Jan 21, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks power forward Anthony Tolliver (4) grabs a rebound against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second quarter at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 104-96. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Brad's Beat: The Larry Drew Chronicles, Anthony Tolliver Edition

At 5:05 pm on Wednesday, February 6th, AJC beat writer Chris Vivlamore tweeted the following:

Anthony Tolliver starts for Hawks vs. Grizzlies. Teague, Korver, Smith and Horford also start. #ATLHawks

First, I did a full-scale double-take. Then, I started to read the rest of my timeline, which consists of several other writers/bloggers that cover the Hawks on a regular basis. They all seemed to concur with my thoughts. Anthony Tolliver? Really? See, it is fairly common knowledge that Tolliver is one of the two least effective basketball players on the current Atlanta roster (see Petro, Johan), and starting him would seem like a desperate move.

Then, the AJC’s Vivlamore tweeted, one more time, about the “reasoning” behind Larry Drew’s decision:

LD says Hawks starting Tolliver to get a length defensively on Prince.#ATLHawks

Frankly, I have no idea how that could possibly constitute a coherent rationale for how to deploy a line-up, and it makes even less sense when you consider that Tayshaun Prince is either the 4th or 5th offensive option for the current Grizzlies team. In addition, Tolliver is currently sporting the team’s worst PER (6.8), and is shooting a team-low 34% from the field on the season, so using him against a top-3 defensive team in the league in Memphis seemed like a pure stretch to me.

Of course, Atlanta won the game by 11 points, played very well on both ends, and Larry Drew came out smelling like a rose… but that doesn’t mean (in any way) that using Anthony Tolliver for 28 minutes is a sound strategy. Effectively, he chose to deploy Tolliver over the likes of John Jenkins, Devin Harris, Ivan Johnson, and even Mike Scott, and there’s no sound statistical or strategic reasoning behind making that conscious decision.

This is certainly not meant as a personal shot/jab at Anthony Tolliver. I fully endorsed the signing as a depth move with zero risk, and he is a potentially useful player in very small roles. Plus, he is, by all accounts, a positive locker room guy, and a veteran presence on a team that can always use more of that. I point this singular move out as a reminder to everyone that there doesn’t always seem to be common sense rationale applied to lineup deployment from Larry Drew, and that a small tweak here or there could actually increase the chances of victory or cost the team a win or two.

On Wednesday night at Philips Arena, the likes of Jeff Teague, Josh Smith, and Al Horford played so well that it almost wouldn’t have mattered what Larry Drew did, but I also know that playing Anthony Tolliver 28 minutes against an upper-echelon Western Conference opponent is, at best, misguided, and, at worst, a submarining tactic.

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Tags: Anthony Tolliver Atlanta Hawks Larry Drew

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