The Sacramento Kings signed veteran forward Anthony Tolliver to a somewhat-head-scratching two-year deal at $8 million per year this summer. It’s worth noting that only $2 million of that $8 million is guaranteed next season, giving the Kings an out if Tolliver doesn’t live up to that price tag this season, but the real reason I would categorize Tolliver’s contract as ‘head-scratching’ is because the Kings had a lot of holes to fill this offseason, and if there is one thing they didn’t need, it was another combo forward.
Despite my reservations about his salary, and how much the Kings actually needed this player considering Quincy Acy basically signed a one-year league minimum deal with the Dallas Mavericks this summer, Tolliver is an excellent locker room presence, and pretty effective on the court as well.
The Acy situation is a bummer. Tolliver is probably a better player thanks to his offensive versatility, but is he $8 million dollars of cap space better? I find that hard to argue. For what they are, slightly undersized hustle machines that will defend and hit the glass like a maniac, I’d take the guy who is 5 years younger and $7 million cheaper, but that’s just me.
I do like Tolliver, though, and because of the sizeable contract the Kings gave him this summer, I do wonder if he might have a bigger role than any of us are projecting this season. I understand the importance of locker room leadership, and Tolliver won the NBPA Players Choice Award for best teammate on the Pistons last season (Acy won for Sacramento, if you had any further doubt as to why I will keep comparing the two), I have little doubt that he will be great for the Kings off the court, but on the court? What is he going to do on the court?
Where Tolliver and Acy differ is with Tolliver’s comfortability shooting from deep. They can both shoot from three, but Acy does it as more of a last-resort option, where that is actually Tolliver’s go-to offensive move. It’s an important distinction to make. They aren’t the exact same player despite the fact that they will give you similar production.
If I had to answer ‘why did the Kings sign Anthony Tolliver’ I would guess that they are more enamored with his willingness to shoot from deep than anything else. This was probably the Ryan Anderson contingency plan.
Shoutout to NBASavant.com for the shot charts.
On September 23rd, it’s hard to find the near 20 minutes per game he averaged for the Pistons over the last 1.5 years on the Kings this season. It does kind of force you to speculate that the Kings may have been projecting a Kosta Koufos trade when they brought Tolliver in, and it just never materialized. Tolliver does make a nice offensive fit next to both DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein when one of them is on the bench, but with Koufos still here, and Skal Labissiere, Matt Barnes, Omri Casspi, and Rudy Gay knocking on that fourth big door, I’m extremely curious to see what kind of role Tolliver carves out.
If you take Tolliver’s name out of the equation, because for whatever reasons it is kind of synonymous with ‘veterans minimum role player’, and just look at his on-court skill set, well, that is a fairly exciting player.
A role-playing, three-point shooting, defensive-minded, glass-hitting, locker room leading eight-year NBA veteran! You can do some interesting things with that.
If Willie Cauley-Stein stumbles out of the gate, something I’ve been probably too concerned about since his uninspiring summer league, and if Kosta Koufos and DeMarcus Cousins continue to play poorly together, a problem that was very real last season under George Karl, I can see a scenario playing out where Tolliver is the Kings’ opening night power forward.
I can also see a scenario where he’s the Kings’ 5th big and completely out of the rotation.
Some of the best research you can do on an NBA player in 2016 is to go find out what the people who actually watched that player for 82 games last season thought. We all have our own opinions on these guys, but we’re looking at it from afar. I know what Tolliver is, but did I watch him extensively last season? Of course not. Our friends at Detroit Bad Boys did, among other Pistons blogs and writers I searched for Tolliver blurbs on did, and the sentiment was pretty similar throughout; they love Tolliver, and they would take him back in a heartbeat on some kind of near-league minimum deal.
Why did the Kings pay Anthony Tolliver $8 million this offseason? What kind of role did they envision for Anthony Tolliver when they brought him in? Is he going to have a bigger role than any of us would have predicted? I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out next month.