosticators who have moved Snell’s name up their boards in the past week, “good” seems to be an understatement.
Multiple online mock NBA drafts are predicting Snell to be selected in the first round. One sports website, TheBigLead.com, has Snell’s predicted draft position at No. 16 to the Boston Celtics. At least two others have him going No. 19 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that Tuesday learned it will get the No. 1 pick.
Players selected in the top 30 (the first round) receive guaranteed contracts. Players not selected in the first 30 picks don’t receive guaranteed money and can be cut from their respective teams.
After last week’s NBA Pre-Draft Combine, Snell was invited Monday with a handful of other shooting guards to a private workout with the Chicago Bulls. On Tuesday, he had a workout with the Milwaukee Bucks, who have the Nos. 15 and 43 picks in the June 27 draft.
“I think Tony Snell, and I’ve said this to our staff, I think he’s one of the most talented and gifted players in this draft,” said Billy McKinney, Bucks director of scouting after the workout. “(He) played at New Mexico and his performances were up and down. Most young players will have that issue. But in terms of talent, I’ve watched him since he was a freshman and … he is a guy that has been on our radar for quite some time.”
McKinney said Snell reminds him of former NBA lottery (top 14) pick Darius Miles, but “Tony shoots the ball much better than Darius.”
In Snell’s workout in Milwaukee, he was one of five shooting-guard prospects and went head-to-head with former Georgia Tech and NBA Developmental League star Glen Rice Jr. much of the time.
It is harder to get a read on how his workout in Chicago went because, as Snell’s agent Mitch Butler said, “the Bulls always tend to play it close to the vest with these things.”
But what is clear is that the name Tony Snell is no mystery to NBA scouts.
Butler said Snell likely won’t work out for another NBA team until after a June 1 pro day workout in Los Angeles. After that, “We have about 12 or 13 teams that, based on need and conversations I’ve had with what they’re looking for, we’ll be in contact with about workouts heading up to the draft.”
Snell shot lights out at the combine, hitting 74 percent of his attempts (second to only Mike Muscala, a former Bucknell center) among the more than 60 players invited to participate in drills, interviews with player personnel executives and physical measurement testing. He measured at 6 feet, 7 inches tall with a 6 foot-, 11 1/2-inch wingspan and a 36 1/2-inch vertical leap (with a running start).
UNM coach Craig Neal, who was at the pre-draft combine, was interviewed during ESPNU’s broadcast. He praised his former player and pointed out that his NBA coaching background has led him to believe Snell has all the tools to play at that level.
NBA analyst and ESPN Radio host Ryen Rusillo said, “I’d kind of be surprised if he wasn’t a first-round draft pick.”
But there are still questions about Snell’s “motor” or effort. While his camp acknowledges he appeared to disappear from games while at UNM, they point out deferring to teammates is different from playing with a lack of effort.
Butler said all the feedback he’s received from NBA executives has been very optimistic.
“What you want from my position is your guy to go out and step on a big stage, like at the combine, and seize the moment, not shrink in the moment,” Butler said. “That’s what Tony is doing right now. I’ve played in the NBA and I can tell you I honestly believe he is a player that has the skills, physical makeup and drive to be the best player taken in this draft.
‘We’ll have a conversation in a few years about this draft, and even though he may not go at the top of the draft, he’ll end up being one of if not the best players in this draft.”