It’s highly unlikely that the Phoenix Suns earn a spot in the NBA Playoffs. That won’t stop T.J. Warren from staking his claim as the NBA’s Most Improved Player. He’s been a shining star for the Suns this season and has become a force to be reckoned with in the NBA.
Warren had a lot of fanfare going into the 2014 NBA Draft. It’s not surprising considering the monstrous Sophomore season he had at N.C. State. On the year, he averaged 24.9 points and 7.1 rebounds. That was good enough to capture the 2014 ACC Player of the Year, First-Team All-ACC, and Second-Team All-American honors.
Selected by the Suns with the 14th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, Warren spent his first NBA season shuffling between the D-League and the Suns roster. After an impressive 2015 NBA Summer League, Warren earned a permanent spot on the Suns rotation for the 2015-16 season.
Warren’s second year in the league was his true first taste of NBA action. He would only average 22 minutes per game, but that was still good enough for an 11 point per game average. The only downfall to his breakout was a broken right foot that kept him out of action for the second half of the year.[embedit snippet=”1″]
Now fully healthy, Warren has been one of the league’s most pleasant surprises. New Phoenix Suns head coach, Earl Watson has seemingly put the entire organization on Warren’s shoulders. He plays the third-year forward 34 minutes per night, and he’s taken full advantage of his expanded playing time.
During the first 12 games of the season, all of which were starts, Warren’s only scored below double-digit points once and has five 20+ point games. And while his production has slipped from his early season start, he’s still among the league leaders in steals.
It’s going to be difficult to leave Warren out of the conversation for Most Improved Player. He’s increased his scoring total by almost 8 points per game. That’s one of the highest jumps in scoring among all NBA players. He’s also evolving into an outstanding two-way player, as evident by his gaudy steals numbers.[embedit snippet=”1″]
We’ve just begun to see the emergence of T.J. Warren. Only a 23-year-old playing in his third NBA season, there is potential for him to be one of the league’s most versatile, and dominant, players for years to come. There is no doubt that he will be the top choice for Most Improved Player at year’s end.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on twitter @dgentleman9288