Phoenix Suns Forward T.J. Warren Is Due For An NBA Breakout

The Phoenix Suns were reasonably active prior to the NBA trade deadline — and surely enough, they needed to be. With a pre-All-Star record of 18-39  the Suns sit 15th in the Western Conference, knowing that the opportunity to make necessary moves — was then and there.

Phoenix came away with the very-final transaction before the deadline, as they ultimately traded P.J. Tucker to the Toronto Raptors. As evidently their best on-ball defender, Tucker was sent to Toronto in exchange for Jared Sullinger and two future second-round picks. The Suns have recently waived Sullinger.

Other than acquiring picks, many fail to see how this may benefit for the Suns. The Raptors received Tucker, who was the best player (or most impactful, at least) of the deal, but In my eyes I couldn’t be more happier for 23 year-old T.J Warren.

To note that he’s 6’9″ and 230 lbs, Warren has an outstanding skill set for his size, as he can genuinely alternate between the small forward and power forward potions. He’s a perfect fit in today’s game, as we haven’t even scratched the surface for what he can do offensively.

Warren scores in a number of ways, whether it’s off of simple pin downs, in isolation or in transition. He has the length and quickness to get to wherever he wants on the floor. He has a lethal ability to create space over defenders.

The Suns selected Warren with the 14th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, where I felt he was very close to being mentioned under the same breath as Andrew WigginsJabari Parker and Aaron Gordon. In his second-year at North Carolina State, Warren averaged 24.9 points — which was second behind Doug McDermott (26.7 at Creighton), who ultimately won the James Naismith Player of The Year award. But as very few predicted, Warren hasn’t had much carryover from his collegiate days at NC State, but following the Tucker trade, more minutes are coming his way — and it’s what he hasn’t gotten much of.

In the 2014-15 season, Warren played in just 40 games (1 start) in 15.4 minutes during his rookie year. He missed 42 of those games due to a fractured thumb, as well as several DNP’s. In the 2015-16 season, Warren appears in 47 games (4 starts) in 22.8 minutes, and averaged 11.0 points on 50% field goals and 40% on three-pointers. He began to earn trust from former Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek, but a fractured-foot caused him to miss the final 35 games of the season.

But so far in the 2016-17 season, Warren has been able to remain healthy. The offseason recovery from foot surgery is well behind him, as it began to show early-on. In the first 11 games Warren was absolutely sensational. He averaged 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.1 steals on 47% shooting and 81% from the free-throw line. The Suns were only 3-8 in this stretch, but I’ll remind you that they did play the San Antonio SpursOklahoma City ThunderLos Angeles Clippers, and even twice against the Golden State Warriors.

And although Warren did miss 13 consecutive games due to an illness, there hasn’t been any concerns regarding his health.

The Suns receive plenty from Warren on one end, but he does draw some concerns on defense. He tends to collapse in the pick-and-roll, he tends to get beat off the dribble too often, and doesn’t provide much help on the weak-side. It’s not an IQ issue because he does try extremely hard.

In the 2016-17 season, Warren has Defensive Ratings of 110.1 at home and 113.7 on the road. His athleticism holds him back, and he also doesn’t no have great lateral quickness.

But regardless of those issues, Warren will remain as a starter for Phoenix — as he’s already done in 38 of the 45 games played this season. And after scoring 17 points (8-14) while pulling down 8 boards in Friday’s 128-121 overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls, Warren must continue to play like this, as he receives bigger minutes.

  • Career Per 36 minutes: 16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 0.5 blocks.
  • Career per 100 possessions: 21.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 0.7 blocks. 

In the end, I believe T.J. will be Phoenix’s most reliable scorer, and this isn’t anything to be thrown at neither Eric Bledsoe or Devin Booker. If Warren can receive roughly 30-35 minutes every night, he’ll give you an outstanding scoring effort. It’s been proven.

The Suns have nowhere else to improve depth-wise, other than simply growing as a franchise. There’s great talent on this roster, and to have a potentially lethal scoring-threat in Warren makes a strong difference.