As the longest-tenured player on the Denver Nuggets‘ roster, it’s hard to envision a future that doesn’t include Will Barton. Especially following a year in which he finished with the second-most minutes on the team, and was Denver’s third-leading scorer with 14.7 points per game.
That being said, he just turned 31 years old and is currently owed $14.3 million in guaranteed money for the 2022-2023 NBA season, via Spotrac.
Despite being highly-regarded in Nuggets’ lore due to his devotion to the franchise and fit within the rotation. Is there a scenario where Will Barton is no longer in the Mile High City?
Here are the options Denver has when it comes to the Will Barton’s future with the team, and the reasoning for each.
Option #1 – The Denver Nuggets trade Will Barton
The first option that Denver has is to simply cut ties with their mainstay wingman and find him a new home elsewhere.
One of the benefits to trading Barton is that they’d be able to either free up valuable cap space, which could then be used to sign a quality free agent with less mileage, like Luguentz Dort or Chris Boucher. Or they could trade for another player that carries a similar contract but of better value.
For example, Lauri Markkanen, Norman Powell, Caris LeVert, and Kevin Huerter are all players younger than Will Barton and they’re owed the same amount of money next season. They’re all probably a better fit long-term as well.
Now chances are, if the Nuggets were to make a move for one of the aforementioned players, then they would need to throw in a little more than Will Barton. In all likelihood, a future first or second round draft pick (at the very least).
Alternatively, they could try to package Barton, and a couple future picks with one of their young talents (such as MPJ or Bones Hyland) to make a big move for a superstar like Bradley Beal or Donovan Mitchell.
Either of which could be a necessary evil given how much Barton’s owed and the fact that Denver’s now within that pivotal championship window. Not to mention how likely he is to decline next season given his age and the return of both Michael Porter Jr., and Jamal Murray.
Option #2 – The Denver Nuggets keep Will Barton
Another option would be for the Denver Nuggets to just eat the salary for one more year, and figure things out next offseason.
While $14.3 million might seem like a lot of money, and certainly money that could be better spent elsewhere. It’s still not all that much in the scheme of things when you look at how much other players (of worse value) are generating around the league. Plus, the Denver Nuggets would only need to pay him out for one more year anyway.
Not only that, but Will Barton was arguably Denver’s second-best player on offense this past season. Outside of his solid scoring output, his 71 games played were the most since his 2017-2018 season. He also made more three-pointers per attempt (2.2) than ever before in his career, all while shooting 44 percent from the floor, 36.5 percent from deep, and over 80 percent from the line.
While his presence on the defensive end is part of what led Denver to finish in the top half of the league in defensive rating (121.9) and opponent scoring (110.4).
When MPJ and Murray went down with injuries, the Denver Nuggets knew that more players (other than Nikola Jokic) would need to step up. And they got that, for the most part, from Will Barton.
There’s also something to be said for being the longest tenured Nugget. Barton was around way before Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray or even Michael Malone were ever on the team. Meaning that he’s had to endure both the highs and the lows of Denver basketball alongside Nuggets faithful.
While he’s by no means been an All-Star in Denver, and likely never will be. That’s not exactly his role, nor does it need to be for the Nuggets to succeed.
If there’s any loyalty in the game (which remains to be seen), then Denver should consider hanging on to Barton at least until the end of his contract next season. He’s a talented player who can score in a variety of ways, and above all else, he’s a big chemistry piece in that locker room.
All things considered, I’d be shocked if Will Barton wasn’t a Denver Nugget next season. Though crazier things have happened I suppose.