Finally. T.J. Warren, who a lot of fans and pundits thought would be an off-season steal, is expected to hit the hardwood again Friday vs. the Raptors, nearly two years after he last played for the Pacers. The Nets cleared him for game action Thursday afternoon, as expected.
Strapped with limited opportunities — just vets minimum contracts and the (still unused!) taxpayer mid-level exception — due to luxury tax constraints, GM Sean Marks still had to field a balanced and deep roster that can sustain the rigors of the NBA season. Yet despite the twin sagas of KD and Kyrie, Brooklyn’s front office had itself one heck of an offseason, first snagging two-way wing Royce O’Neale and extending flyer-type deals to Markieff Morris and Yuta Watanabe.
But perhaps Marks’ most exciting pickup and certainly the one with the highest upside was T.J. Warren, who agreed to a one-year veteran’s minimum-level contract a few days into free agency.
The 6’8” 29-year-old is just two seasons removed from averaging a shade below 20 points per game as a starter on a playoff team in Indiana ... and a 31.0-point average in the ‘bubble,’ including a 53-point effort. Since then, a litany of foot issues has kept Warren sidelined, appearing in just four regular-season games since the start of the 2020-21 season. His season ended and his career paused on December 29, 2021.
Wednesday night, both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving offered their thoughts on Warren’s return, a mixture of wishing him the best and hoping that fans are patient with their teammate.
Durant said he doesn’t want to put “too much high expectations on TJ Warren” adding, “I’m happy for him. He’s been away from the game for so long.”
“I’m just excited that he gets to prove himself to our fans, prove himself to himself, most importantly that he’s able to still be a top player in our league and help a winning team, especially one that’s trying to win a championship so I’m excited,” said Irving.
So, just as we did before training camp, we take a look at what Warren brings to the table using footage from his last full season...
1:00 Offense - Warren has always been a tremendous talent in the midrange, but what has allowed T.J. to ascend into higher territory as a role player is by stretching his range. He’s also a tremendous off-ball player, both as a cutter and as a transition threat.
5:47 Defense - Defensively, Warren brings a dogged mentality when guarding opponents in space, playing close up into his matchups with regularity. He’s not especially adept at evading screens, though Brooklyn’s switching scheme may mitigate this weakness. Still, fans shouldn’t expect Warren to do much as a rebounder.
General takeaways - Assuming he’s able to reprise at least some of what he brought to the table as a starter for the Pacers, T.J. Warren could be a massive steal for the Brooklyn Nets. He is the perfect ancillary piece next to the stars due to his ability to succeed away from the ball, and Brooklyn’s defensive scheme could prompt a titillating performance from Warren as an overall defender.