Anthony Tolliver Returns to Minnesota as a New Man

Anthony Tolliver is back in Minnesota for the second time in his career. This time, he returns as a far superior player.

With Andrew Wiggins making $148 million over the next five years, Karl-Anthony Towns reportedly on the verge of signing a maximum extension and Jimmy Butler eligible for his own extension, it’s no surprise that the Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t shell out for headline free agents.

Instead, head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau focused on locking down his core and acquiring cheap role players. The first player to arrive in Minnesota: 3-point sniper and veteran presence Anthony Tolliver. He may not be LeBron James or Paul George, but the signing will be a move Timberwolves fans come to love.

Tolliver, who played for the Wolves between 2010 and 2012, inked a one-year, $5.75 million contract after a Thibs phone call sealed the deal. The former Piston averaged 8.9 points and 3.1 rebounds last year, which projects to be an upgrade over outgoing forward Nemanja Bjelica, who made the move to back to Europe this summer.

When he left Minneapolis back in 2012, the 6-foot-8 forward was merely a 30.1 percent 3-point shooter. Now, after nailing 43.6 percent of his 5 attempts per game in 2017-18, he returns as one of the more deadly splashers in the league. Tolliver has streamlined his game into one that lives out beyond the arc. This transformation is best demonstrated by the fact he has attempted 74.9 percent of his field goals from long-range over the past three seasons - talk about analytics!

Tolliver’s ability to tickle the twine from deep should bode well for the Wolves, who finished dead last in 3-point attempts and makes in the 2017-18 campaign. This might have been partly due to coach Thibs’ prehistoric, isolation-heavy offense, but the signing of a reliable gunner is surely a step in the right direction.

We all know what really gets Thibodeau going though, and it has nothing to do with the offensive end of the court. Defense is the key in Minnesota, and Anthony Tolliver brings an under-the-radar toughness in that area as well.

When speaking with Zone Coverage’s Dane Moore, Thibs already expressed his intrigue with Tolliver’s defense.

“The last 15-20 games last year, he played a lot of minutes and he played very, very well. One of the things we wanted to address was the defense — particularly of the second unit — and we think that’s where he’ll be a great fit.” he said.

According to Synergy Sports Tech, his new coach was spot on about Tolliver’s savvy play. His opponents failed to shoot over 40 percent from the field in spot up, pick-and-roll, isolation and post-up situations last season, which accounted for 84.8 percent of his overall defensive plays. Tolliver might just be a police officer … because has been locking dudes up regularly. (Okay, that was bad, but you get my point.)

While he was a solid defender in his first go around with the Wolves, Tolliver has grown into an even greater defensive force in the past six seasons. In that time, the forward has become a locker room leader and veteran voice on the court - traits that are essential for a team with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Tyus Jones still growing into their potential.

After stints in Atlanta, Charlotte, Phoenix, Sacramento and Detroit (twice), Anthony Tolliver has finally returned to Minnesota. He may not be the biggest name in the free agent pool, but Tolliver’s improved skill set will help the budding young Wolves return to the playoffs once again.

After finally breaking their 14-year drought last season, the Wolves are making sneaky-good moves again this summer.

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