Anthony Tolliver is an underutilized weapon for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Let’s talk about why he should be used more in the offense.
This past season, I’ve watched many Minnesota Timberwolves games from the comfort of my own home, where the shame of disappointing losses can be spent quietly sulking and hopeful wins can be shared through texts and phone calls.
Many times, my roommate, a casual basketball fan, will come in and out watching for a few minutes here and there. Whenever he’s around and Anthony Tolliver gets set to shoot an open three, there’s a predicted miss then sudden surprise as the ball swishes in the net.
There’s nothing about Tolliver’s appearance that says “3-point assassin”. He looks like someone who should be in the paint, fighting for putbacks and rebounds but that couldn’t be further from his game. He currently holds the second highest 3-point percentage on the Wolves and has the seventh-highest percentage in the league among players over 250 pounds.
Tolliver’s release is incredibly clean and quick, sometimes looking more like a reflex when getting the ball off a pass then a conscious shot, and the numbers seem to back this up; over 83 percent of his field goals take this year have come from beyond the arc.
His quick shot makes him an often overlooked threat when open like in February’s game in Milwaukee. Tolliver scored 17 points, sinking 5-of-7 3-point attempts. While his block on Giannis was his de facto highlight of the game, his offensive achievements came while being primarily guarded by the Greek Freak and Brook Lopez.
The night before, he scored 16 points, scoring 4-of-5 on threes. While his productivity throughout February was less than consistent, going three-straight games scoreless. All-in-all he finished with a stellar month, knocking down 50 percent of his 3-point attempts.
His offensive productivity seems to shine best when he’s able to stay off the ball and shoot outside the perimeter, but his ability to block inside the paint often lands him playing defense against opposing big men.
On a team with few weapons who can splash from a distance, Tolliver becomes an important player. It’s absurd how often defenses will leave him wide-open on the perimeter. He’s the teams second-most prominent 3-point shooter, behind Towns, and defenders will pull off him to cover a ball-handling Tyus? Maybe he has B.O.? Maybe he’s the worlds most unlikely trash talker and they just want to get away? Either way, his method is working.
With Towns’ recent scoring surge, Tolliver’s offensive production has dipped. But for the Wolves to gain success they need a balance at the offensive end of the court and utilize Tolliver’s abilities. He’s proven in the past that he can be a dominant scorer when the stars align. Last year, he had two 25-point games while with the Pistons, one of which when he was subbing for an injured Blake Griffin.
Tolliver has even shown that he create plays when guarded, driving and tossing layups over defenders. During games when Tolliver is proving to be in prime form, the offense needs to recognize that and shift to a game plan that uses him properly.
It’s unclear whether he’ll be re-signed next year. If history is any indication, he likely won’t, as Tolliver has played for nine teams in his career.
Even though he’s 33 years old, his niche as a big outside shooter could keep him in the league for years to come. Especially as such a player becomes a hotter commodity.