Leaving the Canadians behind, this time we look at North Carolina State’s T.J. Warren.
Warren is a scorer, ranking third in the NCAA in scoring this past season with 24.9 points per game. Unlike many scorers, Warren isn’t a guy that needs to dominate the ball in order to get his points. He scores in the same way someone like Shawn Mario used to score (and still does, just not as much). Moving without the ball, grabbing offensive rebounds and just being in the right place at the right time. They both even have an ugly looking three point shot, although Marion has proven to be much more accurate at it.
That’s not to say that Warren should be compared to Marion, despite being a similar size. Marion was a much better athlete and defender than Warren, who suffers from the deadly sin of not really having a true NBA position. Warren played power forward in college, but is too undersized to do it full-time in the NBA. And his quickness and perimeter defense is questionable, at this point.
This lack of a real position might be a real issue with Warren. One just has to look at some recent examples, like Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley (and possibly Anthony Bennett). Both Williams and Beasley played power forward in college, were great scorers and weren’t exactly unathletic (which sets them apart from someone like Adam Morrison).
There is a belief that the NBA is changing so that “small-ball power forwards”, like Carmelo Anthony, are the wave of the future. The problem, though, is that there are still so many legit power forwards like LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin that a team featuring a small-ball power forward would be at a disadvantage defensively much of the time. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Houston.
So the question with Warren is whether or not he can play the small forward position. In order to play small forward, he’ll likely have to improve his three point shot. He actually shot a great percentage as a freshman, although taking less than one a game, but struggled mightily for most of the season (although improving vastly at the end) as a sophomore. You just had to take a look at the highlight video to discover why he’s had consistency problems. He kicks one leg out and his form seems to be different each time he shoots. A good shot doctor may be able to fix his shot, although DeRozan has yet to become a consistent three point shooter, so who knows if the Raptors have someone like that.
It’s on the other end of the court that the real problem may lie. In truth, Warren’s pre-draft workouts maybe be able to tell teams whether he can defend other small forwards, but any team drafting him will be taking a risk.
And obviously the next question is the whether or not Warren would be a good fit for the Raptors.
Mock drafts have Warren mostly going before the 20th pick, but some have him falling as far as 21st, so if he does fall that far, the Raptors may have an opportunity to shore up the small forward position, which might be their weakest link. Warren is best in the open court, which suits the Raptors, and his ability to move without the ball and score without plays being run for him, and should be valuable for a team who relied a great deal on just two of their players for scoring.
What doesn’t fit with the current Raptors team is that his offensive game finds him in many of the same areas as many of the Raptors’ players. He tends to gravitate to the high post, paint or foul line extended where DeRozan, Lowry, Amir and Valanciunas like to operate. There’s a danger he will get in the way of those players unless he alters his game. The Raptors score their best when there is excellent spacing, and if Warren is unable to consistently hit the three point shot, he won’t help with that.
Plus, if he struggles defensively, playing him with DeRozan, who also struggles defensively, will cause problems.
Still, Warren is a talented scorer and offensive rebounder who the Raptors would have trouble resisting he were available at 20.