The Bulls and Bucks swapped former 1st round picks last week, with Chicago sending fourth-year small forward Tony Snell to Milwaukee in exchange for fourth-year point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Despite the risk of accidentally helping a division rival, the teams likely felt comfortable swapping the underwhelming bench players in what can be considered a classic trade of players that perhaps need a change of scenery.
Michael Carter-Williams (aka MCW) was selected 11th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2013 draft, and surprised many pundits by winning the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award on the strength of a well-rounded offensive game. Carter-Williams led all rookies in scoring (16.7 PPG), rebounding (6.3 RPG), and assists (6.2 APG) that year, and his length and athleticism at the point guard position made him a capable defender as well.
However, MCW hasn’t quite lived up to those gaudy first year numbers, and in 2015 he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a three-team deal. Though he did see a bit less playing time in Milwaukee, his numbers continued to fall each season, with his 3-point shooting percentage being a particular sore spot. Since joining the Bucks, Carter-Williams has hit just 19 of 83 three point attempts, “good” for a pathetic 22.9% from behind the arc. Given the Bucks’ position as one of the ten worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA last season, it’s easy to see why they were willing to part with one of their worst outside shooters.
It’s also easy to see why the Bulls wanted a player like MCW, given that they went after two other guards who can’t shoot threes this summer in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. I kid, of course—the Bulls had nothing to lose in giving up Tony Snell, who was never able to earn significant playing time under either Tom Thibodeau or Fred Hoiberg, and for good reason. This is the guy who once spent 8 minutes on an NBA basketball court and managed to avoid recording a single trackable statistic.
Still, Snell is worth taking a flier on for the Milwaukee Bucks, who will welcome his career 35% three-point shooting percentage. Unfortunately, shooting is the only thing Snell has proven to be good at, and he’s far from prolific, never averaging more than 6.0 points per game in the NBA. Though blessed with prototypical NBA-wing length and athleticism at 6’7” with a 36” max vertical, Snell hasn’t put on the necessary weight and muscle needed to compete in the post with other NBA players. And his sub-par offensive output isn’t simply due to lack of opportunity; Snell seems to be the classic shooter who doesn’t know how to score.
Again, the Bucks are so desperate for three point shooting that they’ll happily stick Snell in the corner and let Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker kick it out to him on drive-and-kick plays, but expectations should be tempered among Bucks fans eager to replace Khris Middleton’s scoring while he recovers from a torn hamstring this season. This is a low-risk, medium-reward for both teams, though I’d have to say the Bulls got the better player. Carter-Williams should be the primary ball-handler off the bench for Chicago, and knows how to contribute in a variety of ways. Snell on the other hand will only stay on the court if his shot is falling. Regardless, both players now have a new opportunity to take their careers to the next level, and it will be interesting to see how they respond to the trade and play with their new teammates.