Bulls shoot for improvement with picks

Bulls pick Tony Snell is particularly effective in catch and shoot situations. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Catch and shoot.

That's what the Chicago Bulls are looking for from their first-round draft pick Tony Snell, a 6-foot-7, 198-pound junior swingman from the University of New Mexico.

That's what they're looking for out of their second-round pick, Erik Murphy, a 6-9 1/2 forward from the University of Florida.

If they can catch and make, even better.

"In today's NBA, you can never have enough shooting," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Thursday night.

After finishing 20th in 3-point percentage (35.3 percent) last season, Thibodeau admitted they needed to improve in this category.

Snell shot 39 percent last season and was ranked in the 69th percentile in catch and shoot situations, according to Synergy Sports Technology. He believes he can fill that role.

"Oh yeah, I could see myself as a catch and shooter, come off curls and shooting," he said in a phone conversation with local media Thursday night. "I really feel good about shooting the ball."

Murphy, a "stretch four," led the SEC by shooting 45.3 percent on 3-pointers. He was a first-team All-SEC selection.

The Bulls seemed confident in Murphy's ability but no second-round pick is ever a lock to make a roster. As for Snell's playing time, unlike his contract, that won't be guaranteed either.

"His first year will be learning the league, but he'll have opportunities," Thibodeau said.

"For any rookie, the first part of it is coming in and learning how to be a pro, learning the pro game, learning our system, learning how to work. You're just trying to get them to concentrate on steady improvement."

Snell shot 39 percent on 3-pointers last year and just 42.2 percent from the field. He isn't afraid to shoot. The slender Snell took 434 3-pointers in his three years with the Lobos, hitting 38 percent, a solid career percentage.

While the Bulls are high on Snell's defensive potential, given his 6-11 wingspan, he's here to shoot from the perimeter.

"There are certain things we look for in a player," Thibodeau said. "He's got good length. He's an athletic wing. He can shoot the ball. Obviously we prioritized that. We think he can grow. We think there's a big upside to him."

Bulls general manager Gar Forman said they had scouted Snell all season and watched him play in the Mountain West tournament, where he won MVP honors. Forman said he liked Snell's handles and that he had experience in pick-and-roll situations.

"In studying Tony, we think he has a chance to contribute this year," Forman said. "But he'll have to earn that on the floor like all our players do. But long-term, we think there's great upside to Tony."

Snell would be wise to pay close attention to Jimmy Butler. Now entering his third season, Butler was a rarely-used role player as a rookie who blossomed last year with more playing time.

Last season, Snell averaged 12.5 points a game during the regular season and was the Most Valuable Player of the Mountain West tournament. But he didn't do much in the Lobos' first-round upset loss to Harvard, hitting just 1-of-6 3s and scoring nine points.

Snell is confident he can develop into a perimeter defender in Thibodeau's system.

"Oh yeah definitely, I feel like I'm really good enough to defend anybody," he said. "I feel really good about that."

Snell said his first workout after the pre-draft camp was with the Bulls and he's excited to play with Derrick Rose.

Like every player drafted by the Bulls, Snell paid homage to Michael Jordan. Born in 1991, Snell said he watched Jordan "his whole life."

Snell went to high school in California with Spurs budding star Kawhi Leonard and said he wants to emulate Leonard's early success.

"He did a fantastic job," Snell said. "I feel like I can do the same things."