During the third quarter of the Denver Nuggets home opener against the Phoenix Suns Will Barton made a nice move to the basket to get an easy reverse layup. Unfortunately, when he landed Barton was in considerable pain and grabbing his groin/hip area. There was no contact to Barton on the play but he immediately went to the floor, was unable get up and had to leaved the court on a cart. Vic Lombardi with Altitude Sports updated during the broadcast that Barton suffered a right hip injury and will not return to the game.
Will Barton has a right hip injury and will not return.— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) October 21, 2018
Nuggets fans no doubt are having flashbacks to their last starting small forward, Wilson Chandler, right now. Chandler missed a plethora of games from hip injuries, including the entire 2015-2016 season. With Chandler now in Philadelphia, the Nuggets are leaning on Barton to be their go to small forward. Additionally, with Michael Porter Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt still recovering from their own injuries, the Nuggets are considerably thin at the small forward position. Juancho Hernangomez, Malik Beasley and Torrey Craig all saw minutes in the game against Phoenix so its reasonable to infer one of those three will get the first crack at the starter’s role if Barton is unable to go.
Each one of those guys has shown flashes of being very effective and coach Michael Malone has gone to Craig and Hernangomez in the starting lineup before. The Nuggets also have the firepower in their starting lineup to overcome a Barton injury with each of the other four starters being very capable scorers. However, Denver’s margin for injuries and/or error becomes razor thin with a long injury to Barton. Beasley and Craig carry the bulk of backup minutes at the two guard spot but other than them and Hernangomez , Denver has very few healthy options to turn to for the three. MPJ and Vanderbilt’s readiness to return to the court hasn’t been given an official timeline and one has to worry that if the Nuggets are without Barton they may feel pressure to bring one of their young forwards back before they are truly 100%. Ultimately, you have to place faith that the organization is playing the long game, and that certainly appears to be the case based off of their approach to those player’s recovery thus far.
A long absence from Will could also put pressure on Isaiah Thomas to return from injury as well. IT has been recovering from his own hip injury and the play of Monte Morris has thus far been up to the task of filling in. Losing Barton means a quality player from the bench goes to the starting unit which stretches a bench unit already thin on scoring even further. Having Thomas back could certainly help to assuage that problem but again the Nuggets have thus far shown that they plan to take the patient approach with their free agent acquisition.
Losing Will this early in the year would be a huge blow at the end of the day. It brings back memories of the Carmelo Anthony era where great teams had massive amounts of adversity because key role players like Nene or Kenyon Martin suffered lengthy injuries early in the year. Ultimately, the best case scenario for Denver is that Barton is alright and this was nothing more than a scary moment. We’ve seen Will bounce back from some scary looking falls before so if there’s no better player to believe is going to bounce right back then him. Above all else we’re hoping he is okay.