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Suns look to Tolliver to replace Frye’s production at forward

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PHOENIX – When Channing Frye left the Phoenix Suns for the Orlando Magic in the offseason, much more than his 11.1 points per game went with him.

Frye’s ability to shoot 3-pointers and spread the floor was a key asset to the Suns offense, something point guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe didn’t take for granted when they were carving defenses and driving to the basket. But the team is confident it’s found someone who can keep defenders honest without missing a beat.

Enter Anthony Tolliver, a 6-foot-8 stretch forward signed in free agency.

“I’m moving around at all times, picking and popping and making the bigger guys move,” Tolliver said. “Bigger guys hate guarding me because I don’t stop moving.”

Head coach Jeff Hornacek said Tolliver’s versatility was a big reason why the Suns signed him to a two-year, $6 million contract in the offseason. After almost exclusively playing small forward for the Charlotte Bobcats last season, more of Tolliver’s minutes will be coming at power forward for the Suns.

“He can mix it up,” Horancek said. “He can shoot it or take the ball and put it down a couple times and make another play. It’s not just all spot-up shooting, so he’s a good weapon.”

Hornacek said that while Tolliver won’t be expected to play center like Frye did, Tolliver, who shot a career-best 41.3 percent beyond the arc last season, will provide the jump-shooting and pick-and-roll threat quick guards like Dragic and Bledsoe love so much.

“He’s a great shooter,” Dragic said. “He’s already proved himself and his range at training camp. If he’s open then I’ll know he’ll knock those shots down.”

Tolliver said playing with guards like Bledsoe, Dragic and fellow newcomer Isaiah Thomas helped him choose Phoenix as his new home.

“With Goran, Isaiah and Eric, we’re probably going to have two of those guys on the court at all times, which will make everything a lot easier on myself,” Tolliver said. “I’ll get a lot more open shots because of the attention those guys demand, but they’ll also get more open lanes because of what I bring to the table.”

Undrafted out of Creighton University in 2007. Tolliver has had to prove himself at every level, including playing overseas and in NBA Development League, since he left college. On his 12th professional team in seven years, he said the chip on his shoulder will never leave him, something he also sees in his new teammates.

“Intensity is what I’m known for. Nothing has ever been given to me,” he said. “I’ve had to work for every opportunity in my life, and I feel like guys here are cut from the same cloth.”