Two weeks ago, I made the argument that signing Anthony Tolliver was a slight upgrade for the Wolves over Nemanja Bjelica. The theory was that for at least one year, Tolliver is the more durable and known commodity and excelled at catch-and-shoot three pointers last season with Detroit.
What is more than just a slight upgrade and is in fact a coup that could have otherwise been a disaster is this: Nabbing Tolliver instead of thinking you signed Bjelica, only to have him decide two weeks later — after more shooters signed with other teams in free agency — that he is going to play next season in Europe.
That’s exactly what happened to the 76ers, per Adrian Wojnarowski, who reported Tuesday that Bjelica “who had agreed to a one-year deal with the 76ers” instead “informed the team on Monday that he will stay in Europe this season.” Apparently he never signed his deal with Philadelphia.
Tolliver’s deal was one year and $5.75 million — more than the $4.4 million deal Bjelica reportedly agreed to with Philadelphia. Maybe Tom Thibodeau knew that a return to Europe was possible for Bjelica? In remarks to reporters last week in Las Vegas during Summer League play, he was asked about signing Tolliver instead of trying to retain Bjelica.
“We liked Bjeli a lot, too, but we were looking at what the possibilities were, and we didn’t want to get caught short,” Thibodeau said. “So we were trying to get something done. He was the player we got traction on. We felt rather than take a chance, let’s be sure.”
Now, that might just mean they didn’t want to lose Bjelica to another team, but maybe Thibodeau and the Wolves were worried about the exact predicament now playing out in Philadelphia. If so, kudos to Thibs for not getting, as he said, caught short. Imagine if the Wolves had been the ones in this predicament. Thibs would be getting crushed on Twitter right now.
As for the 76ers, at least they can console themselves with the knowledge that Bjelica strongly considered them before choosing Europe just as they believe LeBron did before picking the Lakers.
Sorry, Andy … this doesn’t quite make up for 38-7 or the criminal behavior of Eagles fans at the NFC title game. But Tolliver was already an upgrade over Bjeli. He’s a huge upgrade over nobody at all. And as Aaron Rupar reminded me, we get to dust off this GIF from his last time with the Wolves. So there are wins all around.