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March 12, 2014 - Dylan Burkhardt

TJ Warren and the lost art of the floater

TJ Warren is one of just three players to score over 40 points in a major conference game this season and he just did it twice in the same week.

Warren racked up 41 points on 16-of-22 shooting against Pittsburgh and then 42 points on 14-of-23 shooting against Boston College. He managed his 42 point outing against Boston College without making a single three-pointer.

NC State will be playing for its postseason life in Greensboro this week, but Warren still took home ACC Player of the Year honors after averaging 25.5 points per game in league play. In a college game that’s dominant by three-point happy offenses, Warren stands out as an old-school scorer. He isn’t a great passer or (defensive) rebounder, but no one can question his scoring ability. His conference numbers were beyond impressive and he might just be the most dominant scorer in college basketball not named Doug McDermott. 

Warren averages over six points per game more than his closest ACC competition, and his true shooting percentage is better than fellow All-ACC selections Jabari Parker, CJ Fair, Marcus Paige and K.J. McDaniels. Warren uses more possessions than anyone in the ACC, but he’s also more efficient than most — a rare combination.

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Warren’s shot chart demonstates that he’s able to comfortably score in all facets of the game, but his favorite shot is one that we rarely see at the college level: the floater.

On average, just 11.7% of field goal attempts come in the paint, but outside of five feet. That’s a grouping that includes some post-ups, but also the floater, tear-drop or runner in the lane. Why is the floater so rare? Because it’s hard to make. The average shooting percentage on those shots is a very pedestrian 38.4%.

TJ Warren is an exception to that rule. Over a fifth of his field goal attempts, 22%, are in that shooting range and he connects at an impressive 49% rate. He can make this shot in the teeth of the defense with regularity.

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The beauty of that shot is it’s almost unguardable. Warren’s size, strength, length and quickness allow him to get in the lane and simply finish over opponents with a shot that looks simple but is incredibly difficult.

You can’t score 25 points per game with one move, so Warren obviously has more tricks in his bag.

He’s just an average 3-point shooter at 34%, but he attempts enough threes (18% of FGA) to keep defenses honest. He is still at his best facing up and attacking from the wings and the short corner. You can see the pockets of hot spots along the baselines and that’s one of Warren’s favorite spots to score.

Above all else, Warren’s ability to get to the basket might be most impressive. 41.4% of his field goal attempts in ACC games were within five feet of the hoop and he converted at a 69% clip. That’s the sort of rate that you expect to see from a player that mostly finishes in transition or catches drop-off passes along the baseline, not a volume scorer that creates most of his own offense.

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Warren’s unconventional game — he’s not a true wing, but he’s not a power forward either — makes him increasingly difficult to guard. He can initiate offense all over the floor and score in all three levels. He shoots just enough threes to keep defenders off balance, but then has an array of moves off the bounce and in the lane to finish.

Warren might not defend, rebound or pass well enough to be considered one of the best players in the country, but there’s no denying his scoring ability.

Players / Shot Charts NC State / TJ Warren /

  • mike

    He is 4th in the ACC in steals. His defense is good

    He is 1st in the ACC in offensive rebounding. He can rebound, but NC State needs him to leak out on the fast break so he can score

  • BobbyDigital

    Overall good article. I disagree with your assessment on his rebounding. He leads the ACC in offensive rebounds and is 8th overall in rebounding at 7.1 per game.

    He’s also 4th in the conference in steals, so while he may not be a KJ McDaniels level defender, he’s no matador either.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Fair point on offensive rebounding. I was thinking more of defensive rebounding (associated offensive rebounding with his great finishing at the rim). Didn’t mean it as a huge slight on him easily, but as he develops toward the next level he’s going to be coveted for his scoring more than his defense.

  • MW

    While I appreciate your article highlighting TJ’s proficiency, I would like to point out some errors. Firstly, you say that TJ is not a good rebounder. TJ finished 8th in the ACC in total rebounding, and 1st in offensive rebounding. You have also stated that he is not a good passer. He averaged close to 2 assist per game, on a team on which he was the number one scoring option. And lastly, you say that his defense is lacking. TJ was fourth in the ACC in steals per game, which is a very impressive stat at his position. So while I appreciate your promotion of TJ as a great scorer as it is certainly warranted, please stop perpetuating these myths about his all around game. Thank You.

  • SH

    Not sure I get the ‘might not defend or rebound well enough’ argument…he led the ACC in offensive rebounds per game, was 8th in total rebounds, and was 4th in steals. In fact, if you want to compare to McDermott…TJ Warren had more blocks, more steals and only 0.1 rebounds per game less than McDermott (in a superior conference). I love the analysis on the floater though…I wish that stat was tracked more thoroughly.

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