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Fantasy basketball: Stash T.J. Warren

Don’t be surprised if Warren starts to become a top-50 fantasy player.

Atlanta Hawks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

T.J. Warren takes as many shots as Paul George.

Does that surprise you? Me, too, especially since Warren averages 0.3 3PM per game, and PG13 averages 3.2. They get to the line at the exact same rate, 4.3 per game, they both average 5-6 rebounds per game, and they both score around 20 ppg. Paul George gets more assists, 3.1, and more steals, 2.2 per game (best in the whole gosh darn NBA). He’s also one of the best two-way players in the NBA, is one of the few people on the planet, maybe ever, who can legit guard LeBron, and may attain superstar status if he goes to the Lakers (and, instantly attains the guaranteed Laker overrating). Paul George is 27 years old.

George is shooting 43% on field goals this year. TJ Warren, who is 24, is shooting 49%. Doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, right? However, out of all players in the NBA this season who average at least 20 minutes per game, and take at least 12 shots per game, TJ Warren’s 49FG% is 13TH BEST. It’s better than Klay Thompson’s, DeMar DeChozan’s, and Kyrie Irving’s. And, out of those 13 players with the best field goal percentages in the league, Warren shoots the second LEAST amount of threes (Ben Simmons has NOT made a three yet this season, but he’s only attempted 10; TJ Warren has made 11 threes all season).

So, TJ is shooting lights out, but not from outside. He’s not getting to the line at an extreme rate, either, so his points are for real produced by his layups and midrange. You know who shot a lot last year but rarely attempted, nor made, a three pointer?

That’s right, Mr. Mid-Range, DeMar DeChozan. DeChozan averaged 0.4 3PM last season, second least amongst players who averaged at least 15 shots per game (Derrick Rose averaged 0.2 3PM). He ended up as the 37th best player in ESPN basic last season; he’s currently 18th this season. He’s 99% owned, obviously.

TJ’s efficiency has gone down as he takes more attempts, but he was a 40% three-point shooter just two seasons ago, and that’s when he was attempting the exact same amount of outside shots (1.5 per game). Warren’s three-point shooting will probably improve. He’s currently ranked 61st on the year on ESPN’s basic player rater.

If his outside shot starts dropping, could TJ end the year in the top 50? DeMar’s addition of outside shooting vaulted him up into the elite of fantasy basketball; perhaps TJ’s trajectory will be similar? We should always remember that players don’t mature at the same rates and in the same ways; some players go against the grain, and only truly blossom later in their careers. TJ is young, though. If he added a few threes per game, his scoring would be over 20 points per game. That’s damn good news, if you own him in fantasy basketball.

Bad news, though: Phoenix shoots fewer threes than Memphis, they’re bottom ten in attempts and have the second-worst 3PT% as a team (the Lakers are the worst, haha, GOOD). They’re bottom five in offensive rating, behind even Orlando. The Suns just aren’t good right now. But, with Devin Booker, TJ Warren, and maybe a few of the others, you can start to see a scoring machine. If the team as a whole improves their outside shooting (everyone’s young, remember), then this team might be fun AF to watch next season. I kinda maybe sorta think this could be a good team for Boogie Cousins, if he decided to leave New Orleans (except for the coach and front office, of course).

Regardless, keep your eye on TJ Warren. He might be growing into a fantasy star right before our eyes, even though it doesn’t really seem like it.

One last thing. I’d just like to publicly proclaim that I think that Brandon Ingram is awesome, and I love watching him play. It’s tough to do because he seems like a stick figure brought magically to life, like some Disney movie or something, but nope, he’s a real person, and he’s a real (good) basketball player. He looks like he has no abdomen, just limbs, like the robots from Interstellar. I think he’s a messenger from Flatland. Anyway, the Lakers fans have had to watch dismal basketball for a half decade now; it’s nice to see them cheer for young, good players again. He and Kuzma are absolutely dynamite together.

Could LA be a landing spot for Nikola Mirotic? That’s a lot of front court players, but if the whole league is going forward heavy, then why not try to acquire one of the best outside shooting forwards? Good Lord, is Houston involved in the Mirotic trade talks? Mirotic is only 26, by the way.

Stats as of January 12th.