Philadelphia 76ers: Waiving Anthony Tolliver is just step one

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

And just like that, the Anthony Tolliver-era of Philadelphia 76ers basketball is over.

That’s right, after signing a two-year deal with the team back in May, Tolliver has officially been waived by the Sixers per their social media account in order to avoid having the second year of his contract become fully guaranteed on August 28th.

Is this a crushing blow for fans in the 215? No. Unless you happened to be member numero uno of the #TolliverArmy, this announcement surely passed by on your timeline without much more than a simple “huh,” but for a team still very much looking to close the loose ends of their roster, it’s a crucial first step in what should be an eventful lead-up to training camp.

What? Don’t believe me? Well, read on and see.

With Anthony Tolliver gone, the real decisions start for the Philadelphia 76ers.

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When Daryl Morey woke up this morning, the Philadelphia 76ers had 15 players on standard NBA contracts, with Aaron Henry on a two-way contract and Grant Riller reportedly set to take up the other two-way spot in the not too distant future.

On paper, that’s a good number; the correct, full number of contracts allowed under current NBA rules.

However, there was one small but pressing issue that surely put a minor damper on Morey’s otherwise happy Hamptons afternoon: What to do about Charles Bassey’s contract.

While the Sixers were able to convince Filip Petrušev to stick it out in Europe for one season more, Bassey has always felt destined for the main roster if for no other reason than to help provide some additional padding to the roster behind Joel Embiid.

But how, I rhetorically ask, would the team find a way to get Bassey where everyone wanted him to be? Was there some big trade waiting in the wings that would require shipping out multiple players for one asset?

Nope, as it turns out, that just wasn’t the case. With Anthony Tolliver’s contract officially becoming guaranteed on August 28th and no trade immediately on the horizon, the Philadelphia 76ers took the path of least resistance and released the 36-year-old veteran to free up a roster spot moving forward.

Okay, okay. Not an ideal situation, but a necessary one. Now the Sixers just have to sign Bassey to a standard NBA contract, and Morey’s vacation can continue on, right?

Whoa, whoa, whoa; not so fast, my friends. While the team could opt to go that route and once again be happy with their decision, there’s this little thing that I like to call the $8.19 million Al Horford trade exception that expires on September 7th. With Tolliver and George Hill both off the team’s books as trade assets, allowing that exception to expire without bringing back a viable NBA player who could either fill a role long-term or serve as a matching salary in a future deal would be a serious misallocation of assets.

Even if the Sixers end up using their exception on a player like Rajon Rondo, who doesn’t exactly fit in the team’s scheme but has a pre-existing relationship with Doc Rivers, Tyrese Maxey, and Ben Simmons (more on that here), it would still be better than allowing it to waste away into the NBA ether like oh so many Mid-level exceptions that have been wasted over the past few years.

But, for such a deal to happen, the Sixers would have to give said player their 15th roster spot, which is rather antithetical to the very reason Tolliver was released in the first place. Even if that’s the best way to improve the team moving forward, they’d still need to find a spot for Bassey heading into camp, either on the 15 man roster or by signing him to a two-way contract instead of Grant Riller, who hasn’t officially been announced by the team yet.

See what I mean? Talk about leaving a fanbase with more questions than answers.

Next. The 5 stages of Ben Simmons trade grief. dark

Was Anthony Tolliver ever going to be on the Philadelphia 76ers’ roster on opening night? No. One way or another, he was surely going to be playing basketball elsewhere this fall or not at all, depending on how the league feels about his potential at the ripe old (NBA) age of 36. But with Ben Simmons trades reportedly stalling out and the team’s immediate future very much in flux, Daryl Morey had to act on Tolliver’s contract before it became guaranteed, even if it took few minutes out of his Hamptons vacation. Let’s hope it’s the first in a series of further moves to come.