TJ Warren 2020 Bubble Retrospective

One of the many questions entering the 2022-23 NBA season for the Brooklyn Nets will be the effectiveness of newly acquired forward TJ Warren. The former 14th overall pick hasn’t played a game since December 29th, 2020, and signed a one-year deal with the Nets this offseason. Although this addition may have seemed insignificant to some, there was once a time when Warren dominated on offense. Let’s tap into his ultimate potential as we take a look back at ‘Bubble’ TJ Warren.

TJ Warren 2020 Bubble Retrospective

A Rising Sun

Warren was selected 14th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. He didn’t play much in his first two seasons, notching 40 and 47 games, respectively, in his rookie and sophomore seasons. Warren averaged 19.1 minutes per game during that period, starting in only five contests. He showed promise in his second season, upping his scoring average from 6.1 to 11 points per game. 

Warren’s elevation in Phoenix began in his third season. He started 59 of the 67 games that he played, averaging 14.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Warren signed a four-year, $50 million contract extension with the Suns in 2017. He averaged 19.6 points and 5.1 rebounds that year, starting all 65 games he was in. Injuries plagued Warren’s 2018-19 campaign, limiting him to 36 starts and 43 games played. He kept his production up considering his health issues, averaging 18 points and four rebounds per game. It’s also worth noting that Warren improved his three-point shooting vastly in 2018. He shot 42% from beyond the arc while averaging 4.2 three attempts per game. Warren nearly doubled his percentage from 2017 (22%) and tripled his attempts per game (1.4). 

Warren again dealt with injuries and was ultimately traded to the Indiana Pacers in June of 2019 along with the 32nd overall pick for cash considerations. 

Pacing Indiana

The 2019-20 season started off slowly for Warren, but the 6’8” forward started heating up around the holidays. He kept the pace into the new year despite dealing with another run of injuries in the spring. Unfortunately for all of us, the world changed in March 2020. With COVID suspending play amid the regular season, the basketball world was excited to have the return of basketball in the form of the Orlando ‘bubble.’

TJ Warren: The Orlando Bubble’s MVP

Indiana entered the Orlando bubble as a playoff team. They needed a strong end to the regular season to build confidence that they wouldn’t repeat the previous season’s letdown. Warren made sure that the Pacers got off on the right foot in Orlando, going off for 53 points in the first game of the bubble. Warren hit a ridiculous 75% of his three-pointer that night and 69% from the floor. 

He would follow this up with back-to-back 30-point games, scoring 34 in a double-double effort the next night. Warren was doing it all for the Pacers’ offense. The forward would bring up the ball and pull up from deep off of a screen. He also attacked the basket well and showed a sweet touch from the mid-range. Indiana went as Warren did while in Orlando, which was clear by the last three games before the playoffs. In those games, Warren was held to under 20 points twice. Both losses for the Pacers. The other contest saw Warren score 39 points on the way to victory over the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. 

Indiana chose to sit Warren for the final two games of the regular season with their playoff seed locked in. Given his injury history, this makes sense. However, it may have cooled the red-hot Warren down as they entered the first round. The Miami Heat swept the Pacers in a lopsided series. Although Warren averaged 20 points per game, Indiana lost by an average of 10.5 points. It seemed that this Pacers team couldn’t win in Disneyland without a magical 30-point night from their 6’8” sharpshooting cinderella. Although some speculate that the fairy tale is over, Warren’s move to Brooklyn might mean that the clock has yet to strike midnight. 

Will Warren Have a Renaissance in Brooklyn?

Two years is a long time to be away from anything. When considering how talented and athletic the younger generation of NBA players are, it’s easy to write off Warren. However, it would be unwise to do so. While we may never see another bubble-esque hot streak from the wingman, he has averaged solid scoring numbers his entire career. We can expect Warren to contribute to this team offensively as soon as he joins the rotation. He can create his own shot off the dribble, either getting to the rim or pulling up, and his catch-and-shoot game is something defenses will have to respect. 

That’s not to mention the potential defensive impact that Warren can have when he is in the game. Excluding the 2020-21 season in which he played four games, Warren has averaged at least a steal per game every year since 2016. His tall frame and ability to play the passing lanes leads to easy, momentum-building buckets on the other end. Warren can potentially be the third option behind Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this season.