With all due respect to Raymond, everyone sincerely loves Anthony Tolliver. The 10-year-pro has already donned nine different NBA jerseys but no matter what happens this off-season, his time in Detroit will always be shared in a positive light around the DBB campfire.
Wait, “no matter what happens this off-season” - what do you mean?
Sadly, Tolliver inked a one-year deal during the summer of 2017 which means he’s en route to free agency in the summer of 2018. The money this upcoming free agency period won’t be spent with the combined aggression and looseness we’ve experienced in recent off-seasons but Tolliver is almost certain to be offered more than the $3.3 million he made in 2017-18.
My first thought? A LeBron-esque billboard aimed at keeping Tolliver:
I’m thinking around 14 mile and I-75, Oakland Mall-ish area. I’ve got five on it, who’s with me?
Telling you “everyone loves Tolliver” is the easy part, explaining the lovefest is a much more difficult endeavor. For everyone outside of the 313 or simply not a fan of the Pistons (they make people who do not root for the Pistons?), Tolliver is the epitome of what high school, college and professional basketball coaches are talking about when they throw around basketball cliches.
We need a guy who can give us good minutes off the bench. Tolliver gives great minutes off the bench.
We can’t take a possession off. Well then, AT is your man.
You must give 110%. Look no further.
He knows what it takes to win. Check.
They have unbelievable chemistry. It wouldn’t surprise me if Tolliver majored in Chemistry while at Creighton University.
This team lacks guys with intangibles. Tolliver is basically one big intangible.
Those comments were taken out of context. Not every cliche works.
In short, he’s a good dude.
What makes the Tolliver file so interesting is that, even at the age of 32, his best days might be still ahead of him.
33-year-old LeBron James and 32-year-old Anthony Tolliver both seem to be peaking. Not sure which peak is more shocking....— Michael Snyder (@M_James_Snyder) April 7, 2018
As a wrong-side-of-30 hoopster myself, this makes me happy.
Tolliver played in 79 mostly-off-the-bench games in 2017-18 with 17 injury-related spot starts and logged an average of 22 minutes per game. His almost 44 three-point percentage (on over 4.5 attempts per game) helped Detroit, the best he could, with spacing the floor.
Each team in the NBA owns zero designed or designated plays for their version of Anthony Tolliver. Instead, guys like Tolliver create their offense by sticking to the provided script with only a perfectly timed splash of personal innovation.
Tolliver thrived in catch-and-shoot scenarios. Six of his nearly nine points per game average derived directly from this exact situation.
In Detroit’s half-court offense, Tolliver was often tasked with being a boring screen-setter or designated hander-offer which morphed into popping for three:
The roll and replace:
And of course, the catch-and-shoot includes the traditional spot-up:
What shouldn’t be overlooked is Tolliver’s proper diagnoses of an evolving play while keeping proper spacing closely in mind. This is the first of Tolliver’s two elite skills.
Below, watch as Tolliver continues to float along the three-point line. Doing so prevents crowding the ball-handler and makes life difficult for his defender. Allowing one guy to check two offensive players is a big basketball spacing no-no. While AT was on the floor, those were few and bar between:
Continuing to move without the ball means his distracted-by-the-ball-handler defender has a longer recovery range and a worse angle. In the NBA, that created-distance is the difference from being wide open to not getting a shot off. It matters.
Finally, his catch-and-shoot prowess was on full display during the primary or secondary fast break. Read the play, find an opening. Few do it better:
New to Tolliver’s tricks this year was the perfect counter-punch to all those catch-and-shoot looks - put the ball on the floor:
Not so long ago, that didn’t exist.
Remember the bad recovery angles he creates for defenders by moving?
Dewayne Dedmon had no chance.
Works on the run, too:
Crowd him at your own risk.
With all that taken into account, sometimes you just gotta put some dudes on posters:
And get yours:
On defense, Tolliver was, at times, the lone adult on the floor. The six-foot-eight forward lacks gaudy box score stats but more than made up for it in helps per game (HPG), a convenient stat I just made up. Tolliver knew exactly when to lend a helping hand and whether or not his teammates know it (they do), he saved a lot of buckets.
Instead of explaining, lets have those fancy moving pictures do the talking.
Weak-side rotation at its finest:
Tolliver rotates, Johnson sinks and Jackson has first pass. Pistons ball.
Allows Drummond to recover then busts his ass to contest the three without flying by. Tolliver was a league leader in per-36 HPG.
Hedge, recover, help on the roll, contest the three:
All in a matter, of what, four seconds?
Those rotations won’t go viral but they save buckets.
Getting guys to “buy in” on the defensive end means, in part, that players can’t be singularly focused on their man. Just because your guy didn’t score doesn’t mean you did a good job. Defense is, and always will be, a team concept. That’s not lost on Tolliver.
A majority of AT’s drawn charges came from helping a beat teammate:
As did many of his contests and blocks:
Can’t do it all, though:
Once Luke Kennard pre-rotates, Tolliver becomes the low-man and responsible for the dunker’s spot. A smart cut is met with a contest from our hero but no one helps the helper. Guys, he’s only human.
Tolliver was Detroit’s best team-defender but you should also take note of his isolation defense.
LMA shot 6-for-15 thanks in large part to feistiness of Tolliver.
Kristaps Porzingis scored 29 points but needed 28 shots to do so, again, thanks to Tolliver:
Pistons won, 104-101.
Tolliver’s second elite skill takes place on the defensive end in transition. If the fate of the world depended on one man stopping a fast-break all by himself, Tolliver better get the nod:
In a nutshell, you want Anthony Tolliver in your life.
A Tolliver-led team would win every pick-up game.
A Tolliver-led road trip would be the most rewarding experience of your life. He’s played in nine NBA cities, went to college in Nebraska, high school in Missouri, G-League in Iowa - he knows where the cool stuff is.
Anthony Tolliver would be the most trustworthy mechanic in America.
With Anthony Tolliver as a roommate, your dishes would always get done and the garbage would always be curbside. And believe me, it wasn’t you who did it.
If Tolliver was a bartender, the only thing stronger than his drinks would be the life-changing advice he’d freely dispense.
His contacts list is probably a who’s who of amusing people including:
Summer of 2018: