The newest Sun's sharp-shooting should serve him well in Phoenix.
With the departure of Channing Frye, the Suns were in the market for a stretch four to replace him. Most fans probably had players such as Kevin Love or Ryan Anderson in mind to fill that role, but the Suns set their sights on a different target.
Tolliver isn't a big name, and he's not going to step in and make up for all the Suns are losing without Frye. What he is is another option to fill that stretch four role along with the Morris twins, as well as a great locker room guy (something the Suns value highly).
For a longer look at Tolliver's journey to the NBA, check out my profile on him for The Creightonian. For a look at what Tolliver will bring to the Suns, read on.
Anthony Tolliver has had a bit of an up and down career. After a few years of hard work (see above link for details), he finally got a chance with the Golden State Warriors in 2009-10. Tolliver took advantage of that chance, sticking with the club for the rest of the season and appearing in 44 games with 29 starts while averaging 12.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Tolliver parlayed his success into a two-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves and was a bright spot in a rough season in year one (6.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 40.9 3-point field goal percentage in 65 games) before suffering an early wrist injury that torpedoed his second season.
Tolliver spent a forgettable year (62 games, 4.1 points, 33.8 3-point percentage) in Atlanta before signing with Charlotte last season. He rediscovered his shooting touch as a Bobcat, playing in 64 games with nine starts and averaging 6.1 points in 20.3 minutes while shooting 41.3 percent from deep.
Taking a look at his 2013-14 campaign on MySynergySports makes it pretty clear why the Suns signed him.
Tolliver morphed into more of a small forward for the Hawks and Bobcats, but with the Suns he'll slide back to his natural power forward position. As the years have passed, Tolliver has focused more and more on his shooting and less on scoring in other ways, and it resulted in 1.12 points per possession this past year, good for ninth overall in the Synergy database.
A startling 63.8 percent of Tolliver's possessions last year (222 total) came on spot-ups, where he shot 40 percent from 3-point range and scored 1.16 points per possession (ranked 33rd in Synergy). But wait, there's more! Much smaller sample size (only 35 possessions), but as the pick-and-roll/pop man, Tolliver shot 12-25 from 3-point range and scored 1.16 points per possession again (ranked 22nd). I'm not done yet, though. In transition, Tolliver shot 11-25 from 3 and 17-33 overal for 1.4 points per possession (ranked 19th).
All of this is to say Tolliver can shoot. And he can shoot while spotting up, picking and popping or running to the arc in transition - exactly how the Suns are going to use him as a stretch four.
Defensively, Tolliver is a bit limited athletically by NBA standards but has strong fundamentals and gives maximum effort. He isn't afraid of taking on tough assignments. He works hard to contest shots (opponents shot 32.9 percent from 3 spotting up, 1-11 in isolation and 3-10 in the pick-and-pop against Tolliver's defense). He's not much of a rim-protector and can be scored over in the post (opponents shot 15-29 against him last year), but he sacrifices his body (even taking charges in a guest appearance in Omaha's local summer league) and isolation scorers only scored 0.7 points per possession against him (ranked 57th).
Tolliver was pretty darn effective in his role for the Bobcats last year. On the Suns, he'll be competing with the Morris twins for playing time.
Markieff Morris is the most versatile of the three. He's by far the biggest post threat, and probably the best post player onn the team right now. 31.7 percent of Keef's possessions came in the post last year, and he scored 0.94 points per possession (39th best in the NBA) while shooting 46.1 percent. Keef is a sub-par spot-up shooter (17-57 from 3-point range), but he is pretty effective as a screener, both popping (7-15 from 3) and rolling (56.5 percent overall) for a 1.19 points per possession mark (ranked 15th overall). With the point guards' ability to collapse defenses, the pick-and-pop is something we might see more of from Keef as a starter. Finally, Keef was very effective in transition: 63.6 percent from the field and 8-21 from 3 for a 50th-ranked 1.27 points per possession average.
Neither of the Morris twins are particularly effective in isolation. They're not awful, but you don't want to call that play too often. Keef was a bit more effective at 0.77 points per possession compared to 0.71 for Mook.
Mook also only got the ball in 25 pick-and-rolls and shot just 3-11 as a popper, which casts doubts as to his ability as a stretch four. He's not a great shooter on the break either, hitting just 31.8 percent of his transition 3-pointers.
Where his true value lies is as a spot-up shooter. Mook shot a blistering 44.5 percent on almost 150 3-point attempts as a spot-up shooter, and he scored 1.12 points per possession (ranked 54th). His numbers as a cutter, an offensive rebounder and coming off screens are terrific as well, but those are all much smaller sample sizes.
In a strange yet not unexpected twist of fate, both Markieff and Marcus ended the season with an identical 0.97 total points per possession average. We're all familiar with the defensive struggles by both twins.
Each of these guys brings something unique to the position, but as long as they duplicate or even build off of what they did last year, the Suns have some good options.
The other possibility is that Tolliver was a depth signing in preparation to move some other guys in a trade, but that's a discussion for another post. For now, let's just welcome Tolliver to the Valley of the Sun.
All smiles on draft night for Tyler Ennis who now might be in a tough situation with the way the roster is coming together...
It was two years ago when the Phoenix Suns, manned by Lance Blanks & Co., went into damage control after the departure of Steve Nash to replenish the point guard position. They reacted well by drafting Kendall Marshall with the 13th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, who was seen at the time as a potential heir to the throne.
Then, exactly seven days later, they signed Goran Dragic to a contract.
For a team that was presumed to have a massive rebuild and overhaul happen, they loaded up at the point guard position rather abruptly. Dragic came back home, in a sense, and Marshall was to be groomed. Then there was Sebastian Telfair, who had just closed the books on his most efficient and complete season of his NBA career with the Suns. All three would give the team depth and quality in different ways as the team was slowly building itself back into contention.
Marshall was beat out by Telfair for the back-up minutes while he was on the roster (traded to Toronto midseason) and Marshall was not able to find a rhythm with the team in any way, shape, or form. He just didn't fit in.
Time in the Developmental League did nothing for Marshall. Starting here and there did nothing for Marshall.
Overall Marshall's tenure in Phoenix lasted 48 games played and ended with exactly the same amount of points (143) as assists. He was traded to the Washington Wizards by new general manager Ryan McDonough, subsequently released, and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers where he put up strong numbers in 45 starts for a team that won just 27 games total.
While Dragic and Telfair are both dynamic players that play the point guard position, neither are well known for their leadership skills. Dragic leads by example, toughness, and giving it his all on the court. Telfair leads through emotion, both good and bad, wearing it on his sleeve play after play.
Those two were ill-prepared to be babysitters for a rookie that was coming on board with his expectations and needing guidance.
Telfair said out of the gates that he was going into training camp in 2012 to win a starting job. He wore his emotions on his sleeve, fought, and won the back-up spot on the depth chart behind Dragic. Marshall went off to the D-League to start the season and he was left with Lindsey Hunter and Blanks as his leaders. When he came up to the roster not much changed.
In the locker room Marshall was disheveled, disconnected, and needed a change of scenery to get his confidence back. The situation was not conducive to his development here in Phoenix and his story is yet to be determined on whether he will be a productive NBA player long term. Two years is not enough time to determine whether a player is a "bust" or a success and situation, one of the most important elements in a young player's success, played a major part in the early struggles for Marshall here. Some of that was self-inflicted and some was caused by the situation he was thrust into.
Confidence is a fickle thing and while we do not know if Tyler Ennis, the team's first round pick this year, will be anything like Marshall in terms of attitude, it cannot pad his ego that he has three point guards ahead of him on the depth chart coming into this season.
Ennis is not the same player as Marshall by any means. From what we saw at Syracuse, he is by all accounts a more advanced leader and communicator and plays his game more with poise than flare.
Again, situation is one of if not the most important element of a rookie's transition to the NBA. Ennis' situation has a lot of parallels to what Marshall walked into two years ago. While McDonough has gained some equity with his competency in nearly every situation he has encountered as general manager, he might have made the same mistake as his predecessor in this situation.
Both Marshall and Ennis are pace-oriented point guards that are never going to win any athletic Hunger Games in this or any other league.
Both Marshall and Ennis are coming onto a roster with established point guards, none of which are considered vocal leaders that take young players under their wings.
Both Marshall and Ennis were drafted with one expectation and then a week (or so) later had that changed with talented acquisitions by the team.
What Ennis has that Marshall did not is a D-League team that is run exclusively by the Suns. He has a Suns coach, general manager, staff, and roster to work with. He has the Suns playbook to work with that allows him to be more prepared when called up to the main roster. That is huge for his development and something that Marshall did not have while here.
He also has a competent general manager and leadership group that will keep a watchful eye on his progression while in Bakersfield if he finds a permanent residency there this season.
Adding Isaiah Thomas is never a bad thing for a team, even for the Suns who have Dragic and Eric Bledsoe on the roster already. He can be a dynamic third point guard and 6th Man who wins games for you with his ability to score the ball and make plays for others. The one negative that Thomas brings to the roster is the potential stunt in Ennis's development this year going forward.
Ennis went from battling Ish Smith for rotation minutes to likely manning the Bakersfield Jam and waving a towel at the end of the bench for the Phoenix Suns.
Leadership from McDonough down to the point guard trio on the roster is going to have to keep an eye on Ennis to avoid having a repeat of the Marshall situation. He is a bright young kid, but so was Marshall, making this more than a passing issue with the roster. Ennis was drafted as an investment for the future of the team. His development is crucial to the future of the team, whether as a future rotation player contributing to wins or as an asset that brings them a roster upgrade.
Situation is conducive to success and confidence is a fickle thing to play fast and loose with. Ennis is not expected to be the leader of this team, but if he does not have direction and a leader, the Suns are doing a disservice for a young player they are responsible for. Again.
The Phoenix Suns beat the Philadelphia 76ers in their third game of the Vegas Summer League. The Summer Suns finish the "regular season" with two wins and close loss. They face Minnesota on Wednesday at 1pm.
Sorry guys. I'm pressed for time and really have nothing thoughtful to say about this game and certainly can't improve on Kellan's observations.
I'm just going to get out of the way and share these post-game quotes for people who matter far more than me to this team.
Longabardi on Ennis
"I feel very comfortable having the ball in his hands."
"He has that special ability people just don't have."
On Ennis' role
"If you're playing well, you're going to play and you're going to play in the end when it matters. He's just like everybody else competing for a spots and whoever shines is going to play."
On T.J. Warren
"The thing that they (76ers) did is they really pressured and when that happens he'd just attack and it worked in our favor."
"I'm sure he's put in countless number of hours working on his craft. He's got it down. That midrange. He's got a good instinct for the ball. Rebounds. He does really well in transition. We get the rebound and we can get out, and Miles (Plumlee) was great."
"He's good on the baseline, no question. I think his three-ball will come. He's just got to practice it and this is great for him."
"(Defensively) That's going to be an adjustment. But once we have practice times and more practices in a row without a game, I mean we really only had six practices, so it's tough. And once he gets a feel for these situations it will help him. But he's going all the work. We're watching film with him individually."
"That's what makes you a pro. You have to be able to play both ends of the floor."
On Archie Goodwin:
"Good. He's playing his game. He's being really aggressive driving the ball to the basket. He looks more comfortable. Tonight we got into a couple of bad situations where we got close to the sideline we tried to throw the ball across the court. You can't do that.
Do you worry about him hitting the floor so much?
"That's the way he is. I see where you're coming from but he's a rare one where he just attacks, attacks and he gets hit and gets right back up. That tells you how gritty and tough he is."
T.J. Warren on his 28-point game
"I got used to it (playing with stitches). At the beginning it was kind of tough but as I kept running it became a little bit easier for me to play with it."
"In the beginning I was kind of scared going in there but as I kept running, kept sweating I was like, whatever, let's just play ball."
"My teammates, they do a great job finding me in transition. We just run the floor very hard and just having a knack to finish in transition. In the halfcourt the ball just happens to fall around and I pick it up and put it back in."
"In college you could just finish through guys. Now at the next level it's different. So you just have to be more craftier and just try to find ways to put it back in the basket. I'm adjusting to it pretty well."
"It's a great opportunity to put on a Suns uniform and play in summer league. I'm enjoying it."
"I've worked very hard so (inaudible) and just staying aggressive really. Coach does a good job of getting me to run the floor hard and do a lot of little things to open myself up to score."
Was scoring natural for you as a kid?
"Just finding my sweet spots. I've always been able to finish in transition. So me just having great balance, body control, just being around the rim. This is a skill set that just came naturally."
"I'd say middle school just being able to be in the right position at the right time, using my body real well and just, like I said before, body control."