On a recent road trip with the Trail Blazers, I had the opportunity to check in with a couple of long-time NBA scouts who have been watching the league closely over the past several seasons. They don't scout college players much, they specialize in looking at players who might be available to their own team at some point.
I like to ask people in those positions their opinion on Portland's roster and catch up on any gossip or rumors floating around.
When I asked them about the Blazers' recent struggles they both pointed to the injuries, of course. But one of them also mentioned the shooting problems that have plagued the team.
"The guys who were added this summer have always shot the three better than they are doing this season," one scout said. "I'm really surprised that Anthony Tolliver hasn't been making shots. He's always been pretty consistent with his threes."
Indeed, I've been surprised, too. When you look back at his 11 years in the league you see someone who has been dependably productive from three-point range.
But you also see a player this season who has been forced into several different roles with the Trail Blazers that are different than what he's done before. With all the injuries to Portland's bigs, Tolliver – primarily a power forward during his career -- has been forced into playing backup center on several occasions and even starting center Saturday night when Hassan Whiteside was forced to the sidelines with an upper respiratory ailment. And Tolliver's playing time has been up and down, too. He's played in 30 of the team's 40 games.
Playing center wasn't exactly what the veteran expected when he signed on last summer.
"Probably not," he said with a smile. "If anything, slide over to the 3 (small forward) some, with the original roster. I'm just doing whatever I can to help our team be as successful as possible."
But in today's NBA, the game has become almost position-free. Small lineups have become commonplace and Saturday night the Bucks did very little to attempt to punish Portland for using a small lineup.
"It's all basketball, still. Especially in today's NBA," he said. "Most of the 5 men (centers) are popping out to shoot the three. You have to be able to guard multiple positions, slide your feet and make reads that used to be more guard-type reads. It's whatever. I just come on the court and try to bring energy.
"Unfortunately, my shot hasn't fallen for me the last couple of games."
Tolliver came into this season as a .376 career shooter from three-point range, a very solid percentage for a veteran known as an intelligent player capable of defending several positions, adept at drawing charging fouls (he's 24th in the league, right behind Draymond Green, in this category).
But this season he's shooting just .316 from three-point range.
"Percentages always work out," he said. "I have confidence and my teammates have confidence in me. Obviously, things have been pretty inconsistent this year, as far as playing time, roles and all the different stuff. That's been part of it. You're always looking to find out where your shots are going to come from.
"But I never worry about shooting. It's something I know that always comes around. For me, it's always about what it looks like at the end. It's lower than normal right now and that just means I should have a really good stretch coming up here pretty soon..."
Anthony Tolliver has always been able to shoot, but why not now? originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest