The Good Guys: T.J. Warren Is the Putback Machine

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Photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: T.J. Warren

Since we’ve got nothing but time on our hands, I wanted to use some to talk about the NBA players who are truly great in concentrated areas. Not the superstars who are great at so many things, but guys who are awesome at very specific things.

We continue with T.J. Warren, the Putback Machine.

So this is where it gets tricky: Warren is listed at 6’8″; Montrezl Harrell, as an example, is listed at 6’8″. Do Harrell and Warren feel like they are the same size? Because they do not to me. When looking at great putback players, what stood out was that Warren has the best performance among players I wouldn’t expect to be great at this.

On the list of forwards ranked by points off putbacks, Warren is No. 1 among players I would not describe as “big.” What really stands out is his efficiency.

Warren has shot an absolutely astonishing 72.1% on putback attempts this season, via Synergy Sports. That’s absurd. That’s ridiculous. These are not open shots. These are rushed, contested, difficult shots, and Warren hits them at a 72% rate.

That’s awesome.

What really stands out is how good Warren is at the “Moses Malone:” putting the shot up and then grabbing it. The interesting part is that sometimes it really looks like he shorts his attempt, knowing he’s going to get partially blocked or miss short.

For instance, here’s a look at how awesome Warren’s hops are. He out-jumps three guys on two jumps here.

Now watch where he releases this shot and how quickly he goes back up for the short jumper.

That short jumper is the secret to Warren’s putback success. He shoots 50.3% on jumpers within 17 feet, the fifth-best mark in the league among players with at least 100 attempts. He uses that constantly.

He’s not a tapper; he doesn’t just bat at the ball to get it to go in — he catches it and shoots a short jumper off the catch before he lands.

He bodies Frank Ntilikina here, grabs the ball and nails it.

Even when he’s not catching his own miss, he’s always ready for those little jumpers:

Warren’s also excellent at deceleration. He gets two guys to outrun the coverage here, which allows him to get his own putback:

Warren’s also really crafty.

In this clip, he takes advantage of Zach LaVine helping on Myles Turner (which shows a complete lack of trust in Lauri Markkanen either by LaVine or the coaching staff), and not only tips it up but establishes position to put back his putback. (Related note: put a body on someone, Bulls!)

And of course, as it is with any good putback player, Warren’s really good at staying with plays. He battles.

Combine that with his ability to get shots up so quickly — like this fadeaway off a steal — and it makes a difference.

This is not something I expected to find in Warren’s package.

He had a phenomenal year in his first season outside of Phoenix, adding more credence to the idea that most players can be successful in better organizations. But Warren’s effort (on both ends of the floor) deserves credit for helping the Pacers weather the storm without Victor Oladipo and establish themselves as a playoff team for another season.

(If, you know, the playoffs happen.)

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