T.J. Warren’s Game Well-Suited For Phoenix Suns

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The Phoenix Suns selected T.J. Warren from North Carolina State with the 14th pick in this year’s NBA draft. Last season, Warren averaged 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals, while shooting 52.5 percent from the field. He had the third-highest scoring average in the nation, was named the ACC Player of the Year and was selected as a second team All-American by the Associated Press.

In the Las Vegas Summer League, Warren got a chance to show off his versatile game and get used to playing with his new Suns teammates including Miles Plumlee, Archie Goodwin, Alex Len and Tyler Ennis while also interacting with veterans like Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris, who were in attendance to support the team.

“I was nervous in the beginning,” Warren told Basketball Insiders. “But kind of relaxed a little bit. I had the Morris twins giving me confidence, just giving me advice, as well as the coaching staff.”

One of the biggest benefits to summer league is the opportunity for a rookie to get accustomed to his new team’s offensive and defensive systems. Under Jeff Hornacek, the Suns run a fast-paced, spread-out offense that aims to maximize scoring opportunities at the rim and from beyond-the-arc. Warren has a unique offensive skill-set and is able to score efficiently off an array of moves at the basket and floaters. While Warren isn’t a knock-down shooter from distance, his ability to hit shots from different areas of the floor (he’s an excellent midrange scorer) and his ability to work off the ball will make the high-octane Phoenix offense even harder to stop.

Warren is looking forward to being surrounded by experienced NBA players and having other offensive weapons to take the pressure off of him at times.

“Guys were making the right basketball play, it’s going make it easier for me,” Warren said. “Me as a guy that doesn’t dominate the ball, just kind of moving without the ball, just finding little open spots to be effective in the offense. I’m still learning the plays but I’m going to get better at that. Just a guy to get out in transition, finish at a high rate, as well as find little sweet spots in the half court, from mid-range in. I’ll just try to be effective through our offense and just work on my defense as well.”

Warren played in five games in summer league and averaged 17.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 24.8 minutes. He made an efficient 37-of-68 total shots. His best performance came against the Philadelphia 76ers, when he scored 28 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and made 12 of his 22 field goals. While these numbers are great, Warren missed all three of his shots from beyond-the-arc against the 76ers and went 0-4 overall from deep throughout the summer league after shooting just 26.7 percent from three last season. This is something Warren will need to improve on, but it still doesn’t overshadow how well-rounded Warren already is as a basketball player and his ability to contribute next season for Phoenix.

“He’s such a great scorer, he’s not going to have to rely on the three-point shot,” Hornacek said. “He’ll be able to move without the ball and catch it on the move. When he moves, he’s very slick and he knows when to get the ball up or take an extra dribble and take it up. He has a great feel for the game offensively.”

Warren played two seasons at North Carolina State, and has an offensive skill-set that will translate effectively to the pro level. However, as with all rookies entering the league, there will be a learning curve and some growing pains along the way. Fortunately for Warren he does not have to go through that process alone, with fellow rookie Ennis on the team as well.

“We’re both rookies, so we just give each other advice, as well as listening to the older guys, so it’s a smooth transition so far,” Warren said. “Just glad to be here and be out here with the Phoenix Suns, it’s a great opportunity for us.”

With more recognizable names like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum and Doug McDermott grabbing the league’s attention, Warren has the chance to surprise NBA fans next season. With a cast of young, talented players in Phoenix and a coach who managed to get the most out of his players last season, Warren is well-situated to make a big impact for Phoenix right away. If summer league was any indication, that impact should have Phoenix fans excited.