Atlanta Hawks: The case for keeping Tony Snell in the starting lineup

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks have a really good problem to have now that they are getting their players back. Due to all the injuries they have suffered this season, the Hawks have had to try various players at the starting small forward position. Now that De’Andre Hunter has returned from injury, they still have to find their best starting five.

There is no suggestion that Tony Snell would keep Hunter out of the starting lineup. He is a key piece of the Hawks’ future and in most games, he takes the opponents’ best player defensively. Currently, it is Snell who is taking the best opposition wing, which is a job he has done for most of his career.

Snell has never averaged more than 9.0 points per game and yet he has started 291 of his 534 career games. It has been his defense and shot selection that has been coveted by teams and it is no different with the Hawks. He is leading the NBA by shooting 56.6 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Where the Atlanta Hawks would benefit from keeping Tony Snell as a starter.

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When Hunter comes back into the lineup, having Snell start alongside him means that both players have the ability to rest on the odd defensive play. This could mean that these two stoppers could be on the court for slightly longer periods.

They will also have the ability to switch without the team losing too much defensively. This is rare and will help the defensive rotations. This is crucial for the Hawks as Trae Young’s defense is improving but is never going to be elite.

Both these wings understand what a truly inspired defender they have behind them in Clint Capela. They can both shepherd their player into the best part of the court so that they can slow them down with the help of Capela.

The other main benefit is that Snell is always happy with whatever role he is given in the offense. He does not want too much of the ball, he is simply a catch-and-shoot player or he drives to the rim, using the space created through defenders collapsing on Young.

Snell is able to choose the right shots to take so does not negatively impact the box score. Take the game against the Golden State Warriors, Snell had two shots for five points. He did not miss. Despite his low production, Snell had a plus 13 impact on the box score.

This provides a strong case for Snell to stay in the starting lineup even when Hunter returns. He does the little things which don’t show up in the box score but have a huge impact on the result of the game.