On February 22, 2020, the Memphis Grizzlies lost Jaren Jackson Jr. to injury. Two days later, they lost Brandon Clarke to injury. Suddenly, the deepest position on the team, talent wise, was very thin.
Fast forward to March 2, 2020. Anthony Tolliver signs the longest 10-day contract in NBA history, one that last until June 23 when he signed a contract for the remainder of the season. Obviously, this piece of history and future trivia question was due to COVID-19, but at the time of the signing Tolliver was filling a position of need immediate need on Beale Street.
It was quite odd when the transaction window opened for bubble teams and the Grizzlies decided to keep Tolliver on roster with a contract. Clarke and Jaren were both healthy and ready for Orlando, and the need for perimeter scoring was prime. Players like Jamal Crawford and Tyler Johnson could have been had for cheap, yet Memphis opted for a third power forward, likely to be the 5th big in the rotation.
With the departures of Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill, the constant cry of Grizzlies fans was the lack of veteran leadership. Well, Tolliver could provide that. It is believed that Memphis stuck with the 11-year journeyman in part due to his knowledge of the system, something a new signee would not have heading into what was basically the playoffs for Memphis.
Little did anyone know that Tolliver would be starting in do or die games down the stretch because of Jaren Jackson Jr. injury and BC’s uncomfortableness in the starting lineup. The signing turned out to be perfect - perhaps by chance, but perfect all the same.
At his best
If you know anything about Anthony Tolliver the player, you know he is on the floor to be a stretch four. He wasted no time, firing away in his first appearance for Memphis on the day he was signed.
As Brevin Knight says in the video, “It’s what he does.”
With little to no knowledge of the system, Tolliver just went out there, used his basketball IQ and years of experience and just hooped. While never scoring double-digits again, Tolliver ended his tenure in Memphis as a +51 through his 13 games.
At his worst
It is kind of hard to nitpick a guy that only played 13 games. At his best, he could never replace Jaren Jackson Jr., which is his worst quality to no fault of his own. He is not a rim protector - only 1 block in 13 games - and he naturally was not going to be the volume shooter JJJ was. His total shots in a game would end up equaling Jaren’s three point attempts per game.
It was a good run while it lasted, but Anthony Tolliver is most likely on his way to either retirement or to another franchise looking for a shooter off the bench and contending for a championship. Memphis could opt to bring him back on a vet minimum, but they would be better off using that roster space for a flyer on a young player or eat a salary in exchange for a draft asset.