NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: T.J. Warren

NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: T.J. Warren
Mar 10, 2014, 12:57 pm
T.J. Warren is the #2 scorer in college basketball, posting over 28 points per-40 minutes, with a strong 59% true shooting percentage. Barring a miracle (four wins in four days at the ACC Tournament), Warren will likely miss the NCAA Tournament, but has nonetheless strung together an extremely impressive season, and is coming off back to back 40-point outings.
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Warren put a lot of work into transforming his body this past summer, reportedly cutting his weight from 235-240 pounds to a slender 218, which has made him downright impossible to defend at the college level.

A highly unconventional player, Warren is as gifted a scorer as you'll find. He moves off the ball exceptionally well, finding gaps instinctually in opposing defenses. He is difficult to slow down because of the versatility he displays, being extremely effective at putting the ball in the basket in a multitude of ways inside the arc.

Warren has taken the 3rd highest amount of runners and floaters in all of college basketball this season according to Synergy Sports Technology, hitting over 50% of these attempts, which is tops among DX Top-100 prospects.

While not a traditional one on one player (most of his isolation plays come from the elbow or short corner), he's extremely tough to defend because of the quality of his mid-range game and how many different release points he has on his shots. Frequently used as a mismatch face-up power forward, He has terrific footwork, extremely soft touch and a knack for throwing the ball into the basket, sometimes going high off the glass.

He's also extremely effective in the direct vicinity of the basket, making 69% of his non-floater attempts around the rim in the half-court, which is also #1 among DX Top-100 prospects.

Warren does a great job of getting out in transition, as the biggest share of his offense comes in this fashion. While not exceptionally quick, a high flyer, or an amazing ball-handler, his scoring instincts really shine through here, as he shoots 65% from the field in these situations, 3rd best among Top-100 DX prospects.

One major question mark in Warren's evaluation as a NBA prospect revolves around his outside shot. He made just 29.5% of his 3-point attempts on the season, although he does make over one per game. Some of this has to do with poor shot-selection, but his inconsistent shooting mechanics play a substantial role in these mediocre percentages from beyond the arc as well. Warren shows sloppy footwork and a significant ball-dip on the catch, not getting his feet underneath him and fading away badly on most of his attempts.

He's often talented enough to throw ball into the basket regardless, despite his poor mechanics, which leaves some hope that he'll be able to figure it out in the pros with better coaching and more practice time. His consistency has improved as the season moved on, as he made 35% of his 3-point attempts in ACC play (17 games). NBA teams will likely want to get a better feel for this part of his game in private workouts, as his ability to space the floor effectively from the small forward position will likely play a major role in whether or not he's ultimately successful.

Another question pertaining to his role-player potential revolves around his passing ability, or rather lack thereof. He's dished out just 32 assists on the season in over 1000 minutes thus far, or one every 33 minutes he's on the floor. His assist percentage ranks third worst among DX Top-100 small forward prospects, and things were even worse last season as a freshman with better teammates around him, as his 5.9% assist percentage was identical to Shabazz Muhammad's.

Warren will likely have to make an adjustment in his game when surrounded by better talent in the NBA. He doesn't see the floor very well and forces up a lot of tough shots, being somewhat single-minded in his approach. What's interesting is that he doesn't even get that big of a share of his offense in isolation settings, as he's not the most advanced ball-handler you'll find in the half-court, so he doesn't really need the ball in his hands to be effective as a scorer, which should help his transition to the NBA.

Mostly asked to guard power forwards at the college level, Warren will likely see more time on the perimeter defensively in the NBA, which poses another set of questions he'll have to answer in private workout settings. His effort here can be questionable at times, as he doesn't always get low the ground in his stance, and gets beat frequently off the dribble, often preferring to simply swipe at the ball rather than playing a more fundamentally sound style. On the other hand, Mark Gottfried teams have never been known for their defensive prowess, so a change of scenery might help.

Warren's instincts and anticipation skills really shine through in the way he approaches his work at the top of N.C. State's press, as he gets a good amount of steals that way, which leaves some room for optimism. Still, his lack of length is somewhat concerning, as he measured a 6-9 to 6-9 ½ wingspan on two separate occasions at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy in 2011 and 2013. Will he be able to guard small forwards consistently in the NBA?

Measured at 6-9 in shoes, or close to it, Warren is tall enough to spend a good amount of time at power forward in the NBA as well, but his very poor defensive rebounding rate at the college level could make that difficult at times if he doesn't make a more concerted effort here. He only pulls down 4.4 defensive rebounds per-40 (last year 3.1), which ranks extremely poorly for a PF prospect, and still below average for a SF.

With that said, Warren has one very valuable skill he can hang his hat on in his supreme scoring ability, and considering he's only 20, he can likely still improve on his very correctable weaknesses (perimeter defense, 3-point shooting) enough to develop into a solid NBA player. Finding a role for him at the NBA player isn't a cinch, though, which is why his draft stock hasn't really taken off just yet despite the gaudy scoring numbers he's produced this season.

Matchups against the likes of Duke, Syracuse, Virginia, Tennessee, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Pitt and others have given us ample opportunity to evaluate Warren's strengths and weaknesses as a prospect, which we've done in the following video scouting report, courtesy of Mike Schmitz.

All of our video scouting reports this season can be found here.

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