The Charlotte Bobcats are currently 27-30 seeded at #6 in the Eastern Conference with quality wins over the Warriors, Clippers,Mavericks and Grizzlies. Nobody expected them to have this many wins or be in position for a playoff spot this late in the year but one little known player off the bench has been a key component in their success and his name is Anthony Tolliver. The alum of Creighton is having a career year and is contributing some the best perimeter shooting to the franchise from the Queen City.
If you aren’t an avid fan of the NBA then it’s very unlikely that you know the name Anthony Tolliver or are familiar with his game but let me educate you on the history of this mans career. He has played 5 years in the NBA for the Spurs, Warriors, Hawks, Timberwolves and Blazers. He also spent some time in Turkey as well as a few D-League stinst in places like Iowa and Idaho. So as you can see Mr. Tolliver is well-traveled and probably has little to no trouble racking up frequent flyer miles.
His D-League league numbers clearly show that he is an NBA-caliber player with career averages of 14.9 points, 8.1 rebound and a 3-point shooting percentage of 37%. His breakout stint in the D-League came with the Idaho Stampede where he averaged 21.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and had a 3-point percentage of 34% in 14 games. He wasn’t an all-world athlete but he sure as heck wasn’t a scrub.
The Charlotte Bobcats are his 6th NBA team in 5 years and for the majority of Tolliver’s career he has been a guy that teams use to fill a roster spot. The Bobcats signed him prior to the season for a 1-year deal and the league minimum. He was brought in to increase the depth of big men for the Bobcats and what was a roster fill in turned out to be one of the biggest steals of NBA free agency this season.
Anthony Tolliver has been one of the deadliest 3-point shooters in the NBA this year as he is shooting the basketball at a 44% clip from beyond the arc. That percentage currently ranks him as the 5th best 3-point shooter in the entire NBA behind only Anthony Morrow,Kendall Marshall, Kyle Korver and Marco Belinelli. Besides those 4 Anthony Tolliver has a higher 3-point percentage then every player in the entire NBA.
His current averages on the season is 6 points,2.6 rebounds, .7 assists with a 10.79 player efficiency rating which also makes him one of the more productive bench players in the league. He’s shot the ball well, rebounded here and there and just overall has been a great addition to the team. In terms of “bang for your buck” you’d be hard pressed to find players better than Tolliver right now in the NBA.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sne1NH3qnRs]
I got a chance to speak with Anthony Tolliver at Bobcats media day prior to this season and he gave me the vibe as someone who was grateful to be in the league. Tolliver spoke of how coaches have used him these last few years saying “These last few years coaches have viewed my versatility as a good thing but I have learned to play small forward and do it well but here they view me as a power forward and I’m looking forward to getting back to a position where I have had the most success in this league”.
He was very right about that as I have seen Tolliver provide some much-needed floor spacing for the Cats throughout this season. Whenever he steps on the floor a lot of cutting lanes open up because of the respect that you have to give his perimeter shooting. As a result of that you see guys like Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist get easier rim runs towards the basket just off of the presence of Anthony Tolliver.
The most telling stat of Tolliver’s positive impact is the fact that when he is on the floor the Bobcats are +2.8 points better per 100 possessions. That means whenever he is on the floor the team is better by nearly 3 points. Three points is valuable in this league and unless you have been watching him all year you won’t really understand what he means to the Bobcats.
The Springfield, Missouri native is shooting the ball better than he ever has in his entire basketball career with D-League and college included. His 44% from beyond the stripe tops his previous career high of 40% with the T-Wolves during 2010-2011. It’s also better than his 43% he shot in his junior year at Creighton and his 40% with the Austin Toros and Iowa Energy. It’s a career year for Tolliver and he’s showing signs of progression as the season moves along.
This month he is knocking down 3-pointers at a 48.9% clip as he makes 2.4 out of the 5 attempts he takes beyond the arc. In January he shot 42.6% and made 1.6 out the 3.8 shots he took from 3-point land. December was a smaller sample size as he didn’t play in 4 games but he shot 48.6% hitting 1.7 out of the 3.5 shots he took from downtown. November was his worst month and he still shot 36%. So you can see that Tolliver has gotten better as he has settled in with the team and he has quietly become one of the better shooters in the league.
His shooting has been more than vital to the success of this team, listen very closely to this next stat. In games where Anthony Tolliver hits two 3-pointers or more the Charlotte Bobcats have a record of 15-6. That means when he has it going the Bobcats are 9 games over 500. There is a correlation between his shooting and the Bobcats quality wins over the Mavericks, 2 versus the Warriors, 2 vs Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies. These are Charlotte’s best wins in terms of quality opponents and Tolliver has hit at least two 3-pointers in all of the wins I just mentioned.
The proof is in the pudding and Anthony Tolliver’s shooting happens to be the ingredient for success.