Rewind back to the year to the year 2010. Do you remember who was the number one rated shooting guard coming out of high school? The answer may surprise you: Will Barton.
That’s right. Will ‘The Thrill’ Barton. The lanky, but gifted Barton was heavily recruited by Arizona, Indiana, and Kentucky for his insane hops, incredible agility and seamless mid-range game, but he chose to join the Tigers at The University Memphis, who back then were still coached by John Calipari.
It was his sophomore year he made began making serious noise, winning the Conference USA Player of the year while averaging over 18 points and eight rebounds per game.
Barton then bolted for the NBA, confident his game would translate well to the highest level.Though he was projected to be a first-round pick when he first began college, his stock began to slip to a second-round prospect according to many scouts.
Barton was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the as the 40th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. However, the opportunity never came for Barton to establish himself in a consistent role. Much to the Trail Blazers dismay, they shipped him off to the Nuggets for Arron Afflalo, without ever realizing his full potential.
After the trade, Barton saw a steady increase in his minutes and Nuggets fans quickly saw his potential.
It is safe to say Denver got away with a crime in the trade for Will Barton.
Following the trade, his old teammate Damian Lillard once said, “If I had to pick a player who led our team in scoring during practice, it was Will Barton ever since I’ve been here. He’s a baller and a play-maker. He can do it all, he just needs the right opportunity.”
Coming from one of the best point guards in the league, you can’t ask for much higher praise and recognition. Lillard would go on to say that Barton gave it his all when he guarded him at every single practice, and that he’s not surprised at all by his play since joining the Nuggets. Grinder. The one word that best exemplifies Will Barton’s basketball career.
“When I’m going against an opponent and they know coming into the game, Will’s going to bring it tonight so I got to be on my A-game, or hear my peers say that he can play, I respect his game, that means more to me than winning awards,” said Barton.
That is the attitude that Barton has carried himself with since the day he embarked on his basketball career. Many NBA scouts doubted him, one even described him as a ‘do-it-all player’, but went on to say he wouldn’t go far in the NBA because he’s a “string bean.” In his fifth year in the NBA, Barton is proving all of his doubters wrong, and showing his good friend Damian Lillard was absolutely spot on about him.
Barton made a late push as a popular candidate to win the 6th Man of the Year Award in the 2015-16 season, quickly gaining respect throughout the NBA as he averaged 14.4 PPG.
Barton continues to improve his game.
This season, Barton is averaging 13.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3 APG and shooting at a career-best 45% from the field, and 41% from beyond the arc. Though he is scoring slightly fewer points per game this season compared to last, his efficiency has gone way up.
Barton is the second-best 3-point shooter on the Nuggets, and leads all guards in scoring on the team. His mid-range and transition game has been remarkably consistent since he joined the Nuggets, but his 3-point game and shooting efficiency have come a long way, and it shows.
For a player who shot 3-pointers at an abysmal rate of 26% during his freshman year at Memphis and 30% or below every year in the NBA up until last season, he has worked tirelessly to add that dimension to his game and it has made him a more complete player.
But what is most admirable about Barton’s play is his willingness to help his team win however he can. In the 32 games in which he’s played in this season, he has started 17 of them. He has not been established as a clear starter or bench player, due to the multiple Nuggets starting lineup changes throughout the season, but head coach Michael Malone knows he can rely on Will Barton in a variety of different roles.
He has also demonstrated a knack for clutch shooting in the big moments this year, and has stated multiple times that he wants the ball in his hands when it matters most.
Barton has finally got the opportunity he deserves.
Getting the opportunity he has always deserved, Barton is finally regaining the national attention he received as a high school prospect – averaging over 28 minutes per game for the second season in a row.
He may not get the 6th man of the Year Award, but he has quickly solidified as a key port of the Denver Nuggets mold of youth.
To think that he was averaging a mere 3 points per game in Portland just more than two years ago is mind-boggling.
But Barton is living proof that hard work pays off. “He was always the first one on the court for every practice, and the last one to leave,” said Damian Lillard.
Anyone who has been around Barton long enough knows his story by now.
“I’m a gym rat.” said Barton. “I love to get better. I hate being out of the gym [for too long]. I always feel like someone else is getting better if I’m not. I just love the game.”
Source: Matan Halzel | FANSIDED | January 27, 2017