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Best-Case, Worst-Case 2014 NBA Draft Projections for TJ Warren

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Best-Case, Worst-Case 2014 NBA Draft Projections for TJ Warren
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina State forward T.J. Warren isn't a threat to unseat Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker in the 2014 NBA draft, but he's an impressive prospect who could make a big impact at the next level.

If you haven't been watching him, you need to tune in.

The Wolfpack sophomore finished the 2013-14 regular season with back-to-back 40-plus scoring outings, and he has started off the postseason with a couple of strong efforts in the ACC tourney.

He can fill it up in a variety of ways, and many of his skills translate to the Association. Warren will be a solid role player who can operate away from the ball and also take the reins when necessary.

We break down his best- and worst-case scenarios in the NBA as he makes his final audition.

 

Best Case

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If you have any thoughts of Warren becoming an NBA superstar, I'm sorry to disappoint you. Despite his 24.8 points per game and ACC Player of the Year honors, he won't be a dynamic shot-creator or a No. 1 scoring option.

That being said, Warren could be highly productive as a pro.

He moves extremely well without the ball, weaving around screens and making timely backdoor cuts to the bucket. Warren is always in scoring mode, even if the ball's not in his hands.

Sports Illustrated's Jeff Benedict made a great analogy to describe Warren's off-ball exploits:

So many of Warren's baskets this season have come after he's used off-the-ball screens to get himself open. When moving without the ball, Warren is like a gun fighter who always has his hand on the trigger. Any sign of the slightest opening and Warren fires. Especially when he's within 15 feet of the basket.

When he gets the ball heading toward the hoop, he scores fluidly off the glass or via floater, and he's able to adjust to the defense in midair. Warren is especially lethal in transition.

He also looks for catch-and-shoot opportunities on the perimeter and has terrific instincts on the offensive glass. Off the dribble, Warren is capable, even if he's not brilliant. He can hit step-backs and short slashes when the opportunities present themselves.

So how can the NBA maximize these skills and get the most out of Warren?

He wouldn't require a whole lot of touches to help his squad put up points, especially when working in transition and away from the action.

As a third or fourth scoring option, he could score double digits with only eight or nine shot attempts per night. And he would operate well as a passer if he's able to draw defense, because he's demonstrated some nice dimes in traffic at N.C. State.

Defensively, he could be a crafty playmaker even if he's not the best matchup athletically.

Realistic Best-Case Scenario: Starting small forward, third scoring option, 13 to 15 points per game in his prime.

Best-Case NBA Comparison: Trevor Ariza 

 

Worst Case

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

If Warren cannot find an effective role in the NBA, he may struggle to maintain substantial minutes.

The potential barriers to him latching on are shot-making consistency and defensive talent.

Warren has plucked his fair share of steals for the Wolfpack, but that doesn't mean he'll be a competent defender in the pros.

In fact, he could have a lot of trouble guarding swingmen in the NBA. Just ask Draft Express video analyst Mike Schmitz, whose scouting report raised some red flags defensively:

"Not a great on-ball defender...Not all that quick laterally...A bit of a 'tweener on defense. Not strong enough for power forwards. Must be able to check NBA small forwards if he wants to be a 3."

If Warren does apply his best effort and improves his foot speed as much as possible, he could hold down the fort long enough to warrant a healthy chunk of playing time.

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

On the other hand, his defense could become problematic, making him an offensive specialist and giving him highly irregular minutes.

Warren's outside shooting may be suspect from NBA range. There's a chance he never really irons out his stroke, which he has intermittently struggled with at the college level (29 percent from distance in 2013-14).

Right now, there's a long, low dip in his shooting motion, and he's a bit chicken-winged when he raises to deliver the ball. In the event that he fails to refine these deficiencies, he won't be able to stretch opposing defenses.

An inability to regularly connect from beyond the arc would all but ruin his chances of being a legitimate rotational weapon.

Realistic Worst-Case Scenario: Inconsistent shooter, defensive liability, benchwarmer.

Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Less-athletic version of Rodney Carney

 

Dan O'Brien covers the NBA draft for Bleacher Report.

Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR.

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