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T.J. Warren: Suns ‘messed up’ by trading me to Pacers for cash

TJ Warren #12 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball during the first half of the NBA game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 18, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Trail Blazers defeated the Suns 124-76. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns’ trade of T.J. Warren to the Indiana Pacers for cash considerations raised some eyebrows this summer. Not because Warren’s trade was unexpected, but because the return was less than one might think.

Warren was one of the better players on the Suns over the past several years, finishing second on the team in points per game behind Devin Booker in three straight seasons. But as a crowded wing rotation and an effort to free cap space became a priority, Warren got moved on the day of the NBA Draft to the Indiana Pacers, along with the 32nd overall pick.

For nothing in return but the cap space.

Understandably, Warren was a little surprised by it too, and is out to show that Phoenix made a mistake. He told The Athletic’s Shams Charania as much:

When I saw it, I looked at it as a business. I’m grateful that the Pacers were able to make that transaction for me. When guys get moved, they want to show and prove the team that moved them wrong. I’m not mad at the Phoenix Suns, but they made the deal and I’m just excited to move on.

I’m ready to show the whole NBA — and not just the Suns for making the wrong decision — that the Pacers made the right decision. I’m worth more than cash considerations. It’s on me to prove it. But the Suns messed up.

Warren, 26, averaged 18.0 points per game last year, which was second on the team behind Booker’s 26.6 and a little more than a point better than Kelly Oubre Jr. and Deandre Ayton. The NC State alumnus averaged 14.4, 19.6 and 18.0 points per game the last three seasons, in that order.

Warren also averaged 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 31.6 minutes played last year across 43 games, missing time due to injury.

From the Suns’ perspective, while it’s perhaps true that Warren is worth more than just the salary he’s getting paid, the team used the cap space savings from that and other transactions to make key offseason moves like signing point guard Ricky Rubio and retaining the restricted free agent Oubre.

By most accounts, the Suns improved their roster this offseason, which is all you can ask for. But there’s also been a narrative that Phoenix didn’t maximize the value of its assets, probably most-epitomized by the Warren trade to Indiana and the perceived “reach” to pick Cam Johnson with the 11th pick.

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