Meet Anthony Tolliver, Again

The Pistons have brought Anthony Tolliver back to Detroit on a 1 year, 3.29 million dollar contract, which should end the Pistons moves (of significance) for the offseason, barring any major trades.

The Pistons have brought Anthony Tolliver back to Detroit on a 1 year, 3.29 million dollar contract, which should end the Pistons moves (of significance) for the offseason, barring any major trades. He is returning to the Pistons after spending last year with the Kings.

Who is Anthony Tolliver?

Anthony Tolliver is a 6'8, 240 pound, 32-year-old power forward. Tolliver attended Kickapoo High School in Springfield Missouri and attended Creighton for college. In his senior season, he was named First Team All MVC, and was a key player on a team that won 22 games that year and topped 1,000 points in his career there.

After college, Tolliver went undrafted he initially spent time in the D-League and then a brief stint in Europe before coming to the NBA. He has been all over the NBA largely riding the bench and has only spent (full) consecutive seasons with a team once in his career, having spent two years with the Timberwolves. To give a good indicator of how much of a journeyman Tolliver has been, he has already played more games in a Pistons uniform than any other.

The Good

Anthony Tolliver is a great veteran role player in almost every sense of the word. He is, by literally every account, one of the nicest and best dudes in the entire league, and a great veteran leader in the locker room. On the court, he knows his skills and limitations, plays within himself, and plays hard.

Offensively Tolliver is a relentless 3 point chucker from the 4 spot, and he is pretty good at it as well. He is a career 36.2% from deep and shot exactly 36% in both his seasons with the Pistons, on a high volume of 7.2(!!) per 36 minutes. Last season with the Kings he shot a career best 39.1% from deep in what was really a career year for him, I don't know how much stock I would put into him repeating that mark, but I would be shocked if he didn't shoot at least 36% again. He is the sort of shooter who will occasionally have games where the defense forgets about him and he will hit 5 or 6 3s and single handily win the game.

His combination of accuracy, a quick release, and no hesitation to fire when given an opening can put a huge strain on opposing defenses, and is especially paramount to ensuring the Pistons' spread pick and roll attack is functioning at a high level. Tolliver is a shooter, through and through.

Although Tolly doesn't do a lot other than shoot on offense, he did show a bit of growth in his game last year, as he put up career highs for shots in the paint and at the hoop largely as a result of him having some confidence to put it on the floor to attack a closeout. I don't know for sure if that will translate into this season very much, but he isn't totally helpless when going to the paint in the right situations.

Defensively, Tolly struggles a bit, particularly against big bruisers as he is a bit undersized, and he doesn't really have the quicks to stay with more mobile types with much effectiveness. That doesn't mean he can't do some good though, he plays very hard and is a decent athlete. He will occasionally sky from out of nowhere for huge blocks and rebounds, and he has enough quicks that when combined with his high motor he can do a decently respectable job of switching and keeping up with quicker guys, even if he shouldn't be counted on to do it for very long.

However, we all know what Tolly's best defensive ability is: drawing charges. Tolly draws charges like almost no one else and has since his college days.

The Bad

One worry is that Tolly is 32, and his quickness and hops are the only things that allow him to just barely hold on as a viable defender. It would not take much of a dropoff in his quickness to go from "He can stick with most 4s and can even switch onto smaller guys for a short stretch in emergency" to "He can't switch at all and struggles to stay in front of most 4s" and that would be a big problem. His shooting will always be valuable, but if he is a total zero on defense it would be hard to play him much.

As far as his actual on the floor problems, they are mostly just the fact that he is a limited player, it isn't really a huge problem because both him and the Pistons know what his limitations are and he won't be asked to go beyond them, but the fact remains that he isn't going to be creating any offense for himself or others, (beyond creating space by keeping his defenders close by) he isn't a very intuitive passer and will often catch and hold the ball up top waiting for a ball handler to come get it, and even with his improvements last year he remains largely a non-threat to go to the hoop. He is a role player, and is paid as such so it is quite ok, but don't expect him to do anything beyond what his role is, because he really can't.

How will he fit with the Pistons?

Largely as he did before, he will be a stretch 4, tasked with standing beyond the 3 point line while the offense runs, whether that is Reggie and Andre in the pick and roll, or Ish leading a bench mob fast break, and waiting for an opening to fire away while playing hard enough on defense to not get killed. It will be interesting to see where he ends up fitting into the rotation, if at all.

The biggest question moving forward?

Where will the minutes come for Tolly, if at all? When he previously was with the Pistons, Tolly was clearly the backup 4 (or even starting for some stretches) but now with Jon Leuer and Henry Ellenson, it is not so clear. Based on Tolliver's press conference, both him and SVG seem to think that Tolly will get some playing time, but SVG has said nothing to suggest that he is wavering on Jon Leuer as a heavy minutes player. So unless they move Tobias to SF full time, which SVG has also said is not really the plan, then Tolly could be riding the pine.

The verdict

This is really an excellent signing in the end. They didn't have any real space to use, and they got a veteran guy who can also play, and his shooting is particularly valuable at the 4 spot for a team like the Pistons. He is paid very little and it is a 1-year contract so there really isn't a downside for the Pistons.

Also, much like Reggie Bullock, it is a good sign that a guy choose to return to the Pistons. It isn't clear what the market was for Tolly other places and he obviously isn't anything like a high profile free agent, but it is a sign that the Pistons are doing something right as an organization when guys willingly return to the team.


What do you think? Should Tolly get in the rotation? Can he remain a passable defender?

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