Nuggets 2018-19 Player Previews: Will Barton
Last Season: It was career year for Will Barton, who enjoyed a bigger role with the Nuggets and turned it into his most productive season as a pro. His 15.7 points, 4.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 33.1 minutes and 45.2 percent shooting from the field were all career highs. His 2.22 assist-to-turnover ratio was second on the team only to Devin Harris (2.48).
And he was the most versatile player on the team, playing point guard, shooting guard and small forward, and doing all of that in both starting and reserve roles. Barton also wore another significant hat: Closer.
He led the Nuggets in average fourth quarter minutes at 9.3. His 4.0 points per fourth quarter was second on the team only to Jamal Murray’s 4.3. Barton was also nearly automatic from the free throw line when the Nuggets needed it most, making 33-of-35 (94.3 percent) from the charity stripe in the clutch. That was fourth-best in the NBA among players who had taken at least 15 clutch time free throws in the regular season.
2018-19 Outlook: Rewarded with a new lucrative contract in the summer, Barton is expected to move into the starting lineup at small forward. In essence, his presence with the starters means the Nuggets will put a three-guard lineup on the court, and it was effective for them a season ago. According to NBA Stats, among the Nuggets’ three-man lineups that played at least 500 minutes last season, the Jamal Murray/Gary Harris/Barton combo was fourth in offensive rating (115.6), fourth in net rating (7.1), eighth in defensive rating (108.5) and first in pace (100.47).
Barton’s presence with the starters also allows the Nuggets to continue to have five players on the court who can all handle, pass, drive and shoot. This would be Barton’s first full-time starting gig in his six-year NBA career.
Bold Prediction: Barton will average over 16 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game. There were only 11 players – including his teammate, Nikola Jokic – to do that in the NBA last season.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.