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Grizzlies Free Agency Profiles: Anthony Tolliver

Thank you for being there for us. But...yeah...

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Milwaukee Bucks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Anthony Tolliver - Forward, Creighton University

35 years old, 6’8” 240 pounds, 7’2” wing span


NBA EXPERIENCE: 11 years with 10 teams (San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers (twice), Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves (twice), Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets (Bobcats), Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzlies

CAREER STATS: 719 games played (19.6 minutes per game average), 6.2 points per game, 3.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 41.5% field goal percentage, 37.3% three point shooting, 77.1% free throw shooting, 53.6 effective field goal percentage, 11.0 PER, .088 win shares per 48 minutes.


Anthony Tolliver has made quite the NBA career for himself.

You can’t be much more of a journeyman than Tolliver, who has literally played for a third of the NBA (and in two cases done so twice) over an 11 year long run in the Association. That’s impressive, considering he is not an elite athlete and was an unheralded NBA prospect coming out of Creighton. He never started more than 29 games in a season, has only played more than 20 minutes in a season twice, and hadn’t done that since the 2017-2018 campaign with Detroit.

Then, 2019-2020 happened. And all of a sudden, whether it was with Portland or eventually with the Memphis Grizzlies, Tolliver was thrust in to starting roles and bigger minutes that most guys on ten-day contracts expect to take on.

But like any good veteran, and as you’d expect from a leader in the NBPA, he was prepared to be what his team needed him to be. He was a floor spacer. He was a stable presence both on the floor and in the locker room. He showed that, while he perhaps shouldn’t be a starter anymore, he still could be a meaningful contributor for an NBA team that needs leadership and three point shooting.

Will he make those contributions in Memphis?

A number that may make Tolliver

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  1. 42.8%. Including the play-in (which for some reason the NBA does not), Anthony Tolliver shot 18 for 42 from three in his time with the Memphis Grizzlies. Of course the small sample size theater of Tolliver’s experience in Memphis and the Bubble carries with it a major grain of salt. But if that were to be able to stand across a larger chunk of a schedule, it would make Anthony one of the very best shooters on the Grizzlies percentage wise. Memphis needs all the spacing it can get, and Tolliver clearly valued the Grizzlies since he chose to sign with them heading in to the Bubble. Perhaps there’s a chance at a return after all...

A number that may mean Memphis moves on from Tolliver

  1. 3%. Tolliver nabbed 10% of the defensive rebounds available to him while being a member of the Grizzlies according to Cleaning the Glass. That puts him in the bottom 3% of every big that played at least 100 minutes this past season...which of course is less than ideal. There’s a growing sentiment that rebounding is perhaps more of a team stat than individual one, and as long as boards are gathered it doesn’t really matter who does it. That’s fine for Memphis, who has one of the lowest rebounding bigs in the NBA in Jaren Jackson Jr. (in the better, but not by much, 8% range of NBA big men with defensive rebounding percentage) as part of their core moving forward. But if Tolliver is to again be counted on if injuries arise, his lack of rebounding prowess could create issues and more work for guards and wings who need to be offensive forces.

Pulse of Grizz Nation

There are two prevailing ways of thought with regard to retaining Tolliver. Grizzlies fans are very fond of most of their players, and the folks that voted to bring Anthony back remember the guy that was there for the team in the Bubble when they needed it most. That certainly holds value - it helps that clearly Ja Morant valued Tolliver’s veteran influence, and the fact that Tolliver shot so well from three adds basketball evidence to the desire to bring back a well-liked player.

On the flip side? Tolliver will turn 36 next season, and with a team that is potentially going to miss the playoffs despite perhaps being better with another year of this core bringing back Tolliver may not be the best use of a roster spot. Maybe Memphis acquires a second 2nd round pick in this draft. Perhaps they have an undrafted player on their radar they want to sign. It’s possible there is even another free agent that will be on the market they think will fit their window better than Tolliver.

This poll says Memphis should bring Tolliver back. But it may not make long-term sense.

The final offer?

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game One Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Tolliver did exactly what the Grizzlies needed him to do. That effort should be rewarded with a 12th NBA season. Should it happen in Memphis? It’s a wait and see...the NBA Draft should play out first before any return is agreed to. If an Xavier Tillman or another big that some have as a first round talent falls to the 2nd round? The right long-term play may be bring in that player for development purposes. Then there may be free agency options that are willing to come to Memphis for the veteran minimum. Those avenues should be explored as well, and if a contending team wants to bring him in, he should go chase a ring.

Anthony Tolliver on a minimum deal should be the Plan C for the Grizzlies, and Memphis should be Tolliver’s Plan B. And that’s OK - it doesn’t make what Tolliver did for this team, especially in the Bubble, any less important.

Or meaningful.

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