RTC NBA Draft Profiles: T.J. WarrenPosted by Bennet Hayes on June 6th, 2014
The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.
Player Name: T.J. Warren
School: North Carolina State
Height/Weight: 6’8”/220 lbs.
NBA Position: Small Forward
Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round
Overview: For the better part of the 2013-14 season, NC State’s inconsistent results seemed to leave them at a safe distance from the hustle and bustle of the Tournament bubble – a measure of mediocrity that also kept T.J. Warren, the Pack’s bucket-producing star, under a relative veil of anonymity. But a series of March surprises – many of which Warren himself had little part in bringing about — would raise the sophomore’s national profile significantly. First came the surprise ACC POY award (over Jabari Parker), then NC State went out and posted an ACC Tournament upset of nose-diving Syracuse (in which Warren scored 28 of the Pack’s 66 points), a victory that set the stage for the biggest surprise of Selection Sunday: NC State’s inclusion in the 2014 Tournament. Warren’s stellar under-the-radar season suddenly became popular fodder for talking heads in advance of the quartet of First Four games in Dayton, and NC State and their star went out and validated the growing buzz in a first-round victory over local favorite Xavier. It appeared Warren and the Pack’s Tournament stay might extend another round when they held an 11-point lead within the final three minutes against #5 seed Saint Louis, but a late collapse from the free throw line brought a close to an NCAA Tournament appearance that few could ever see coming. Short as their stay may have been, the brief turn that the Pack took in the March spotlight exposed the talented Warren for what he likely was: The best scorer in college basketball not named Doug McDermott. He averaged 24.6 PPG on the season, went for 40+ points in back-t0-back outings against Pitt and BC in early March, and contributed at least 20 points in 31 of his 35 outings. No razzle-dazzle here (another reason for the lack of publicity), but Warren brought offensive production almost every time he stepped on the floor in 2013-14.
Will Translate to the NBA: A bucket-getter is a bucket-getter, whether it’s at the local Y or your city’s NBA arena, and Warren knows how to coax leather through nylon. He may not be a great shooter (yet), but he managed to score more points last season than all but two collegians. His high basketball IQ, dependable mid-range game (58% 2PFG), and steady on-court demeanor should all lend themselves to the creation of an early NBA role as a resourceful bench scorer.
Needs Work: Athleticism is viewed as a relatively unchangeable attribute, so Warren needs to find ways – especially on the defensive end – to overcome his athletic shortcomings. Still though, Warren will always be an offensive weapon first and foremost, and he must improve his jump shot in order to grow into an elite NBA offensive player. College seasons are short and shooting percentages thus more prone to the stormy side of variance, but 69% from the FT line and 26% 3-PT shooting are scary splits for any team interested in drafting Warren. He may be fully capable of stepping into the league and posting higher percentages in each category – his stroke has proven dependable from mid-range and looks better than those numbers would indicate – but it’s an area that will demand continued work and attention. Even if Warren grows into an adequate defender and continues to find varied ways to score, it’s difficult to foresee him becoming a valuable rotation player if his range never extends out to three-point range.
Best Case Scenario: Given his average (despite a better-than-expected combine showing) athleticism, it’s difficult to envision NBA stardom in Warren’s future. The current lack of range on his jump shot and his collegiate periods of defensive indifference would also seem to preclude him from filling the 3-and-D role that NBA teams aggressively seek, but Warren should still have a shot at growing into an upper-echelon NBA scorer. The defense must improve for extended minutes to become a reality, but a rosy view of Warren’s NBA future could see him developing into a solid starter and 15-20 PPG scorer.
Best NBA Fit: A solid combine effort (which included a better-than-expected 35.5 inch vertical leap) has Warren trending upwards; he should expect to hear his name called somewhere in the back half of the first round. The Boston Celtics (#17 pick) are rumored to have interest in the NC State star, and his versatile offensive game would add some punch to what was a hapless Celtic offense a year ago. Further down the board, Oklahoma City has two picks in the bottom third of the round (#21 and #30). The Thunder bench could stand to add another scorer, and can you think of a better player for Warren to learn from than Kevin Durant? I cannot.
Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “Warren is a big time scorer and a guy with fantastic instincts for the game …Works well both on and off the ball … He can spot up and knock down jumpers from deep, he can set up his man and beat them via backdoor cuts or he can create for himself.”
NBA Comparison: John Salmons
In 140 Characters Or Less, The Case For Warren:
One thing I really like about TJ Warren is his demeanor. Seems to have really matured. Heck of a player.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 19, 2014