DALLAS – Former Stony Brook star Jameel Warney has accomplished a lot as a valuable member of the USA Basketball men’s national team and as a first-team G League All-Star with the Texas Legends, but three years into his professional career, he’s still chasing a regular spot on an NBA roster.
Last season, Warney was signed to a 10-day contract by the Mavericks, who are the parent club of the Legends, and coach Rick Carlisle liked what he saw. “He did a nice job for us,” Carlisle said before the Mavs defeated the Nets on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center. “He is an NBA system player in my opinion, a role player.
“But it’s the numbers game. There’s probably a couple of dozen guys at any given time fighting for one NBA position. Something’s got to break with a roster spot. I know he’s a persistent guy that’s not discouraged and he’s going to work no matter what. I have great respect for him. He’s the kind of guy that any coach would love how he approaches the game.”
Carlisle noted that Warney has been bothered by minor nagging injuries that slowed him down early in the season, but the 6-8 power forward still is averaging 17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.8 blocks through eight games. He’s shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 28.2 percent from three-point range and is an 88.9 percent free- throw shooter.
While 28.2 percent is a low number from three-point range, it is a huge improvement over his 0.00 percentage at Stony Brook, where he never attempted a three. Warney hit four threes in one game earlier this season and is working to develop into the kind of big man who can stretch the floor in the modern NBA.
“He’s in a program with us where he shoots 100 threes before or after every practice,” Legends coach Bob MacKinnon told Newsday. “He’s willing to put in the work. We don’t have to ask him or beg him to do it like a lot of guys. He comes in and does it with one of our coaches every single day. Now it’s translating into game performance.”
The Mavs’ roster is stocked with several forwards who are 6-10 or taller, but MacKinnon doesn’t see size as a problem, especially because Warney is such a good passer and well-rounded player. “He’s a great passer,” MacKinnon said. “Last season, we had a stretch where we [lost] a bunch of point guards. So, I had Jameel bringing up the ball and facilitating our whole offense as our power forward, and he was terrific. He is, I think, the best facilitating big man in our league. It’s another plus.
“He can play facing the basket. He can play posting up, he can rebound, and he can play in and out. Everyone talks about what he isn’t. He isn’t 6-10, but he’s a complete basketball player, a legit 6-8 with a 7-1 wingspan. So he plays bigger than his height.”
If Warney doesn’t earn a secure NBA berth this season, MacKinnon has told him it would be in his best interest to play in Europe, where he could make considerably more money than in the G League. But MacKinnon believes Warney is a legitimate NBA-caliber player.
“I really don’t know what the hesitation is, but if one GM likes him and one coach likes him, I think it will happen for him,” MacKinnon said. “They gave P.J. Tucker a shot, they gave Draymond Green a shot, and go down the list with guys like that…If someone just gives him a chance, I think he’ll be in the NBA for a long time.”