The Denver Nuggets have made no secret of their appreciation of their free agent guard Will Barton, and according to Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN that relationship could continue for a while longer. Per @wojespn’s tweet:
There's strong momentum with the Denver Nuggets and their free agent guard Will Barton to get a deal done quickly after the start of free agency at 12:01 AM, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 30, 2018
“Strong momentum” could mean anything, but Denver wanting to finish that quickly would be an interesting look into their free agent thinking. Our own Ryan Blackburn wrote a piece on Denver’s impending free agency steps today, and here is his part on Barton:
Barton is going to test free agency and see where he can get the best contract he can on the best fit possible, whether that be in Denver or with another team. Indiana has been rumored to want Barton. Memphis has ties to the former University of Memphis standout. There will be suitors for Barton, who might be the best wing on the market behind George and Trevor Ariza (LeBron is a point forward).
The best thing the Nuggets can do is set the bar with a solid offer for Barton, something that gives him good money that also protects the team. This would either mean cutting down the number of years on his contract or the annual salary. Denver needs Barton’s skill set next year, but they might not in future years, given the age curve of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. I’d offer Barton a three year deal worth $36 million with the last year being a team option.
There is no indication of price or years yet, but Barton coming back would be the first of a series of dominoes to fall after Nikola Jokic’s max contract. Barton’s return would shape guard and small forward minutes as well as lay out certain bench roles. I would expect him to get starter minutes and potentially even the bulk of small forward starts, which would help neither Denver’s defense nor its bench production, but Barton can fill so many roles in case of need or emergency that it might not matter. He can start or come off the bench, be the lead handler off the bench or play off-ball.
Barton was asked to be a bench point guard last year for stretches due to Denver’s lack of such, and that’s probably not his best role with this team going forward. But Vice President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly has gone out of his way to praise Barton at every opportunity and said this about Barton after the season:
“We hope we can get something done. He’s our guy. We love him and I think if he’s back in a Denver jersey, it’s good for both him and the team.”
It looks like Barton may return as Denver’s guy very shortly.