NBA

Indiana Pacers Star T.J. Warren Explains His Scoring Surge in the Bubble

T.J. Warren has been scorching hot for the Indiana Pacers in the bubble. Already having a solid season coming into the NBA restart, Warren has been virtually unstoppable through the first five games in Orlando. He’s leading the league in scoring since the restart, averaging an incredible 34.8 points per game, more than double his career average.

So what exactly changed for T.J. Warren?

T.J. Warren averaged 14.4 points in five years for the Phoenix Suns

After winning ACC Player of the Year for North Carolina State as a sophomore, T.J. Warren was taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns. He earned second-team honors in the Summer League but broke a bone in his thumb just ahead of the regular season, delaying his true NBA debut by a couple of weeks. Warren played just 40 games his rookie season, splitting time between Phoenix and the Bakersfield Jam of what was then known as the D-League. He averaged 6.1 points in his time with the Suns.

T.J. Warren upped his scoring average to 11 points per game in his second year with the Suns but was forced to miss the second half of the season after breaking his right foot. He cracked the starting lineup in year three and had a fine season, averaging 14.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, which earned him a four-year/$50 million extension. He upped his scoring average to 19.6 points per game in 2017-2018 but again missed significant time the following season due to injury.

Ahead of the 2019 draft, Warren was traded to the Indiana Pacers, thus ending his five-year run in Phoenix, where he averaged 14.4 points in 261 games.

He was having a solid year for the Pacers before the NBA shut down

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In his first year with the Indiana Pacers, T.J. Warren was having a solid season before the NBA shut down in March. He’d missed just four of 65 games and was averaging 18.7 points. Finally fully healthy, Warren wanted to prove to the Suns that they’d made a mistake in trading him and had a fine game against them in January, scoring 25 points on 11-for-18 shooting in a 112-87 win.

Ironically, the worst game he’s had since the restart came against Phoenix in the Pacers’ only loss in Orlando, where he scored just 16 points. But otherwise, T.J. Warren has been the talk of the bubble.

T.J. Warren explains his crazy scoring surge in the bubble

It didn’t take long for T.J. Warren to catch fire. In the Pacers’ very first game back, he scored 53 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, shooting an incredible 20-for-29 from the floor. He proved it wasn’t a fluke by scoring 34 in the next game against the Washington Wizards. Warren then missed just four of 17 shots against the Orlando Magic and added another 32 to his total.

Warren did prove he was human with the 16-point performance against the Suns, shooting just 7-for-20, but came right back on Saturday night with an incredible performance in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Warren himself went on a 7-0 run to end the game, including a clutch three-pointer with 10.6 seconds remaining to put the game out of reach. He finished with 39 points on 15-for-22 shooting.

Yes, the scoring numbers have been crazy but even more insane has been his accuracy. While averaging those 34.8 points per game, T.J. Warren has shot 60.5% from the field and 55.6% from beyond the arc. So what exactly has he changed? How did a guy that never averaged more than 20 points per game become the NBA’s biggest scoring threat in the bubble? Well, it’s pretty simple, as Warren himself told ESPN.

“It’s me just putting in the time and work in the offseason. During the time off, just staying locked, staying in love with the game and just being myself when I’m out there. I’ve got a good supporting cast, good family and friends, so that helps a lot. And the organization, the Pacers welcomed me in with open arms and brought me in, so I’m just grateful for everything right now.”

T.J. Warren

T.J. Warren and the Pacers square off with Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat on Monday, which should bring plenty of fireworks given the history between the two stars.