PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns proved that their word is as good as gold on Thursday night when they made forward T.J. Warren out of N.C. State their first selection (14th overall) in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Earlier in the week it was reported that the Suns gave a promise to Warren that he would be drafted if he was available, and the Suns didn’t hesitate.
Warren told the media that he went back to Phoenix for another private workout and had a good feel that he would be heading to the desert.
“I went back out there for another workout and got a sense that I was a high priority for them,” Warren said. “I just wanted to show that I could defend at a high level and be an all around player and not just be a scorer, even the little things that don’t normally stick out.”
The 6-foot-8 forward didn’t have much to prove offensively through the pre-draft process — he did enough of that in school.
Last year, the Durham native averaged 24.9 points per game on 52 percent shooting, putting up 30 or more points four times and scored 40 plus twice — in back-to-back games, no less. His 871 points broke a single season school record set in 1975 that was held by the legendary David Thompson.
Warren has a throwback type of offensive game in that his mid-range jump shot is his strength. He is a very creative scorer and is excellent off drives, leading the NCAA with a 69 percent shooting mark off non-floaters at the rim. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough was thoroughly impressed with what Warren brings to the table offensively and raved about the first-round pick on Thursday night.
“He is an elite scorer,” McDonough said. “One of the best in the country.
“He has an unique ability to put the ball in the basket and has good size and strength, but more importantly, he has terrific instincts and a fantastic touch around the basket. He has alot of the things you cannot teach. He still needs to work on his outside shooting, but we think he has a chance to be a special offensive player.”
Warren’s three-point shooting is one part of his game that will need to improve, as he only made 12 of 56 attempts last season. But that is only a blip in what is a strong offensive game. Suns coach Jeff Hornacek added that there are other things in his game that not everyone sees that made him an intriguing pick.
“Some of the little things he does, in terms of his hands, snagging the ball, catches passes that aren’t great passes. And in NBA ball there is a lot of grabbing, and he is strong enough to fight through that,” Hornacek said.
Warren — the first player selected in the first round out of the “Triangle” area in North Carolina since John Wall in 2010 — is happy with the style he will get to play with on the Suns. He mentioned it is very similar to how he plays his game and thinks it is a perfect fit.
“They like to get up and down, get transition buckets and push the tempo a little bit,” Warren said. “I feel like my style fits well there, they run the floor well there and I can pick my spots in transition.”
As for the desert heat that Warren will now live in? Yeah, he is happy with that as well.
“I was out there a few times, its not that bad. I’m used to it from North Carolina.”
Hornacek on Warren’s defense: “A lot of these guys that are big scorers in college, I think a lot of coaches are telling them, ‘hey don’t foul, don’t get in foul trouble.’ They may look terrible defensively on tape, but when you get them live and see … in one of our drills, it was a mix: one time they guard a point guard, next time it was a forward, next time it was a center who tried to back him down. He stopped all three of them pretty easily. Things like that stuck out for me on the defensive side.”