There are varying opinions on T.J. Warren's viability in the NBA, given that he's not a supreme athlete and among the typical NBA players he will pale in comparison.
But Warren is unique to many NBA players in terms of body control and ability to create shots where none exists. It's good when nationally renowned player development coaches feel the same way, as does David Thorpe, the Executive Director of Pro Training Center.
The Suns definitely put Warren in position to show well in Vegas, and Warren delivered. Warren scored 17.8 points per game over 5 games in SL, numbers depressed by a 7-minute stint in game two (stitches) and a poor final game where he was forced to play center.
"He's got a knack for scoring," coach Mike Longabardi said before SL started. "A knack for cutting and moving without the ball. We want to utilize that. We want him to play to his strengths. He's going to have to improve his shooting, which he works on. We've got to just try to exploit mismatches and put him in position to be successful."
The biggest knock on T.J. Warren these days is the lack of opportunity he will see next year for a very good Phoenix Suns team.
P.J. Tucker is the starter at small forward, and Marcus Morris is a proven backup. Tucker is the heart and soul of the Suns, producing in unconventional ways but doing so many good things it's tough to sit him down. On just 20 minutes a game, Morris produced 10 points and 4 rebounds (by comparison, Anthony Tolliver put up 6 and 3 in as many minutes in Charlotte).
Barring a trade, where will Warren see his minutes?
And even in the wake of a trade to put Warren in the top 2 of a small forward depth chart, are the Suns really better off playing a soon-to-be 21 year old rookie who needs to learn to play D ahead of two proven SFs returning from last year?
Warren was impressive in Summer League, and is a wonderful insurance policy in case of injury or free agency (next year, Morris is an RFA) or trade.
Let's commend the Suns front office for bringing in a high-upside talent at what is generally a deep position. It's the same mentality that they used to double down at the point guard spot, finding two better talents than last year's #3 point guard, Ish Smith.
In fact, the Suns have a high-upside kid at 4 of 5 positions: C Alex Len (21 all season), SF Warren (21), SG Archie Goodwin (20) and PG Tyler Ennis (20). The only position the Suns still lack a "future" player is at PF.
The here-and-now is bright for the 48 win Suns, but the future is bright as well. McBabbacek is really doing their job.