The Philadelphia 76ers are looking for difference-making free agents to help round out a team with a lot of need on the wing. Could Indiana Pacers free agent TJ Warren be that potential difference-maker for the Sixers? What type of deal would the Sixers sign him to?
TJ Warren has had an up and down career since being drafted 14th overall in the 2014 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns. He’s been everything from an elite scorer to a subpar defender. He’s been labeled as a bust and even traded for cash considerations, but he has also been seen as one of the league’s best players during the NBA bubble. Warren has seemed to provide empty-calorie scoring, but he has still made progress on all levels of the floor. This made him an even more complicated player, all the while going back and forth on whether or not he is injury prone.
A Brief TJ Warren History
After missing considerable time over his first two seasons in Phoenix, playing roughly half of each season, Warren seemingly began to validate the Phoenix front office. He continued to grow his scoring output each year while increasing the number of games played each season.
Warren’s best season in Phoenix was his second to last when, in the 2017-2018 season, he played in 65 games, starting them all, and averaged 19.6 points per game on 49.8/22.2/75.7 shooting splits. However, the following season, he was only able to appear in 43 games, and despite improving his three-point percentage from 22.2 to 42.8 (on a significantly higher volume), Warren was traded to the Indiana Pacers along with the 32nd pick in a salary dump.
TJ Warren arrived in Indiana hoping to revive his career and his value to the league. The Suns, desperate to get rid of his contract (3 years/35 million remaining), sold low on the versatile and oft-injured wing, much to the benefit of the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers utilized Warren as an important part of their team, relying on him even more for offense when Victor Oladipo went down. TJ Warren in the bubble was a completely different player.
Warren averaged 26.6 over the course of The Bubble, including the playoffs, specifically averaging 31 points per game in the eight seeding games. Warren ended up finishing third in the Bubble MVP award race, as well as earning First Team All Bubble honors for his fantastic play in the bubble, which included a 53-point explosion against the 76ers.
However, the following season, Warren suffered a foot injury in the fourth game of his campaign, effectively ending his 2020-2021 season before it could even start. Things were hoping to be better for the Pacers and Warren this last season, but his foot injury kept him out this entire year as well, meaning Warren has not played in the NBA since December 29th, 2020 (over 500 days). All of these factors are what make TJ Warren a possibility for the 76ers this offseason.
Should the 76ers Pursue Warren?
Warren could bring ball handling and scoring to a Sixers team in desperate need of both on the wing. Considering Warren missed so much time, he may have to sign a short-term contract for significantly less money on a “prove it” type deal as Philly Voice’s Kyle Neubeck suggested. This deal wouldn’t be without risk. There is always the chance that Warren could never recover back to his past form. Even if he does, there is also always a chance that he can never overcome his injury issues. Yet, Warren’s potential upside with Philadelphia would make it worth it for the 76ers to pursue him on a one-year deal.