FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Although Suns forward T.J. Warren stands 6-foot-8, 225 pounds and may come off as intimidating, he is as reserved as they come. His deep voice resonates, but he is not a man of many words.
After the Suns announced recently that Warren signed a four-year extension, teammate Devin Booker was pleased his team could get a deal done for more reasons than one.
“T.J. deserves it,” he said. “T.J.’s worked hard and put the work in and he got rewarded for it. We all told him we’re proud of him. We’re getting a few more words out of him now. We tell him he’s glowing today. T.J. was talking a little more today with that $50 million behind him.”
The 2016-17 season was another rebuilding year for the Suns. They were focused on improving their young players over the course of the season, with injuries leading to more playing time for Warren. Coach Earl Watson had high praise for the fourth-year player out of North Carolina State when discussing his new contract at training camp.
“I think his rebounding stood out more than anything besides shooting over 55 percent after the All-Star break. I believe him and Lebron were the only two guards to do that,” Watson said. “More importantly defensively, on the ball defense. He took some challenges and stepped up and his rebounding has allowed him to play more minutes.”
The Suns are committed to building from within similar to the Oklahoma City model, Watson said. That proved to be a pretty effective method to breed top talent, such as MVPs Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, as well as MVP candidate James Harden.
They were on the cusp of winning a championship before their big three decided to part ways. Following the same path could prove to be successful as it will appeal to veterans down the road. It worked in Oklahoma City as Carmelo Anthony said that he wanted to be with the Thunder because of Westbrook’s commitment to the team.
With the new contract extension, the Suns are dedicated to improving all around throughout the season. Warren worked on his shot from behind the arc at training camp, something that Watson said will make him more versatile.
“Analytics are a big part of this game and T.J.’s game kind of defies analytics,” he said. “ He’s very hard to defend he has a lot of different shots. He can score in the midrange which defies analytics. And our goal is to develop a three-point shot with him, which he showed all summer he is capable of doing.”
Youth is a big part of the Suns game in their attempt to rebuild and bring this team back to the playoffs. Warren said that he enjoys the atmosphere and culture that has been created in Phoenix and that was a big reason for him extending his contract.
“Everyone gets along, everyone hangs out with each other,” Warren said. “We are all around the same age. Everybody understands each other and want to get better. That’s all you could ask for with a young group like this in the NBA. We’re all just trying to get better at the end of the day.”
Warren showed serious improvement last season and carried a heavier load because of it. He was third on the team in shots per game in 2016, trailing only Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker. He also started 59 games compared to five over his first two seasons combined. And while offense has been a focal point of his game since entering the league, he hopes to change that in the upcoming season.
“When I’m out there obviously everyone knows I can score, so the other things that stick out are defense (and) rebounding,” Warren said. “So I just want to continue to do that and show that I’m an all around player.”
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