NC State Forward TJ Warren is a Man Without a PositionPosted by Jimmy Kelley on February 27th, 2013
Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsInDurham
At some point in the 118-year history of basketball it was decided that each player on the court had to have a set position with a skill set that lent something to the way the game was played. These positions — point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center — held up for the most part through the years with players falling into one of the positions based on their height, athleticism or abilities with the ball in their hands. Recently, however, these positions have become somewhat amorphous with the advent of the “stretch four” and “combo guard” creating their own archetypes on which young players can model themselves. One such player who defies all classification is NC State’s 6’8″, 233-pound TJ Warren — a man without a position.
Warren was a McDonald’s All-American in high school who could score in every way imaginable and even some ways that players hadn’t thought of yet. Physically he would fit into the old mold of a power forward but athletically he would fit more naturally into the small forward role. He isn’t a natural jump shooter which means his effectiveness on the wing would depend purely on his ability to get into the lane and score around the rim, much like a younger LeBron James before he developed his outside game. Warren has played both the small and power forward at times for the Wolfpack but giving him a position other than “forward” would pigeonhole his game too much, so we will just stick with the general term.
Statistically, Warren is in a class all himself. He leads the ACC in field goal percentage (62.2 percent) and shoots an impressive 54.5 percent from three, although he has only attempted 22 treys all season. He rebounds well for his position and stays within his game and strengths. Because of this the advanced metrics flesh out just how unique a player Warren is. SCACCHoops.com’s tempo-adjusted stats have Warren averaging 18.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per 40 minutes with an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 64.9 percent, a usage rate of 23.8 percent and an offensive rating of 114.1. What these numbers tell us is that when Warren is on the court he is one of NC State’s best offensive weapons and they are not afraid to use him.
With a more consistent jump shot Warren has the potential to blossom into a player who can play three positions without any dropoff in offensive production. In short: He is around the same stage of development that LeBron was when he was 19, albeit without the superstar’s game-changing explosiveness or savvy passing ability. Just like there’s no way to pinpoint what position James was (or is), the only fair way to pigeonhole Warren is to call him a “basketball player.”