McDonough, Suns Impressed with Warren

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by Matt Petersen

When Phoenix took T.J. Warren with the 14th overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, they’d hoped what he’d done in college would carry over.

All the evidence suggested he would. His sophomore year scoring (24.9 ppg) was backed up by efficiency (52.5 FG%). The manner in which he scored wasn’t the cookie-cutter variety so often seen from young prospects. His moves weren’t predictable, but they were dependable.

Still, no matter how highly regarded a prospect is, there’s always some uncertainty as to how he’ll fare against professional competition.

“You’re never sure exactly how it’s going to go with a rookie,” admitted Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough.

That’s where Summer League comes in. It’s a small, but vital, test from which early answers can be taken. Before throwing young prospects to the NBA wolves, they are let loose against the slightly less formidable starving dogs of offseason competition.

Warren made them look like puppies, averaging 17.8 points per contest on 54.4 percent shooting.

“We’d hoped he’d be able to translate his efficient scoring from college to the NBA and it certainly did look like it did translate,” McDonough said. “That’s hard to do, especially for a 20-year-old rookie just coming off his sophomore year in college.”

Warren’s overall numbers don’t paint an accurate picture. He played just seven minutes in his second game due to an opponent’s errant elbow that produced a gash and, eventually, five stitches above his right eye. Take out that game, and his scoring average jumps above 20 points. He scored 82 total in his first 90 minutes of play on 60 percent shooting, before a team-wide fit of cold shooting in the finale forced his numbers down.

Perhaps most encouraging was that there was no awkward adjusting of his game in order to keep producing. The player Phoenix scouted at North Carolina State was the same one that torched defenses in Las Vegas.

“He just has a unique knack for getting the ball in spots where he can score,” McDonough said. “He puts it up with a nice, soft touch. When he does miss, he’s very good getting offensive rebounds, putting the ball back in. The way he looked is the way we kind of thought and hoped he would look.”

Warren’s ability to stay within his style of play did not come with selfish consequences, either. Despite seeing a lot of the ball during his Vegas stay, the 6-8 forward committed just four turnovers in 123 total minutes.

He also did his damage without forcing the issue. When the ball was in his hands, he was decisive in creating for himself or moving the ball on in the offense. He created many of his opportunities off the ball as well, including the aforementioned offensive rebounds as well as filling the lanes on the break and weak-side cuts when his defender was caught napping.

“He put on an impressive performance and looked pretty mature and pretty poised for a  20-year-old rookie,” McDonough said.