Breaking Down What Makes T.J. Warren a Unique 2014-15 NBA Rookie

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Breaking Down What Makes T.J. Warren a Unique 2014-15 NBA Rookie
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He just doesn't stop scoring. T.J. Warren rolls out of bed with double digits, regardless of where he's sleeping.

As a freshman at North Carolina State, Warren averaged 12.1 points on 62.2 percent shooting despite being used on just 19.5 percent of the team's possessions when in the game, per Sports-Reference.com.

And then the Wolfpack lost four starters to graduation and the pros and also a key member off the bench who transferred. Warren's usage rate skyrocketed to 35.5 percent as a sophomore, the fifth-highest rate in the country.

And with that, he went on to average nearly 25 points per game and find the lottery in the 2014 draft.

Warren was an offensive machine this past season at North Carolina State. He went for back-to-back 40-plus-point games and at least 30 points in four of eight tries down the stretch.

There wasn't anyone else on that team you had to focus on but Warren, yet nobody ever seemed to have an answer for him.

The machine that is Warren didn't stop racking up buckets in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he went for 28 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, 26 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves and 22 points against the Golden State Warriors in three of the four full games he played (an eye injury limited him to just seven minutes in one of Phoenix's five games).

He looked like the same kid who finished third in the country in scoring as a sophomore in college. So why were 13 guys called ahead of him in the draft, and where was the buzz during the season?

Unlike most volume-scoring wings, Warren hunts for his offense without the use of the three-point shot. And you won't find many small forwards who can light up the nets without a three-ball.

Warren led the country in made two-point field goals this past season. In fact, he made a whopping 77 more two-point field goals than Doug McDermott, who led the country in scoring.

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

In the summer league, Warren shot 37-of-68 (54.4 percent), with all 37 field goals coming inside the arc, where traffic and overcrowding just don't seem to bother him.

What's crazy is that Warren doesn't even have your traditional go-to set of moves like step-back jumpers or jump hooks in the lane.

He improvises. Rarely do you see Warren hit the same shot twice in a row or even in a game. He takes what the defense gives him and counters, whether it's with a floater, pull-up, spot-up, leaner or drive.

Warren's offensive instincts are extraordinary. Off the ball, he times his cuts, slashes, flashes and putbacks by reading what's in front of him. He's the guy who always seems to find himself in the right place at the right time.

In Warren's three standout games in Vegas, he combined for six putbacks, two tip-ins, three scores off cuts and an incredible 14 buckets in transition, where his body control and touch are both spectacular.

This isn't a guy who needs to be isolated to score, a promising sign for his NBA outlook. Most of Warren's scoring opportunities come off two dribbles or less.

ESPN's analytics guru, Kevin Pelton, noted (subscription required) how Warren was one of the top players in Vegas while sticking to his unusual scoring arsenal:

Warren has been relentless in getting buckets in the summer league, topping 20 points in all three games he's played more than seven minutes. Warren has done so in efficient fashion, shooting a cool 59.6 percent from the field. As in college, Warren hasn't relied on 3s (he's yet to make one) and rarely has gotten to the free throw line (4.0 attempts per game). Instead, he's found transition and putback opportunities to go with midrange jumpers.

With the ball, he has an uncanny ability to separate when his man least expects it. You'll often see him rise and fire for a short jumper before his defender can get out of his stance to contest it.

But the big question is whether Warren can keep churning out points inside the arc, where NBA defenses are quicker, taller and longer.

"It's kind of harder, I'm trying to figure it out," Warren said following the Suns' summer league win over the 76ers, per Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin. "In college you could kind of finish through guys, at the next level it's different. So you've got to be craftier, find ways to put it in the basket. I'm adjusting to it pretty well."

Considering he's not much of a playmaker or passer—Warren racked up just 40 total assists in 35 games last season playing 35.4 minutes in each, while he managed just one assist total during the summer league—it's important his scoring arsenal translates, given it's the only thing he does better than average.

Only he does it better than almost anyone in the 2014 class—just not the way we're used to seeing.

Warren has one of the more unorthodox games for a projected wing, while his successful track record, from high school to college to the summer league, only enhances the intrigue surrounding him as a prospect.

There's a good chance the NBA's jump in ability prevents Warren's current scoring arsenal from fully translating. But if he ever expands his shooting range or continues flourishing inside the arc, we could be talking about a major value pick in Warren at No. 14 overall.

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