clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 Phoenix Suns Player Review: The Return of T.J. “Tony Buckets” Warren

As part of the trade that returned Kevin Durant, the Suns brought back a familiar face in T.J. Warren

2023 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Author Intro

Hi everyone, this is Cole Tuorto, AKA @SunsReport in the Twitter realms. I am currently based out of Denver, CO, but was originally born in the Greater Phoenix Area and grew up watching the 7SOL Suns and the decade of struggle immediately following the end of the Nash era. For some reason, I was always drawn to the Suns whether that was their colors, their innovative style of play (yes including starting 3-point guards in Bledsoe, Dragic, and IT), or just the fans.

I bleed purple and orange no matter where my career and life will take me. With being local to Denver I got to experience the Nuggets championship festivities, and although I am happy for the franchise getting their first ring, this makes me even more hungry to experience that feeling for when the Suns win their first after almost pulling away with it in the 2021 Finals. With an aggressive new owner in Mat Ishbia, a world-class coaching staff, and Bradley Beal (Yes Bradley Beal) to join DBook and KD we should be in good shape.

Alright, now onto T.J. Warren.

2022-23 Player Recaps

On this episode of reviewing the 2022-23 Phoenix Suns, we shift our focus to the return of T.J. Warren who was previously in Phoenix during the “Golden Era” of Suns hoops during the 2014-2019 seasons and being a homegrown draft pick. Warren was part of the blockbuster Kevin Durant trade during the NBA Trade Deadline that sent Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, and four firsts.

Therefore, it is easy to see why Warren’s return was nothing more than a cherry on top given the significance of the trade-in landing one of the greatest scorers ever. Regardless it is important to analyze his contribution to this year’s Phoenix Suns despite the limited games played, and how he was utilized within the rotation.

  • Position: Small forward and power forward
  • Vitals: 6’8” tall, 220 pounds, 29 years old
  • Experience: 9 years
  • Stats (2022-23 regular season, PHX): 4.2 PPG, 0.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 42.9 FG%, 31.6 3PT%, 50.0 FT%

Regular Season Recap:

Warren only played a total of 16 regular season games with the Phoenix Suns and, unfortunately, just could not carve out that consistent 5th starting spot next to Paul, Book, Durant, and Ayton. The Suns constantly cycled between other forwards as well such as Torrey Craig and Josh Okogie depending on matchups and on-court performance.

Warren had a few promising moments for the Suns in his brief return, including a 16-point, 8 rebound performance in March. His addition, including players such as Terrance Ross, was a breath of fresh air at the time as proven shot creators to give some relief to the starting group. However, given the limited time he had with the squad, he never got the consistency necessary to make a firm impact on the team after being acquired at the deadline.

Post-Season Recap:

Warren was another victim of Monty Williams's rotation cuts for the playoffs, only appearing in 6 games and averaging only 2.7 PTS on an abysmal 31.6% from the field and 14.3% from beyond the arc. Similar to the regular season and due to the limited time with the team, he never could establish himself as a clear rotational piece that could provide the Suns a much-needed spark off the bench.

Add Torrey Craig’s phenomenal 3-point shooting in the 1st round eclipsing 55% on 3.6 attempts per game, and Okogie providing value as a scrappy defender & serious threat on the offensive glass, and Warren just could not carve out a consistent spot in the rotation.


The veteran Sun thrives in one area especially, and that is tough buckets hence where the nickname “Tony Buckets” spawned from. The exact number is unknown to me, but if there was a stat for tough leaners fading away from the basket, Warren would probably be in the 99th percentile. Warren actually offers a lot of what the top stars for the Suns in operating in the mid-range, which may have actually resulted in less opportunity due to the necessity of three-point shooting in the playoffs. This became increasingly evident for the Suns, especially being dead-last in 3PA with only 25.8 per game.

Warren is an underrated defender and passer as well, with active hands that can trigger fastbreaks and the IQ necessary to facilitate portions of the offense. This was extremely evident with Indiana before suffering a foot injury that cost him the entire 2021-22 season.


Warren’s weakness lies in his consistency behind the arc. If you are an OG Suns fan you may remember in his final season with the team shooting an electric 42.8% from three seemingly out of nowhere but then has regressed since. In addition, Warren is not the greatest rebounder despite being 6’8 (career 4 RPG) and has a tendency of being out of position in the paint due to not being able to match in sheer size against larger opponents.

A major example of this was in the Denver series going up against their more physical forwards such as Aaron Gordon & Michael Porter Jr. The lack of another rebounding wing such as a Craig or Okogie on the floor saw the Suns give up a ton of second-chance points, which in turn would either kill momentum or tire out the team especially playing in altitude.

Contract Status

TJ Warren signed a 1yr, $2.6 M with the Brooklyn Nets via. free agency before being traded to the Suns at the trade deadline. Warren will be an unrestricted free agent heading into the FA season.

Final Season Grade:

My grade for Warren’s return to Phoenix is a C with the potential to be higher given more of a run by the coaching staff. The problem is the limited time Warren did play he was not particularly efficient or flashy with his opportunity. It is extremely tough to grade the fringe players on any NBA roster due to the sample size that we are given to judge with, and these ratings could easily fluctuate given the adjustment of just a few variables.

Regardless, it was really cool to see Warren back in a Suns uni, and was a bonus to the Durant trade. If he is not back on the roster next season, I will personally still be rooting for him as he was one of the few bright spots during some of the darkest times in Phoenix Suns history.


What grade would you give Terrence Ross as a Sun this season?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    (13 votes)
  • 25%
    (91 votes)
  • 46%
    (166 votes)
  • 22%
    (81 votes)
  • 1%
    (6 votes)
357 votes total Vote Now

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bright Side of the Sun Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Phoenix Suns news from Bright Side of the Sun