Apparently, a number of pundits and a few scouts had missed T.J. Warren’s games the two years in Raleigh. One writer paraphrased what some of them were saying:
TJ Warren’s pre-draft scouting report was that he is unathletic, can’t hit 3’s, plays questionable defense, never passes, and scores loads of buckets inside the arc for a SF punctuated by his incredible floater.
State fans obviously didn’t see those weaknesses. Warren is athletic — given his age, his outside jumper improved drastically even over the course of last season and he was playing on a team where not passing all too often equated not getting desperately needed buckets. State fans also saw a will to win that’s long been missing in Raleigh, with Warren being perhaps the most intense basketball player in a Wolfpack uniform since Julius Hodge. Sure, other Pack players between Hodge and Warren wanted to win, but they lacked that certain something that those two had: the ability to will their team to victory.
Drafted #14 by the Phoenix Suns, Warren has played quite well in the Association’s Summer League, averaging 17.8 points per game over 5 games, and with those numbers altered by only getting seven minutes in one game and being forced to play out of position at center in another. In short, TJ in his NBA appetizer has been more or less the same that he was in Raleigh last year, but this time, against ostensibly better competition than what he saw in college.
That’s changed a few minds:
You need to have some sort of special powers to dominate inside the arc the way TJ did, and it’s clear that his special powers are excellent footwork, coordination, and body control to go with feathery touch anywhere within 12 feet, especially when he’s on the run. He by far the most polished scoring prospect in the class. But what makes him exceptionally appealing is that he hardly ever wastes any time or motion at all with the ball. He has a knack for catching the ball in a position to score, as he can get where he’s going and get his shot off in 0 or 1 dribbles most of the time. If he’s taking 2 or more dribbles it’s because that’s the required amount of dribbles to get to the rim. Every time he dribbles it’s with direction and purpose. The one time I saw him dribble more than 2 times in the half-court: he tried to go left, it wasn’t there, he pulled back and waited for a screen, and then went right and crisply got off his floater. Even though plan A wasn’t there, he did no aimless dribbling, just pulled back and executed plan B. But every other time plan A worked for him and he got his shot off.
Granted, the regular season and rookie league are two different beasts, and Warren will have to fight hard for minutes, but given the arc of his basketball career over the past two-plus seasons, would it be wise to bet against him?