The Phoenix Suns have quite an interesting assortment of youth. As of now, they will enter the 2015/16 season as the 10th youngest team in the NBA, but as with most numerical rankings there is a caveat, and in the Suns' case it is something of a double-caveat.
The average age of the team is skewed by veterans such as Tyson Chandler and P.J. Tucker, who are currently taking residence in the Valley due to the fact that the Suns have every intention of making the 2016 playoffs, but on the same token, the Suns' youth also isn't quite on par with the youth of teams that are sticking strongly to the strategy of rebuilding through the draft.
As it happens, while the Suns are somewhat young on paper, they don't have any high-lottery talent on the team save for center Alex Len. There is no Andrew Wiggins or even a Victor Oladipo on board, which means that the stable of young talent is of the late and post-lottery variety ... guys like T.J. Warren (picked 14th in 2014), Archie Goodwin (picked 29th in 2013) and Devin Booker (picked 13th in 2015).
While Len showed considerable promise as a rim protecting, rebounding, dunking and fighting kind of big man, the addition of former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler means that he will be serving in a more supplemental capacity than we might have thought a few months ago.
Your mileage will certainly vary in regards to whether or not this was the right thing to do with a burgeoning prospect such as Len, but this humble reporter thinks that this will be an optimum set of circumstances for his development. As opposed to the expectations that will come of him being the opening day starting center, his primary goal over the next couple years will be to win the starting job over a veteran that, as things like biology and logic dictate, will inevitably decline.
In the short term, however, he is at a disadvantage when the narrative turns to who among the Suns' stable of youngsters is prime for a breakout in 2015/16. For this reason, and for other reasons, second-year forward T.J. Warren is your man.
Warren was drafted 13th overall after his sophomore season at North Carolina State, during which he was named the ACC Player of the Year over Duke's Jabari Parker. Warren's numbers soared to 24.9 PPG and 7.1 RPG in 35.4 MPG during his second stint as a Wolfpack....er. This was up from 12.1 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 27 MPG as a freshman.
During his rookie season as a Sun, Warren saw very little courttime. The team was trying desperately to make the playoffs after four seasons of watching from home, and already had P.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris slotted at the SF position.
Despite his status as a rookie, many clamored for Warren to gain minutes in the rotation due to his deliciously weird knack of finding ways to compel the basketball to pass through the cylinder.
See, T.J. Warren is by no means a modern small-forward in today's NBA. In an age where even 4's are expected to hit from long range, he attempted only 21 shots from deep, and connected on four of them. However, he possesses a seemingly antiquated scoring ability that in truth is no less effective now than it was back when the likes of Bernard King were patrolling the midrange.
The kind of tomfoolery he uses to score points on a basketball court can't really be taught, and if it was taught, they should probably round up the people that were teaching it and forbid them to ever teach basketball things ever again. To say that Warren scores a lot of garbage points is like saying that Oscar the Grouch needed a little home renovation.
Warren is the kind of player that normally we'd be pointing out that his game will age well ... except he'll only be turning 22 in a few days. He doesn't have a lot of athleticism or quickness at his disposal, but to make up for it he has some off-speed junk pitches that would make Tim Wakefield jealous.
Except you don't need someone with an oversized mitt to stand behind the basket stanchion, because Warren doesn't miss all that often.
To pass the time whilst waiting for consistent minutes, he proceeded to roast the 2014 Summer League...
...and figured he might as well do it again in 2015, when in all honesty, he didn't even need to be there in the first place:
He finally found consistent playing time in March and April of 2015, and for the season he put up a FG% of 52.8 on his patented array of floaters, putbacks and transition buckets. What's more, his knack for moving off the ball created a lot of backdoor cuts and easy layups for a Suns offense that was in desperate need of either at times.
Heading into the 2015/16 season, Warren is set to have rotation minutes from day one, with everyone's favorite role model Marcus Morris taking his talents to Motown. With regular in-game appearances, we might be in store for some funkalicious production from the man who might be the weirdest player of the 2014 draft.
He'll need to add more to his game other than his patented junkshots, but we're talking about a guy who has only 614 NBA minutes to his name. If he can get to the point we he can knock down an NBA three, good lord. That's like giving a wild bear a set of nunchuks.
Doubt him at your own peril; this dude eats and breathes basketball, and takes the game so seriously that even the taciturn Eric Bledsoe gets a kick out of it.
Let's get weird, Tony Warren.
(Word of advice: If this dude is near you after you corral a defensive rebound, just call a TO)