It's all going according to plan.
Will Barton wanted a chance, a true chance to play and show he was an NBA-level player. He's gotten that chance with the Nuggets. And he's made the most of it.
And now he's identified the Nuggets organization as a place he'd like to stay beyond this season.
"No doubt," Barton said. "I think we can build something here. We have a lot of good talent, a good organization, coaching staff is good. I can see us building and having a strong future here. We can grow together."
The Nuggets can extend a qualifying offer to the 6-foot-5 swingman after the last game of the NBA Finals at what would be $1.1 million. Barton, who is playing out the last year of his rookie contract, would be a restricted free agent, giving the Nuggets the right to match any offer sheet he signs with another team.
That's heady stuff for Barton, who arrived in Denver from Portland as part of the Arron Afflalo trade last month.
"It's gone exactly how I expected it to be," he said. "I figured I'd play more minutes. I figured we'd start winning more games, start gelling and get a good chemistry, and I think that's what's happening."
Barton, 24, has carved out a role for interim coach Melvin Hunt, who has led the team to a 7-5 record since taking over on March. 3. Barton has averaged 12.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals in 26.5 minutes per game. And, he's shooting a respectable 44.7 percent in those 17 games.
"What I love about him is you can't take away his desire to just play," Hunt said. "He is a throwback in that regard. He's going to play ball, whether he's getting paid, whether it's on television or whether it's in the backyard. That I love.
"Now, what we're trying to do for him is help him put that into a more controlled environment. I want him to learn the little details, and appreciate and value the little details. He's getting more and more comfortable with those little nuances and that's just going to enhance his game."
With Barton getting more playing time, he's been able to settle down on the court rather than just try and make flashy plays to catch his coaches' eyes.
"It's getting that confidence back, getting in that groove," Barton said. "I always knew I could play. I just needed minutes to show it. Now I got my minutes and I can get my swagger back, and I'm my old self. It's going pretty good."
Hunt has no doubts that Barton will stay in the NBA for years to come.
"For sure," Hunt said. "He has an NBA skill: play hard. As long as he has that, the other things are gravy. In his short time with us, we've seen him make threes, we've seen him have spectacular dunks, we've seen him have big blocked shots, we've seen him get a technical because he was just angry. He's shown that he has a lot of things in his toolkit."
Christopher Dempsey | The Denver | March 24 2015