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3J Warren is the Phoenix Suns’ biggest surprise of the season

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T.J. Warren was missing a key part of his offensive game until this season. And now he needs a new nickname.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

While the Phoenix Suns have disappointed this season with a 2-10 record, the most pleasant surprise has been T.J. Warren’s newfound consistency with the game’s most important shot: the three-pointer.

While the league as a whole launched a three-pointer on 34% of all field goal attempts last season, our old school “Tony Buckets” took advantage of the extra mid-range space created by adjusting defenses and established himself as one of the league’s best scorers inside the arc.

But when your game is based on answering opponents’ threes with your twos, you run the risk of watching the league pass you by.

The league-wide points per shot on threes was 1.08 points (3 points * 36%), which requires 55% on two-pointers to match that scoring pace. 55-percent might not sound like a lot, but only two teams last year even MADE 55% or better on their two-pointers, and those were the Warriors and Rockets who are — you guessed it — the best-known three-point taking teams in the league.

Warren, while good at scoring, comes up short for his career at 52.5%, meaning he’d lose any game where his average opponent took a three every time down against his two-point responses.

Until now... “Tony Buckets”

Through his first four years in the league, Warren took only one three-point shot for every 10 field goal attempts and for good reason. He had a terrible hitch in the shot and made less than 27% of those 3s in three of his four years in the league. One year, he made 40% of his 70 threes over 47 games (1.5 per game) before going down for the season due to injury.

Last year, Warren scored almost 20 points per game, but took 16.5 shots per game to get there.

NOW... “3J Warren”

This year, Warren is pumping up three-pointers on a whopping 30% of all his shots, and he’s made 47.5% of them!

According to some wonderful work by The Athletic’s C.J. Holmes, Warren’s shooting coach says he said T.J. taking 600-700 shots per day this summer, adding up to about 42.000 total shot attempts! Warren corrected some flaws in his release, body position and follow-through — and voila!

He’s scoring 16 points per game on just 12 shots, and that’s while shooting a career-low 47.5% on his twos. If he can bring his two-point success back to career averages while keeping up that new three-point success, Warren could be one of the most efficient scorers in the whole league.

In Warren’s last two games, he’s made 7 of 14 threes including a career-high 10 attempts on Saturday night in New Orleans.

Watch his sublime game on Saturday here, where you can see his patented wizardry on midrange and shots inside the restricted area, followed by four three-pointers to cap off a 25-point night.