The significance of Anthony Tolliver’s effectiveness

For what seemed like ages in the late 2000’s, the Sacramento Kings were plagued with the “young team” label that carried more of a negative connotation than positive. That label was synonymous with the roster’s lack of playoff experience, low basketball I.Q., and inability to win games.

With the growth of DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings began to break away from that label, resulting in the signing of a plethora of veteran talent in the 2016 offseason. Among those veterans signed, the 31-year-old stretch-forward Anthony Tolliver was one of them.

With nearly 500 3-pointers made in his career at the end of the 2015-2016 season, Tolliver’s ability to space the floor, along with his veteran leadership, were appealing to the Kings, who signed him to a two year, $16 million dollar deal in early July.

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Tolliver’s willingness to accept and stick firm to his role, and who he is as a player, is quite possibly his best attribute. His numbers are not jaw dropping, and never really have been throughout his career, but he was and is a quality role player that most successful teams want.

His fit seemed as perfect as it could be when singing the dotted line on his two-year deal. He was a veteran big that could help establish a positive culture in the locker room, a potential role model for some of the young bigs like Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere, and an effective perimeter shooter that could open up space in the paint for Cousins.

Despite appearing to be an ideal forward for the Sacramento Kings’ style of play, Tolliver struggled in the early stages of the season. He shot only 20 percent from beyond the arc in his first five games of the season, and suddenly found himself on the bench without a single minute for 12 of the next 15 games.

While his off-the-court positives are invaluable, the stat column only reflected his struggles. Tolliver appeared uncomfortable for much of his time on the court, unsure where to be on the offensive end, with little faith or consistency in his jump shot.

“Tonight, finally got a chance to see a couple (3-pointers) go in and it felt good,” Tolliver said after an exciting victory over the Portland Trail Blazers a week ago.

However, over the last seven games, his outside shooting numbers have jumped to nearly 50 percent. He is 14 of 30 from long range, moving well off the ball, putting himself in perfect positions to receive the kick out from an often double or triple-teamed Cousins, and he is knocking them down. The Kings’ five wins in those last seven games isn’t just coincidence.

Tolliver can be perfectly classified as a thoroughbred role-player. And it suits him, because it’s exactly what the Kings need to be effective. He has shown that over these last few weeks and, not surprisingly, wins have followed.

His improvements, along with the growing confidence of Ty Lawson, have taken a massive load off of Cousins, who has continued to put up monstrous numbers while playing more freely.

With a player as dominant as Cousins on the roster, it’s safe to assume that most teams, like Portland did on Wednesday night, will focus their attention on the All-Star, forcing other players to beat them. Hence, the reason why Tolliver’s effectiveness is so important.

It doesn’t take five 3-pointers to make Tolliver relevant. A couple threes, solid rebounding, and spacing the floor are the key ingredients to both his and the team’s success.

As head coach Dave Joerger continues to develop his rotations and find the perfect fit for each lineup, Tolliver’s continued success will more than earn him a consistent spot off the bench, with a start here or there mixed in.

It’s a beautiful sight to see Tolliver’s style of play, which has killed the Kings defensively for what seems like centuries. If it continues to work in their favor, it will generate more tallies in the win column, which will get this franchise closer to breaking the playoff drought.

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Matt George
Producer & Board Op: CBS Sports 1140 KHTK's The Drive 6am - 9am. Host of the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast.

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