Before the Phoenix Suns took on the Portland Trailblazers tonight, coach Igor Kokoskov said that forward T.J. Warren would miss significant time with a bone bruise in his ankle that just won’t go away without complete rest. When pressed, coach said 1-2 weeks at least.
In his place, the Suns will start Josh Jackson along with Devin Booker, Dragan Bender (in Ayton’s place), Mikal Bridges and De’Anthony Melton. Kelly Oubre Jr. continues to come off the bench because, as coach puts it, “it’s a 48 minute game” meaning he can’t afford not having Oubre in that second unit that now only has Quincy Acy, Jamal Crawford, Elie Okobo and Troy Daniels.
Warren has been the Suns second-leading scorer this year (18.0) and their leading three-point shooter — career high 42.8% — on a career high 4.2 attempts per game.
Even with Warren, the Suns are 29th in the league in three-point shooting (33.4%) so that figures to get even worse with Warren missing time.
“Tony Buckets”, also known this year as “3J”, likely won’t play again before the NBA trade deadline, which is February 7 this year.
It’s possible the Suns will look to move on from Warren at the deadline. The 6’8” Warren just isn’t big enough or strong enough to rebound in the paint as a power forward, even in the small ball era. The Suns are nearly last in the league in rebounding, in large part because they don’t have any league-average rebounders to play next to Deandre Ayton and Richaun Holmes. Warren compounds that problem.
So could he start long-term on the wing? Maybe for another team with a good two-way guy at shooting guard, but he simply doesn’t defend well enough to play big minutes next to equally-challenged Devin Booker on that end.
In my opinion, Warren’s best long-term position is likely as a Sixth Man microwave scorer off the bench of a team who wants a bigger version of a Lou Williams or younger Jamal Crawford type of player that boosts a bench while the starters rest. That team could be the Suns, or it could be some other team at the trade deadline in two weeks.