T.J. Warren, 6-foot-8 small forward, North Carolina State
2013-14 stats: 24.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, .690 FT%
Equipped with an old-school game, Warren is a dynamic scorer and projects as a player with the ability to put points on the board right away at the next level. The son of a former Wolfpack player, Warren somehow doesn’t get the fanfare of some of his counterparts, despite being as productive, if not more so. While there are perceived limitations to his game, such as his defense, athleticism and shooting range, Warren’s positive traits are difficult to ignore.
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Career highlights: A McDonald’s All-American at the conclusion of his well-traveled high school career, Warren was only a part-time starter for N.C. State as a freshman, but still made an impact, averaging 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, while shooting a gaudy 62.2 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from three-point range (albeit on a small sample size for the latter number), including a 31-point outburst against Florida State, leading to him making the ACC all-freshman team. His sophomore year, after some of his teammates departed the program, Warren emerged as the squad’s go-to scorer, averaging 24.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He scored over 30 points on nine separate occasions, with two contests over 40, leading the conference in scoring and finishing third nationally, en route to winning ACC player of the year and being named a second team All-American.
Strengths: As previously mentioned, Warren’s game is more reminiscent of small forwards of yesteryear than today’s players, as he operates in the low post, possesses a variety of quick-release shots from in close, is a clever finisher, beats defenders with smart body position and is a master of the mid-range game, rather than taking deep jumpers. He’s a strong finisher and has great size for his position, perhaps being an underrated athlete due to his efficiency and economical moves, understanding how to punish smaller opponents with his size on the interior and beating big men with his quickness, high-arcing floaters and moving without the ball. Warren is also excellent in transition, as he runs the floor well and finds a way to get to the rim, while also being a strong rebounder on both ends of the floor, another area in which he takes advantage of his size for the position.
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Weaknesses: Although he is a tremendous finisher, strong rebounder and has good size, Warren won’t ever be confused with one of the more explosive athletes at his position, which might present some issues both in the lane offensively and on the defensive end of the floor. Not being a great three-point shooter is also potentially problematic, as NBA defenses, with more length than he saw in college, will be more of a challenge to solve and also being a mediocre free-throw shooter, when Warren draws fouls, he must be able to convert at a higher rate. Defensively, there will be questions about his lateral quickness against the upper-echelon athletes at his position, so becoming more of a two-way player is certainly a priority.
Draft projection: Warren will likely be selected in the teens, with the early 20s probably being his floor, as his scoring prowess is undeniable and in workout settings against similarly-regarded players, he should excel and demonstrate his high skill level. He won’t need to carry an offensive burden by himself in the NBA like he did in college, nor will he need to, but he should easily be able to fill a niche as an instant-offense scorer. Possessing such a unique game, while Warren needs to address the weaker areas of his skill set, it’s important that he’s given an opportunity to allow his natural gifts to flourish and assuming he’s effective, a long career as a double-figure scorer is realistic.