Denver Nuggets reason for optimism #3: Will Barton is having a career year
A guy who used to be a liability on defence, Will Barton has embraced his much-expanded role this season, throwing caution to the wind and grabbing his chance with both hands thanks to his consistent offence and much-improved defence.
With MPJ and Monte Morris struggling in their larger roles to start the year, it was surprisingly Barton who emerged as the second option behind the Big Honey. And let me tell you, the guy’s nickname—Will the Thrill—is definitely a well-earned and apt moniker for this wiry, slashing hooper.
Bet you didn’t know he had that in him before this campaign, did ya?
If this season of injuries has been a slab of ugly, busted up concrete, Barton has been the rose that grew from that concrete. Amid the chaos around him, Barton has been cool and calm, and Michael Malone has recognized that: the Thrill is playing 3.7 clutch minutes per game, which is even more than Jokic’s 3.3.
Though his middy game is still a bit mid, Barton has been excellent in the paint and from beyond the arc. He’s also taken just 19 corner threes despite making 12 of them, so let’s get big Willy out to those corners more often eh Mr. Malone?
This season Barton has been the efficient scoring machine that MPJ—who’s on a max deal—was unable to be. Breakout seasons don’t happen often at the age of 30, but hey, better late than never. Not to mention his timing is absolutely brilliant: without him we might have seen Jokic out there for 48 minutes a night just to keep games close.
His rebounding is down slightly, but apart from that, the Thrill’s numbers have been up across the board, posting career highs in minutes per game (33.3), assists per game (4.3), points per game (16.3), field goal percentage (46.2), triples per game (2.4), and three-point percentage (40.6).
Usually, when a player’s role grows and they shoot with more volume, their efficiency drops, but not Will, and that’s what’s been so thrilling: he’s got more responsibility and he’s taking more shots than he ever has while actually increasing his efficiency and improving on his game in basically every other way.
Usually more minutes means more turnovers (it certainly has for Monte Morris, sigh) but not for Barton, who’s also posting a career high assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.46 while also working for what is by far his best defensive rating (100.8) since arriving in Denver back in 2015.
I shudder to think of where the Nuggets might be this season if Barton didn’t seize the day like some Robin Williams acolyte. Thankfully, he did, and we’re all reaping the rewards. Carpe Diem indeed.