With the ever-growing influence of the three point shot in the NBA’s pace-and-space landscape, wing players without a reliable jumper are now ostracized more than ever. Even in the league’s most talent-starved position, a wing player can only be so productive without the ability to score from distance.
As last season’s playoffs illustrated, wings who are unable to make shots consistently dramatically lose their value, often coming off the court in the most critical moments. Rarely seeing more than 30 minutes per game, their fantasy value is inherently capped by their role. Since their value is often defined by the inability to space the floor, these players are conversely overlooked and undervalued in fantasy basketball as well.
However, this perception can create excellent draft-day value for fantasy owners as well as spawn one of this season’s biggest fantasy sleepers.
Despite his rank at 163 in the Razzball’s current Top 200 rankings, Phoenix Suns forward T.J. Warren has a unique opportunity to breakout in his sophomore year by shattering fans fixation with 3-and-D wings as well.
Even without reliance on the long ball, Warren has found ways to impact the multiple box score consistently throughout the preseason. As a forward currently shooting above 50% from the field, Warren’s preference towards mid range shots actually can actually benefit fantasy owners simply because Warren is playing to his strengths.
Warren is a maestro in the mid range, able to make shots all over the court, and is already a threat as an off-ball cutter. Understanding the basic premise of his game should encourage fantasy owners to gamble on the legitimacy of Warren’s ability to put up points, despite being a scoring forward without a three point shot.
However, what truly separates Warren from the competition is his ability to contribute across multiple categories. In Phoenix’s up tempo, dual-point guard offense, Warren will be able to rack up multiple assists each game.
Simply by playing at a fast pace and focusing on transition points, Phoenix creates additional possessions each game to score. As a product of this offensive system, Warren’s lack of traditional playmaking chops do not impact his ability to make plays for his teammates.
At 6’8″, Warren has the physical frame to turn into an shut-down perimeter defender this year. While Suns fans will be monitoring his development throughout the season, fantasy owners can simply monitor his steals total, as Warren has a knack for creating turnovers on defense (at least one steal in four out of his five preseason games). His physical talents allow him to impact the game defensively as well as provided additional rebounding to a smaller Phoenix team.
Given extra minutes in the preseason, Warren has made a claim for himself to be inserted into the starting lineup over incumbent forward P.J. Tucker. While an official decision has not been made by coach Jeff Hornacek, Warren is criminally undervalued by the main fantasy basketball outlets.
Provided he wins the starting job, Warren is a forward capable of providing strong contributions in four major statistical categories currently going underrated in some leagues.
At the very least he is worth a late-round flier where skeptical owners can monitor his role and production as the year progresses.