AP Photo/Ashley Landis

The T.J. Warren Trade Woke Up a Scoring Monster

The best term in a sports transaction: cash considerations. On June 20, 2019, the Phoenix Suns traded forward T.J. Warren and the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft—which resulted in small forward KZ Okpala— to the Indiana Pacers for cash.

The Suns wanted to free up Warren's three-year, $35 million deal to create cap space. They rounded out their roster by signing free agents Kelly Oubre Jr. and Ricky Rubio. The Pacers turned around and traded their newly acquired pick to the Miami Heat for three future second-round draft picks. This made it possible for Indiana to trade a 2020 first-round pick, a 2021 second round pick, and a 2025 second rounder to the Milwaukee Bucks for point guard Malcolm Brogdon.

The Pacers exited the ordeal with two starter-quality players. In particular, the T.J. Warren acquisition has paid dividends in Orlando.

T.J. Warren Scores 53 Points in NBA Bubble Debut

Warren kicked off the bubble campaign with a 53-point career-high performance in a 127-121 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. He went 20-29 from the field, including a blazing 9 for 12 from beyond the arc. The goal was an ocean, and Warren was swimming.

Warren stayed hot against the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic, dropping 34 and 32 respectively. He came back to Earth in the 114-99 loss to the Phoenix Suns, scoring 16 points on 7 of 20 shooting. Warren's former NBA team controlled the game behind Devin Booker's 20 points and Deandre Ayton's 23.

He rebounded quickly with a 39-point performance in a 116-111 win over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Teamed up with Victor Oladipo, Brogdon, Aaron Holiday, and Myles Turner, Warren is spearheading the Pacers' momentum heading into the playoffs. He's stepped up as the go-to scoring option with Oladipo not fully-healthy and All-Star Domantas Sabonis out indefinitely with a foot injury.

He's averaging a whopping 34.8 points in the bubble so far, making him the NBA restart's leading scorer, and emerged as one of the biggest storylines along with Draymond Green's tampering, Dallas guard Luka Doncic's highlight reels, and the Damian Lillard/Paul George beef. (A PG diss track has to be dropping soon).

This isn't to say Warren hasn't been a good player up until this point. His points per game (PPG) increased from 6.1 PPG as a rookie to 19.6 PPG by his fourth year. In his last season with the Suns, he averaged 18, culminating in a 13.8 average over his first five seasons.

The Pacers starting three-man expanded on his bubble success in a conversation with ESPN's Royce Young:

"It's me just putting in the time and work in the offseason," Warren said. "During the time off, just staying locked, staying in love with the game and just being myself when I'm out there. I've got a good supporting cast, good family and friends, so that helps a lot. And the organization, the Pacers welcomed me in with open arms and brought me in, so I'm just grateful for everything right now."

Last offseason's free agency is shaping out well for Indiana. They got a bargain in the T.J. Warren trade.

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