The Detroit Pistons are going to miss the living hell out of Anthony Tolliver.
Tolliver was with the Pistons for three of the last four seasons of his career, with the only exception being the 2016-2017 season when he played with the Sacramento Kings. But, after being away for a season Detroit lured him back. And boy was the decision a good one.
Tolliver began the season on the outside looking in at a rotation spot. Head coach at the time, Stan Van Gundy, turned to Jon Leuer, who he had committed $10.5 million to annually, and the young but not quite ready Henry Ellenson to manage the backup power forward duties. But anyone who had watched Anthony Tolliver a couple seasons back in Detroit knew that would not last. The Pistons quite simply were a different, better team with Tolliver on the floor.
It became known as “The Tolliver Effect.”
“The Tolliver Effect” was astonishing. A 32-year old career-long backup capitulated Detroit’s play to another level when he walked onto the court. Last season was a career year for Tolliver. After establishing himself as a member of the rotation, he averaged 8.9 points per game, the most since 2009-2010, his second season in the league, when he averaged 11.7 points per game with Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors. He shot 43.6 percent from the 3-point line while attempting 4.6 3-pointers per game. His shooting percentage from deep was tied for sixth best in the league, only behind the likes of Klay Thompson and teammate Reggie Bullock, while being tied with Kyle Korver. In layman terms, Tolliver got buckets.
On defense, in a league that is dominated by speed, strength, and length, Tolliver succeeded with none of those traits being of dominance to him. He was as lethal of a defender as he was due to his tactical style of play mixed with the tenacious amount of effort only a few players could exceed throughout the entire league.
Let’s take it back to the third game of the season last year. Kristaps Porzingis was talking Detroit. Detroit found themselves down 21 points to the New York Knicks. Insert Anthony Tolliver. Porzingis was quickly rendered ineffective on the offensive end, as Detroit stormed back. He had been stymied by none other than Tolliver, who used his physicality and hustle to make even attempting a shot for Porzingis a near nightmare. The Pistons came back, winning the game by four points.
There are so many fond memories of Tolliver’s time in Detroit, an odd occurrence for a role player. But his impact was apparent, and crucial for the Pistons, even after they missed the playoffs. Tolliver is a top of the line teammate, a well-documented characteristic after he was voted teammate of the year by his teammates in Sacramento. That same effect could be seen in Detroit with the likes of Luke Kennard, Blake Griffin, and Andre Drummond.
Tolliver was brought back to Detroit to be a presence in the locker room. But, he was not done contributing on the court.
Now his presence on and off the court is gone from the Detroit Pistons. Tolliver decided to join the Minnesota Timberwolves over the weekend. There, he will play a vital role, presumably off the bench once again, for a team that has the opportunity to make a run in the NBA Playoffs.
And for those that may question the Wolves potenital after being handled by the Houston Rockets in the playoffs last season, do not underestimate Anthony Tolliver. He’s good at everything. He’s a marksmen from deep, a versatile defender, a passionate leader, and a never stopping burst of energy. His difference will be noticed within the first minutes of next season. That is “The Tolliver Effect.”
It is unfortunate Detroit was unable to re-sign Tolliver. For those that paid close attention to the Pistons over the last four years, the impact Tolliver had will be greatly missed and assuredly irreplaceable. Detroit’s plan to step in with Tolliver out; Jon Leuer and Henry Ellenson. Seems like we’ve seen that episode before.
Anthony Tolliver will be greatly missed in Detroit. His passion, effort, and ability were a joy to watch. And I, like many others, will never forget “The Tolliver Effect.”
Thank you, Anthony Tolliver, and good luck.
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