North Carolina State star forward T.J. Warren was one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball this season. After a successful campaign, he has reportedly decided to take his talents into what should be a deep 2014 NBA draft.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported Monday that the sophomore will forgo his final two college seasons and make the leap to the pros:
However, Warren said on his Twitter account that he's undecided about whether to leave N.C. State:
Assuming Warren does ultimately jump, CBSSports.com's Will Brinson agrees with the decision:
Warren was the 2014 ACC Player of the Year, beating out the likes of Parker and other talented players by averaging 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. At 6'8" and 230 pounds, he offers plenty of ability out of the gate.
Xavier coach Chris Mack sang Warren's praises after he dropped 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting in a 74-59 first-round NCAA tournament win over the Musketeers:
He’s a great player. He knows how to use his body and keep his body under control through contact. He had a couple of tough floaters that not many kids at this level can do. That’s why he’s going to be an excellent player at the next level.
Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, losing such a key part of their success will be a major dagger. Warren nearly helped N.C. State pull off the round-of-64 upset over the fifth-seeded Saint Louis Billikens:
Warren has all the tools to be a solid pro, and showed significant progress between his freshman and sophomore seasons. He was undaunted by a far larger role as a leader for the Wolfpack and thrived as a scorer regardless of the circumstances.
All of that bodes well for the N.C. state sophomore, but given the expected depth of the 2014 draft class, he will likely struggle to stay near the top of the first round. Kansas star Andrew Wiggins, Duke forward Jabari Parker and as many as four Kentucky Wildcats are among those who will generate a lot of interest in the lottery.
NBA.com's Adam Zagoria noted that DraftExpress.com projects Warren as the No. 18 overall pick at the moment:
A prospective slide may not be the worst thing in this draft.
The further Warren falls, the better situation he'll likely find himself in to start his career. Only one other N.C. State player averaged in double figures in 2013-14, so if Warren could go to an environment with other offensive threats in place, he could thrive even as a rookie.
What also works in Warren's favor to an extent is that he isn't a one-and-done prospect. The evident growth and maturation he underwent in college could signal to NBA teams that he's nowhere near his ceiling at the moment.
Between the top freshmen garnering more hype and the disappointing way Warren closed out his time at N.C. State, he has plenty to prove leading up to the draft—and plenty of time to do so. Thus, his stock could still increase once the more rigorous evaluation process occurs in the offseason.
Those factors should fuel Warren and allow him to build on his steady progression, which could see him morph into an NBA starter soon enough.