I love TJ Warren more than any State player since Hodge, and I think he’s going to figure things out and become a terrific player, but there are legitimate concerns about whether or not his game will translate into the NBA, and it’s hardly insane to point those out, nor do a few strong summer league performances prove them wrong.
– TJ is, at best, an average NBA athlete. That’s no sleight against him, the NBA is full of terrific athletes. He’s not particularly explosive, he’s not going to blow by people, he doesn’t have elite quickness or strength, and his wingspan (a huge factor in defense) is below average for a SF.
– The three point shot is IMMENSELY important in the NBA game. It’s hard to overstate just how strongly the league has swung to emphasizing jump shooting in the last 5 years. Three point shots aren’t just a very efficient shot, but an effective three point shooter spaces the floor and spreads the defense in a way that even an elite mid-range threat can’t. TJ is not a very good three point shooter right now. Doesn’t mean he can’t become one, but he’s not there yet, and his release has some serious flaws in it.
– He’s been a poor on-ball defender so far in his career. I think much of that has to do with the personnel around him at State and the immense load he carried on offense, but part of it is poor fundamentals too. He doesn’t have elite lateral quickness, and, as I said above, the wingspan is an issue that lowers his defensive ceiling.
Now, I think he’s going to figure out those issues. I don’t think the athleticism matters so much because he’s such a smart, unique player, and I don’t think he’s a poor athlete, just an average one. I also think a good coaching staff can fix his jump shot within a couple years, and he’s such a talented natural scorer that I can’t imagine he won’t figure it out. I think he’s probably always going to be a mediocre-to-poor on-ball defender, but can be a plus team defender due to his court sense and quick hands. Still, it’s hardly a slam dunk, and there are definitely things he’s going to have to work on.