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SI.com writer: T.J. Warren a late bloomer who is worth the hype

Phoenix Suns forward T.J. Warren (12) goes up for a shot over Oklahoma City Thunder center Joffrey Lauvergne during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Oklahoma City won 113-110. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

All offseason there was plenty of talk about the Phoenix Suns’ young core, though one name was often left out.

Nowadays, no one is forgetting about T.J. Warren.

The third-year pro out of North Carolina State has been excellent through the first nine games, averaging 20.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.78 steals per game while shooting .458 from the field.

He, along with Devin Booker, are the only Suns averaging at least 20 points per game, and as SI.com’s Jeremy Woo noted, he is a late bloomer who is worth the hype.

One clear early candidate for Most Improved Player is T.J. Warren, who has evolved into a consistent offensive role and emerged as a legitimate second scorer next to Devin Booker. The 14th pick in the 2014 draft has posted 20.2 points per game while nearly doubling last season’s shot attempts and getting to the line more. Warren’s never been known as a jump shooter, but has spotted up effectively and added a welcome dimension to a slightly wonky mixed bag of offensive tricks—floaters, dribble fadeaways and shots off the glass. Warren’s also chipped in 1.8 steals and shown added effort on that side of the ball.

So, the Suns are bad. Well, at least they’re far more interesting to think about long-term. They’re one of the league’s youngest teams, and they just slid rookie Marquese Chriss (who, by the way, looks extremely lost) into the starting lineup. There are certainly long-term possibilities in a Warren/Chriss frontcourt and/or Warren/Dragan Bender combo as the Suns grow over the next few years… just not defensive-minded ones. After last season was cut short by foot surgery, it’s just nice to see Warren back out there getting buckets.

Suns fans were already excited over the futures of Booker, Bender and Chriss, though based on his play early this season, Warren’s name belongs on the list of young Suns with bright futures.

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