In the wake of "he who people are tired of hearing mentioned", the Phoenix Suns spent $3 million of their boatload of cash this off season on Anthony Tolliver to be a stretch four in the Suns offense next season.
A year ago, Tolliver scored 6.1 points and grabbed 2.6 rebounds playing 20 minutes per game at small forward for the Charlotte Hornets (nee the Bobcats, nee the Hornets). He was a small part of the offense, focused strictly on being a shooter.
A startling 63.8 percent of Tolliver's possessions last year (222 total) came on spot-ups, where he shot 40 percent from 3-point range and scored 1.16 points per possession (ranked 33rd in Synergy). But wait, there's more! Much smaller sample size (only 35 possessions), but as the pick-and-roll/pop man, Tolliver shot 12-25 from 3-point range and scored 1.16 points per possession again (ranked 22nd). I'm not done yet, though. In transition, Tolliver shot 11-25 from 3 and 17-33 overal for 1.4 points per possession (ranked 19th).
Let's hear what Nick Denning, a big-time Hornets fans and writer for www.thelotterymafia.com, has to say about what Tolliver brought to the Bobcats last year. I did an email Q and A with Nick this week:
Dave King: Tell me about Tolliver last season. I heard he played a lot of 3 because of McBob playing the 4. He made a good percentage on the 3s but didn't do much else.
Nick Denning: He did play a lot of 3, primarily because McRoberts was asked to play with the second unit as the stretch 4. His job was almost inclusively to catch and shoot from behind the arc -- Charlotte was desperate for three point shooting, and that was how he got his chance in the first place. When he started connecting at a high percentage, Clifford opted to play him over Ben Gordon (who played a different position, but was asked to do the same thing).
Tolliver's shot chart for the Bobcats:
Three point shooting was his job, but he did often make smart plays, and at times was asked to guard some of the tougher players at the 3 (Lebron, Melo, etc), particularly when MKG was in foul trouble. He's not someone I'd rely heavily on for defensive duties, but for short periods of time is serviceable. He also almost always made the right play on both sides of the floor. Three point shooting is his game, but don't overlook his high basketball IQ.
What impression did he leave you with, in his one season there?
Loved him. He was a late addition to the team so I didn't expect much, but he became a favorite in my household. My friends and I came up with the term, "Tolliver Daggers," because he often hit shots exactly when the team needed him to. We would also mimic his hand motions after he hit a three (he would often blow on each balled fist before blowing on both hands simultaneously), so look for that. For stretches during the year he was a difference maker, hitting the big shots needed for Charlotte to pull away or keep things close.
His three point shooting percentage was off the charts from December through February, shooting a season high 48.6 percent in December, while in February shooting 46.9 percent while attempting nearly five 3-pointers a game. Unfortunately his three point shooting dipped in March to 27.1 percent, and he was benched because he wasn't offering much else. And there in laid the problem, and why Charlotte didn't bring him back. He's a specialist, but the team needed more than that from him.
What should Suns fans look forward to? A bit-player who may or may not play? Or someone who was underutilized in Charlotte?
He wasn't underutilized, in fact I'd say his role was perfect in Charlotte. I wouldn't call him a bit role player either though, if he continues to knock down 3-pointers he will earn minutes in the rotation, although it may be hard with P.J. Tucker and T.J. Warren playing the 3. If the Suns want him to fill the void left by Channing Frye he will certainly contribute from behind the arc, just don't expect much more. He is by all accounts a great locker room guy, and will accept any role. I'll root for him wherever he goes, and Phoenix seems like a good fit for him to excel.
Suns fans may hope Tolliver was underutilized in Charlotte and that he's been underutilized his whole career. But I think the reality is that Tolliver will be a great spot-up shooter on the second unit, as a kick-out option for the Slash Brothers (Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic) to go alongside Gerald Green and/or Marcus Morris. The Suns really need that threat along the three-point line, and Tolliver can provide that with aplomb.
As you can see by the shot chart above, Tolliver is great at making the corner three. Only Tucker and Dragic were great at corner threes last year, so adding Tolliver allows Green and Mook and Kieff to focus on the angles and straight-aways they prefer.