Last week, the Grizzlies made a somewhat surprising move waiving Jordan Bell and signing Anthony Tolliver to a 10-day contract. The move made sense after some thought though, as the Grizzlies lacked shooting depth at the power forward position due to injuries to Brandon Clarke and Jaren Jackson Jr. Since then, Tolliver has appeared in 4 games for the Grizzlies averaging 5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and shooting nearly 43% from beyond the arc in just under 20 minutes per game.
An 11-year NBA vet, Tolliver knows his role as a player, and it has allowed him to shine in Memphis (albeit in a small sample size) after getting limited playing time in Portland and Sacramento earlier this season. With his 10-day contract set to expire later this week, the Grizzlies will have a decision to make regarding Tolliver’s future with the team. They can either let him go, sign him to one more 10-day or sign him for the rest of the season.
While Tolliver has been great so far, the Grizzlies will also prioritize playing Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke over Tolliver once both come back from injuries. That gives the Grizzlies front office a tough question, should Tolliver stay or should he go?
The case to keep him
Tolliver is great depth for the Grizzlies to have should JJJ or Clarke get injured again, or if their injuries linger into the final weeks of the season. A career 37.3% shooter from beyond the arc, Tolliver can help the Grizzlies bench unit space the floor to open up driving lanes for guys like Josh Jackson and Tyus Jones.
At 34 years old, Tolliver is the most experienced player on the Grizzlies roster. With 11 years of NBA run, Tolliver can be a key player off the court for the Grizzlies. One of the biggest arguments for keeping Jae Crowder and/or Solomon Hill was to have the veteran leadership they brought with them. Though Tolliver has only appeared in 13 career playoff games, he still brings valuable leadership to the Grizzlies locker room to prepare them for the stretch run.
The case to let him go
This season has never been about the playoffs for the Grizzlies. Obviously the surprising success has been great, but the front office has continuously made moves for the future, not for the present.
Keeping Tolliver would be a neutral move by the Grizzlies front office, as it doesn’t do anything to harm them long-term, but it also doesn’t do anything to really help them either. Tolliver likely doesn’t see the floor much once Clarke and JJJ return from their injuries, giving the Grizzlies an opportunity to look towards the future with Tolliver's roster spot.
The Grizzlies were in a similar position when Jarrod Uthoff’s 10-day contract expired, and they elected to bring in Jontay Porter on a deal that has a team option for next season. This move allows the Grizzlies to bring a once highly-touted prospect into the building to take a look at.
The Grizzlies could choose to value a player similar to Porter who could be a long-term piece of the organization, or at the very least find a low-risk, high-reward move like the Porter signing.
At the end of the day, whatever the Grizzlies do with Tolliver likely won’t have any long-term implications on the team. However, the decision the front office makes can give you an inside look at what they’re prioritizing. If they choose to keep Tolliver, it will likely signal that the front office is going to make a push at retaining the 8-seed and making the playoffs this season. If they choose to not sign Tolliver to another deal, it’ll likely signal they value the future more than holding onto their lead in the standings.
Personally, I believe the Grizzlies should keep Tolliver as solid depth behind JJJ and Clarke and as an emergency three-point shooter. Though the Grizzlies have recovered after an 0-5 start to the post All-Star break stretch, having a solid veteran like Tolliver should help such a young team in the locker room for any future losing streaks or bad slumps. Although the front office should be looking towards the future, holding on to Tolliver could also send a message to the team that they believe in the success they are having this season and are doing their part to help the team make the playoffs.
The Grizzlies already have their low-risk, high-reward piece in Porter. They should keep Tolliver and make a run at the playoffs.
Should the Grizzlies keep Anthony Tolliver past his 10-day?
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