T.J. Warren is scoring more than 30 points per game for the Pacers in the NBA bubble and Suns star Devin Booker is being lured toward an exit from his disappointing franchise.
Warren, of course, could be playing alongside Booker right now and giving the Kentucky product much-needed scoring assistance. An offseason trade by Phoenix that sent Warren and a draft pick to Indiana for cash considerations prevented that from happening.
Why did the Suns let a competent scorer in his mid-20s go for a meager return? There are a couple of reasons, though in hindsight none is particularly convincing.
For Warren, being deemed a spare part has provided motivation to develop into a greater offensive threat in his first season with the Pacers.
“When I heard about the trade, it didn’t throw me off, but like any other player (felt) a certain way about it,” Warren said in a recent TNT interview. “It’s very disrespectful. I know how much work I’ve put in, how much time I’ve put into the game. To see me get traded for that? No player wants to be traded for cash.”
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Before letting Warren go, the Suns acquired Kelly Oubre Jr. and drafted Mikal Bridges. In their eyes, those wing players made Warren somewhat redundant on their roster and worth trading away for cap space.
Oubre and Bridges, both younger than Warren, have been solid. Together, they’ve averaged 27.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game this season. So it’s not like Phoenix replaced Warren with below-average parts.
That said, Warren has advanced scoring potential that Oubre and Bridges don’t possess, a difference most people understood even before Warren’s sparkling debut campaign in Indiana.
While Warren needs to make his bubble form last longer than five or six games to make a convincing case that he’s really made a leap toward stardom, it’s apparent the Suns miscalculated his value. He might not have been a perfect fit in their plans, but his skillset should have made him more than a throwaway asset.
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