In the last volume of my Making the Leap series, I talked about how it takes time for some players to get acclimated in the league. For some, a new place can also help players. Will Barton of the Denver Nuggets fits that description.
Will Barton was drafted 40th overall in 2012 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers after spending two years at the University of Kansas. In his rookie season, he played in 73 games and averaged 4.0 points. In his second season, he played in 41 games and averaged 4.0 points. In the first half of his third year there was a dip in his production. Things turned around when he was traded to the Denver during the 2015 trade deadline and with more playing time he performed well. In only 28 games, he averaged 11.0 points in a then career high 24.4 minutes.
He re-signed with the Nuggets this past offseason and improved even more. Barton averaged a career high in points, rebounds, assists, minutes and games played.
Will Barton’s 2015-2016 regular season stat line: 14.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals a game while shooting 43.2% (including 34.5% from three). Played in 82 games, started one.
His high-flying play style earn him some recognition. He performed in the 2016 NBA Dunk Contest, placing third. Barton also received some votes for sixth man and most improved player of the year awards.
So what is Will Barton’s next step? While he was basically in a backup role this past season I can see the guard making a case to be a full-time starter. Ever since his rookie year in Portland he has improved his game, from shooting the three ball to defending other guards. He is slowly becoming a decent two-way guard on a team that has a lot of young and talented players.
His small frame at 6’6″ 185 lbs allows him to go by defenders and drive the lane. If he can improve even more on his shooting touch and add to his frame he will be someone to watch out for. He still has two-years left on his deal, so the Nuggets are not worried about re-sigining him anytime soon. Barton has the potential to be a nice building block for a team that is still looking for that superstar ever since Carmelo Anthony left.