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Film Friday: Will Barton is the measuring stick

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Milwaukee Bucks v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.

I don’t get on a soapbox often, but I’m doing it now. Don’t like it? Come tell me on Twitter why I’m wrong. I’m not convinced that an NBA restart is going to happen and be completed. We’ve already seen that people can continue to test positive, as is the case with Spencer Dinwiddie, and there is evidence to show that people can get the disease more than once. With all of that in mind, the NBA is going to do everything they can to try and make money out of this by making the restart happen for better or worse. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Nikola Jokic has entered the bubble. Live practices are being televised, and the official schedule is out. We might get to see some Bol Bol minutes for the first time all season against actual NBA talent which is something we’ve all been looking forward to. We’re finally getting basketball for the first time in four months, and we need it now more than ever with everything else going on in the world.

This Nuggets’ roster has the potential to cause upsets against the league’s best teams because of the way they’re constructed. Jokic is too big for any center to guard effectively, and the floor is spaced out with a number of quality shooters. One player that can make a huge difference for them though is Will Barton. He’s not viewed as one of the team’s superstars, but he’s shown in spurts the ability to be more than a role player.

What he brings

Despite missing seven games, he’s still second on the team in minutes behind Jokic, and he brings a good amount of scoring pop when he’s on the floor with his 15.1 points per game being third on the team. He’s a relatively accurately shooter with a slashline of .450/.375/.767. His offensive contributions are a completely different style from Jokic and Jamal Murray, which is what makes his role so important.

On the defensive end, he’s not a lockdown guy, but he has registered a positive Defensive Player Impact Plus-Minus for the first time in his career with a +0.4 on the year. With Gary Harris next to him, Barton is responsible for being the second-best wing defender on the floor with the starting unit. He needs to step up in that role, but he’s still improved this year.

He’s in the middle of the best season of his career, and you just have to look at his two-man lineups to see where the team would be without him. All four of the other starters have positive net ratings when they’re on the floor with Barton. They range from a +11.0 with Paul Millsap to a +5.9 with Harris. With Barton on the floor, the starters are consistently performing well.

Film Work

This clip is a perfect example of what Barton does that no one else on the roster brings. Jokic, Murray, Millsap or whoever else you want to name aren’t going to dribble the ball up the floor to pop a heat-check 3-point shot, especially with a number of defenders still near them. The defense has to stay tight on him in situations like this because he’s liable to hoist that shot which then opens up cuts to the basket for his teammates where he can hit them with a pass.

We’ve all seen Barton make crazy forays to the basket with wild layups at the end of them, but something he’s greatly improved this year is his decision making. He doesn’t have the best assist percentage of his career, but he does have the best assist:turnover ratio with a healthy 2.41. On this drive, he gets underneath the basket, and he could force something up. Instead, he makes that one extra pass that gives Millsap an easy bucket with no defenders near by because of the gravity Barton possessed.

I love hustle plays more than anything else in the game of basketball. Someone is on a runout with what looks like an easy score, but the hustle of one player stops it all. Denver gives up easy buckets once or twice a game, but Barton made sure this wasn’t one of them. He’s in a disadvantaged situation, but he waits till his man gathers and stops a fast break by himself.

Barton is not going to be the guy that makes or breaks this team’s chances at winning a title. That’s not his role on the team, but he is the same guy that can make life a lot easier on everyone. When he’s playing well and hitting his shots, that opens up everything for the rest of the team. Against the Golden State Warriors in January, his 31 points led the team and were the difference in them losing a game they shouldn’t on the road vs winning it in overtime.

For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.