Analyzing Anthony Tolliver’s fit with the Portland Trail Blazers
The 2019-20 Portland Trail Blazers are most likely going to be a little light on forwards. After losing Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless, and Jake Layman, the only true rotation forward was Mario Hezonja (who has been covered in a previous piece).
That has changed slightly with the signing of Anthony Tolliver. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Tolliver signed a one year $2.6 million deal late Monday night. Tolliver has largely been considered a reserve in the NBA, and while he will likely have a similar role, his success in this situation might be the most important of his career.
Zach Collins and Hassan Whiteside are the projected bigs to start the year. Both are more natural centers, so the team needs a versatile four that can slide into a role alongside either player. As Tolliver is the only forward who has consistently proven himself in the NBA, he will be integral to Portland’s success.
Due to his limited roles throughout his career, Tolliver is likely not a household name to most fans. So how will his strengths help the Portland Trail Blazers next year?
Tolliver’s best quality is his shooting. While he is not considered an elite NBA shooter, Tolliver has been one of the league’s most consistent marksmen during his ten year career. Minnesota signed him last year due to his seamless fit with Karl-Anthony Towns as an inside out combination with the versatility to switch places. The hope with Portland is he can do much of the same, whether it be with Collins, Whiteside, or Jusuf Nurkic.
Tolliver should not be considered a plus passer by any means, but he knows his role and will keep the ball movement flowing within the offense.
Tolliver is a high IQ player, and uses that to his advantage on defense, as evidenced by the amount of charges he draws per year. HIs age has limited his physical capabilities, but he can still contribute positively for any team.
Arguably Tolliver’s most important contribution will be his leadership qualities. As everyone is well aware, Portland values high character players, and Tolliver is regarded as one of the league’s best people. With so many of those people leaving the team over the offseason, Tolliver fills one of those spots. Skal Labissiere’s vet in Sacramento, he will continue to develop the young portion of the Blazers’ roster.
As Tolliver has established himself in the NBA, he does a very good job of understanding his positives and negatives so as to limit himself from situations where his struggles can be highlighted. There are a couple of those situations where Portland should try to avoid putting him in.
Being 34 years old, Tolliver is clearly not in his physical prime. He will struggle guarding some of the more athletic forwards in the league, but that is to be expected. With Portland lacking in those forward defenders, it will be somewhat concerning if Tolliver is tasked with important matchups.
Additionally, Tolliver has never been a prolific scorer in his career. With a career high of 11.7 points per game in the 2009-10 season, something will have gone terribly wrong if Portland is counting on Tolliver to score the ball. Thankfully, Portland has a plethora of scoring options, so I highly doubt it would ever come to that situation.
Tolliver is a perfect fit for Portland’s scheme on both sides of the ball. As the Blazers continue to add shooters, he will definitely be able to be used in some productive role. But as essentially the third big to open the season, the only question is if he will be able to stay that way for long periods of time.