Suns’ Warren fine with finding success inside the arc
PHOENIX — Developing a reliable 3-point shot is a skill that can make or break an NBA player. A skill that could be the difference between superstar and forgotten journeyman.
Phoenix Suns small forward T.J. Warren is determined to change the narrative.
“I’m just being myself out there,” Warren said. “I understand that I’m capable of shooting threes but I am more comfortable shooting the shots that I’m comfortable with, which is driving to the rack and the mid-range area.”
Warren is not your average NBA player. The former first-round pick doesn’t light up the scoreboard from beyond the arc, only attempting 1.3 threes per game with a 27.9 percent accuracy for his career.
Instead, Warren prefers to do his damage everywhere else. The North Carolina State alum is quietly putting together the best statistical season of his career, averaging nearly 20 points a game on 50 percent shooting.
“He is another offensive threat,” rookie small forward Josh Jackson said. “He makes the defense really pay attention to him a lot and opens things up for other guys. You’ve seen that all year. He is really good to have out there playing with us.”
The league has embraced the 3-point shot with open arms, with teams like the Houston Rockets hoisting up more than 43 triples every game. Players from shifty point guards to skyscraper centers have adopted the practice, spacing the floor and evolving the way the game is played. In the midst of this change, Warren doesn’t feel pressure to change what makes him so successful.
“I’m not a good three-point shooter, but I still put the ball in the basket and I still get the same results so that’s all that matters to me,” Warren said. “It’s all points at the end of the day.”
While players like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson dominate headlines as sharpshooters, Warren prefers to stay in the shadows, becoming a valuable mid-range specialist that loads up the stat sheet and strikes fear in opposing teams.
“It’s just my game and what I take pride in doing,” Warren said. “Whatever I got going that day, whether it’s mid-range or a floater in transition, it doesn’t matter.”
On a squad with a limited number of shot creators, Warren’s contributions on the offensive end of the floor remain more important than ever, taking the load off leading scorer Devin Booker’s shoulders.
The fourth-year pro benefits from the two-headed 3-point monster of Booker and guard Troy Daniels on the outside, freeing up space inside the paint for Warren to get buckets and showcase his skills.
“Guys are so concerned about Booker and Daniels behind the arc, I think it opens me up and we complement each other pretty well,” Warren said. “When I’m scoring in the paint at a high rate, it balances itself out.”
Warren’s style of play matches his personality. The soft-spoken forward never had a knack for the flashy, but the Suns have definitely noticed. Warren and Booker have accounted for 42 percent of Phoenix’s points.
“He’s important on both ends of the floor,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano said. “The stability he brings to the team, being familiar with what we are trying to do and his ability to find points are vital.”
The two-point barrage from Warren has drawn comparisons to NBA All-Star Demar DeRozan, whose “old school” style of play inside the arc has been well-noted but rarely duplicated in the modern age.
But Warren is an anomaly, thriving in his own element in an evolving league as he works to pull the Suns out of the cellar of the Western Conference.