Let’s rewind the clock and go back in time to June 20, 2019.
You get an alert on your phone that the Phoenix Suns have traded T.J. Warren and the 32nd pick to the Indiana Pacers. That’s it. That’s the whole alert. You keep refreshing, thinking there’s either a mistake or waiting for the rest. What did the team get in return?
Fast forward to July 1, 2019. For some reason, there WAS a delay, but you now get an alert with the rest of the deal. The Suns have agreed to sign Ricky Rubio to a three-year contract at $17 million per year. This comes after a couple seasons that saw the team go through so many unfit starting point guards that Tyler Johnson was a welcome revelation.
There is no denying that the Suns traded T.J. for cash considerations and there is no overlooking how solid of a player Warren is. No matter the context, Phoenix dealt a talented scorer for cash.
Cash considerations isn’t blowing up the bubble en route to 53 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, including a 19-point fourth quarter.
If you look a players in Pacers history to light it up for 50, you see Reggie Miller, Jermaine O’Neal, Billy Knight and Warren. No mention of cash there.
Money didn’t become the fifth player in NBA history to hit nine threes and nine twos in a game, joining James Harden, Damian Lillard, Kobe Bryant (RIP Black Mamba) and Stephen Curry.
When looking at the Pacers franchise record for three pointers made in a game you see Paul George and T.J. Warren, not cash.
Warren is the leading scorer for Indiana this season, averaging 19.2 points per game for a very good team. He is shooting a career-high from field (53.5 percent) as well as making 1.3 treys each night (39.8 percent).
“Tony Buckets” is a scorer on all accounts. Just ask his new teammates.
“If you know T.J. Warren, you know he’s a bucket.” said Aaron Holiday.
“T.J. Warren has been scoring his whole life. Since his AAU days to NC state. He was born to get buckets.” said Victor Oladipo.
Again, there is no denying that the man can light it up. However, he was injury prone in Phoenix. He wasn’t an established three-point shooter or a good defensive player on the Suns. Yes, he was starting to shoot the long ball and he’s become at least decent on defense on the Pacers but he wasn’t when he was traded.
Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr. are on the team as wings and the Suns can run them out with Rubio when they’re all healthy and that’s a much better option than let’s say Josh Gray and Warren.
The Suns are very competitive this season and are in the bubble for a reason. If it wasn’t for the injury bug they suffered all season, they’d probably be guaranteed a playoff spot.
So, yes, the Suns could and should have got more, a lot more, in return for Warren. But it’s okay. I am enjoying this new team with a legit starting point guard and veteran guiding the ship and it was made possible by the trade. I wish T.J. the best of luck and nothing but success.
However, it’s not as cut and dry as the national media and Twitter make it seem. In the long run, the Warren trade was a good move. Clearing salary space helped the team improve, immensely.
The alert on your phone may have signaled the Suns would miss out on a bunch of scoring, but without that delay, you probably would have understood the logic. Time will forget that delay, and it will remember a trade that might ultimately work out for both sides.
Now the 3-0 Suns take on the 3-0 Pacers (records are “in the Bubble”). It’s Devin Booker vs. T.J. Warren. It’s the winning Pacers versus the trying-to-win Suns.
But when it comes to T.J. vs the Suns, the Suns have nothing but great things to say about their former teammate. Here’s Devin Booker, on the night he beat the Clippers with a buzzer beater, when asked mid-interview about T.J. Warren’s scoring exploits here in Orlando.
“He’s just a hooper. What he did the past couple games doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve seen many years of that. One of my favorite players to watch, and has been since he’s been my teammate. We still communicate, we still talk a lot. This relationship, that’s for life. I’m happy the situation that he’s in, the opportunity that he’s getting and the way he’s performing.”
Suns play the Pacers on Thursday at 1:00pm AZ Time.