Anthony Warren Jr., better known to the NBA world as TJ Warren, is a fairly under the radar type of player with the skills to be meaningfully impactful in any game.
At 6’8”, Warren has good size at the wing spot, though he certainly lacks anything resembling above average athleticism in a conventional sense. This is to say that while Warren is a good decelerator and even has decent balance, he is not beating anyone off the dribble nor leaping over anyone not named JJ Barea.
While Warren’s ball-handling skills are certainly adequate for his position, he does not possess the type of comfort with the rock that could allow him to play point forward. For that matter, his court vision is not necessarily up to snuff, even for his position.
Warren came to the forefront of many casual and hardcore basketball fans’ consciousness with his outstanding play in Orlando, unofficially being dubbed the “Bubble MVP” by many fans.
At 27, such play was more indicative of several factors coalescing into his favor at the right time. Warren is entering his prime and had some time off to both recuperate and sharpen his skills.
Almost certainly, Warren will play well this season, even very well – but expecting another leap like what he displayed in the bubble is highly unrealistic. The 2017-18 campaign was the year that Warren showed the most growth. One could even plausibly argue that his singular vote for Most Improved Player that year was an injustice.
Regardless, outside of players like Danny Granger, players rarely make that kind of leap more than once in their career.
TJ Warren – for all his valuable on court contributions – will never be mistaken for the first option on a championship level team. For that matter, he is likely best suited as a third option behind two superstars and a roster of reliable role players as well.
This is no minimization of Warren’s abilities or on court contributions, but the very nature of his contributions lends themselves to a more complementary role rather than a headlining one. Essentially, Warren is closer to a supercharged role player than he is an actual star player.
As an excellent outside shooter with almost zero reliance on athletic ability, Warren has a game that figures to age well. Obviously, Father Time remains undefeated, but Warren is unlikely to have the sudden and precipitous decline that unceremoniously strips many aging players of their value.
The Indiana Pacers’ pecking order is currently a bit of a question mark. Victor Oladipo is returning from injury and it remains to be seen to what extent he can pick up where he left off. Domantas Sabonis continues to make significant strides as a player and Malcolm Brogdon remains a reliable scorer.
None of those players are superstars, and their output is similar enough that they can either be viewed as a deep team, or one muddled with a confusing set of talent.
Warren is still young enough to credibly have a couple of prime years left, and his best season may even still be ahead of him.
Expect the Indiana Pacers to be a middle of the pack team in the Eastern Conference this year, Warren will be a part of the reason that they are decent rather than terrible, but neither Warren nor his teammates are enough to elevate the Pacers in an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference.