What in the world has gotten into T.J. Warren?
For most, the NC State alum would best be described as a useful but not star-caliber talent, an above-average NBA starter with a nose for the basket (15.4 career points per game). Despite promising traits, Warren has never sniffed an All-Star appearance in his six seasons spent mostly with the Phoenix Suns (who are currently weathering a nine-year postseason drought). Analytics site FiveThirtyEight.com apparently doesn’t think too highly of the 26-year-old, projecting him as a career “scrub” while comparing him to the middling likes of Gerald Henderson, Rodney Hood and Corliss Williamson.
The 6’8” forward has enjoyed a productive debut season in Indiana, surging to career-highs in points per game (19.7) and field-goal percentage (53.9) while filling the scoring void left by injury-plagued Victor Oladipo and free-agent casualty Bojan Bogdanovic, now of the Utah Jazz. Of course, none of this comes close to explaining what we’ve witnessed in Orlando, where Warren has gone ballistic, averaging a bubble-leading 39.7 points per game on brilliant 65.3-percent shooting. He’s been an assassin from long range, converting an ungodly 60.9 percent of his tries from beyond the arc (14-of-23).
Even without injured All-Star Domantas Sabonis (foot) and Oladipo operating on a strict minutes limit, the Pacers have yet to lose in Orlando, rattling off three straight victories over the Sixers, Wizards and Magic. Warren has eclipsed 30 points in each game including a career-best 53—the third-highest single-game point total in franchise history—in Indiana’s overtime triumph over Philadelphia. His 119 points are the most by a Pacer over any three-game stretch.
Warren will be out for blood when the Suns, winners of three straight, oppose fifth-seeded Indiana Thursday in the Disney bubble. Warren roasted his former team for 25 when Phoenix hosted the Pacers in January.
Who knows how long Warren can keep this up or if this is all just a mirage brought on by the insanity of all that’s transpired over the past several months. But if Warren can continue his scorching-hot ways, the Pacers are going to be a team nobody wants to face come playoff time.