Nets’ TJ Warren makes a case for being arguably the NBA’s biggest offseason steal

ATLANTA — The Nets are coming off what might be their best three-game streak of the season. TJ Warren has been playing the best basketball since he came back.

They are not unrelated.

Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks has shown a knack for finding gems, from Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie to Jeff Green with minimal veterans. Warren is building a case to be his latest find – and arguably the league’s biggest steal this summer.

In just 10 games with the Nets, Warren – who essentially missed two years due to multiple stress fractures and foot surgeries – rediscovered his scoring touch faster than anyone could have expected and played better defense. than anyone thought.

The Nets travel to Atlanta on Wednesday on an NBA-best nine-game winning streak, and in their last three, they’ve outscored defending champion Golden State by 30, toppled 2021 champion Milwaukee from the top of the Eastern Conference and won at Cleveland to skip. the Cavaliers in third place.

During that span, Warren averaged nearly 15.7 points off the bench, shooting 19 of 35 overall. And after a 1-for-7 deep start, he hit 6-for-11 in that streak.

TJ Warren is looking to make an assist for the Nets.
Corey Sipkins

Warren heads into Wednesday’s game after giving his best as a Net. The veteran forward had 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting and eight rebounds, all season bests.

When he joins Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as third scorers, he makes Brooklyn’s offense nearly impossible to contain.

“Great elevator. He just has a knack for scoring in basketball. It’s incredible. He will land some of the toughest shots,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He shot the 3-ball. … When he does that, it gives us the flexibility to play with both groups. … So adding up a few games and adding up a few minutes.

A high basketball IQ, midrange game, and savvy cut make Warren the perfect match for Durant and Irving. And when they are seated, his shooting prowess makes him the perfect replacement.

With the Suns and Pacers, Warren averaged 19.6, 18.0 and 19.8 points from 2017 to 2020, and had a similar start the following season, scoring 17 points against Boston on Dec. fall with the stress fracture.

Almost exactly two years later, it’s breathtaking to see Warren back to his best, with average career highs in player efficiency, field goal percentage, true shots, rebound rate, assist rate and almost every other advanced stat.

Well, gorgeous for the most part.

“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Durant said. “What’s surprising is how much he deflects the basketball on defense. Scorers like him have an impact on defense, but he had an impact in that regard. It’s a natural.

“I thought it would take time for him to regain his legs, his self-confidence, but I was wrong about that. Let’s hope he keeps it up. The coaches trust him, his teammates trust him, he plays well.

Warren acknowledged that his defense had been neglected.

TJ Warren takes a jump shot for the Nets.
Getty Images

“Yes, of course,” Warren told the Post. “When you score so easily and you’ve just been a natural scorer for my whole career, other aspects of my game can be underestimated. But it’s up to me to constantly show that I’m a double player. meaning, to be proud of it and to give 100% effort on both sides. It’s not scoring, it’s also defending. So, I challenge myself every night defensively.

Vaughn deepened defense, especially boxing. When showing players their stats in the latter area, Warren topped the list.

“Just keeping in mind that those possessions matter,” Warren said. “Just that attention and those details, the boxing, getting those goods. Finishing the defense with a rebound is very important when trying to win important games. So, I’m just trying to point that out now, so we’re just aware of that consistently.

Warren’s work at this end of the field even impressed Ben Simmons, a former Defensive Player of the Year runner-up.

“He’s been great,” Simmons said. “I’m just boosting his confidence. It’s hard to come back, especially when you’ve been away for two years. So you see him building his confidence, hitting punches, boxing. He was at the top of the list. He had the biggest difference in box outs, so he’s doing well.

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