ESPN’s Chris Haynes is reporting that the Indiana Pacers have interest in pursuing Will Barton in free agency, which officially begins on July 1st.
ESPN Sources: With Indiana declining team option on Lance Stephenson, Tyreke Evans and Will Barton are expected to be two of its free-agent targets.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 25, 2018
Barton averaged over 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for the Denver Nuggets last season, appearing in 81 games including 40 as a starter. He’s been a key piece of Denver’s roster over the last three and a half seasons, leading the team in total minutes played throughout the 2017-18. He also led all Nuggets players in 4th quarter minutes per game, averaging 9.3 minutes in the final frame.
The Pacers are one of just a few NBA teams with money to spend this summer as most of the league is either capped out or looking to shed salary. Yahoo’s Shams Charania reported earlier today that the team plans to decline the final year of Lance Stephenson’s $4.3 million contact and will be looking for a scorer and creator in free agency who could start and carry bench units.
Denver, on the other hand, will be looking to unload one of their 8-figure contacts in order to make room to re-sign Barton. Kenneth Faried, and his near $14 million contract which expires at the end of next season, is the most likely candidate to be traded away. Wilson Chandler ($12.8 million) and Darrell Arthur ($7.5 million) are the other two players who will be entering into the final year of their contracts and are candidates for Denver to offload. Mason Plumlee is set to earn roughly $27 million over the next two seasons and may also be a candidate for a trade.
Denver will likely have to include some sort of asset in any deal for either of the aforementioned players, either a draft pick or a young prospect like Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Trey Lyles, Monte Morris or Tyler Lydon.
The Pacers were one team that Denver could target to unload salary since the Pacers have salary cap space to spare and might be interested in some of the young talent on Denver’s roster. Lyles played high school ball in Indianapolis, perhaps making him especially intriguing for the Pacers. However, their interest in Barton may eliminate them as a trade partner in a salary dump or give them a huge edge in contact negotiations for both Barton and whoever Denver hopes to include in a salary dump.
In an episode of the Locked On Nuggets podcast recorded over the weekend, Dunc’d On’s Nate Duncan speculated that the market for Will Barton is likely to be around $8-12 million per year over 3-4 years.