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Phoenix Suns add ‘elite’ scorer in North Carolina State’s T.J. Warren

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns had many things in 2013-14.

A dynamic backcourt. A promising frontcourt. Unexpected depth.

One thing they didn’t have was a go-to scorer at a wing position.

Perhaps they do now.

The Suns selected North Carolina State forward T.J. Warren with the first of their three first-round picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, 14th overall, adding the ACC Player of the Year to a team that could use exactly what he brings to the table.

Then again, most teams could use a 6-foot-9, 215-pound player who averaged 24.9 points per game as a sophomore.

“T.J. is an elite scorer,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough said Thursday night at the US Airways Center. “He was one of the best scorers in the country.”

In fact, Warren was third in NCAA Division one last year in points per game, trailing only Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Niagara’s Antoine Mason.

“He has a unique ability to put the ball in the basket,” added McDonough.

Of course, it’s not like the Suns struggled offensively in 2013-14. Phoenix averaged 105.2 points per game, which was good for seventh-best in the NBA. The fast-paced style is something Warren believes suits him well.

“Just running the floor hard and just getting to the open spot for an easy layup or a dunk,” he said in a conference call with the media.

Warren made 52.5 percent of his shots last season, though he connected on just 31 of 116 three-point attempts. Up to this point in his career the bulk of his scoring has been done via the mid-range game and around the hoop, and he is also effective with his back to the basket.

Said Tyler Ennis, the second of the Suns’ first-round picks and someone who faced off with Warren last season as a member of the Syracuse Orange:

“He’s just a flat-out scorer,” he said of the player who scored 23 points on 11-of-22 shooting that game.

When asked about how he fits into the team going forward, Suns coach Jeff Hornacek talked about Warren’s ability to finish around the basked as something that will be taken advantage of. The coach added Warren’s skillset will allow him to play alongside the team’s backcourt duo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe while also being able to play off of the other scorers already on the roster, as he’s good at moving without the ball and will benefit from the attention paid to his teammates.

But sooner or later, it appears the hope is for Warren to be the guy who leads the way

“He’s a guy, you look at a lot of teams in the league that have a guy that they can throw the ball to in the 15-20 foot range and can take one dribble and get off a great shot or get to the hole,” Hornacek said. “I think he’s got that combination, especially at the three spot. He’s got the good size where if we work a play and get him the ball at that free throw line/top of the key area and let him just go with it, we’ve got a good chance of getting a bucket out of it.

“That’s a tough skill to have. A lot of guys, they can shoot open shots but when you get down in — and hopefully we’re in the playoffs — you start getting into the playoffs in tough games, you need tough buckets. He’s a guy that we think can get tough buckets.”

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