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NBA: Denver Nuggets-Media Day Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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Is Will Barton ready for another change?

Will Barton 2020-21 per game statistics

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Season Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists FG% 3P% TS%
Season Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists FG% 3P% TS%
Regular Season 56 31 12.7 4 3.2 42.6% 38.1% 53.8%
Playoffs 3 27.7 16.3 4.3 2.7 44.2 33.3 54.7

Overview

2021-22 is going to be the eighth season for Will Barton in the mile-high city. After joining the team as a rotational wing player for a few seasons, he became the team’s starting small forward. Someone who was once a young and volatile volume shooter has developed into a passionate and veteran leader on a squad filled with young stars. His role seems to change every year, and that will be no different this season.

The team needed Barton to be a scorer for them when he first arrived, but they don’t need that as much anymore. With scorers like Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic, among others, they need Barton to be a complementary scorer. What they need from Barton is going to be his ability to create shots for others when he’s running with the second unit. He’s never averaged more than 4.1 assists per game, and he’s never gone over 4.4 assists per 36 minutes either. On a team with title aspirations, there isn’t really any room for Barton to lag behind in taking on his new role.

Best Case

Barton could be the best “other guy” on a title team this year. That’s legitimately how good he is when he’s on. Jokic, Porter and Murray are the big stars on this team. Aaron Gordon just signed a new contract, and the former top-five overall pick is still a human highlight reel. What does that make Barton? Barton is a guy that would average over 20 points per game on a team as the primary scorer. Instead, Denver only needs him to average 12. He’s going to be the team’s starting shooting guard when they’re fully healthy. More than likely, we’ll see Barton guarding the best opposing guard when the full starting five is on the floor.

Barton seemed uncomfortable last year at times in a new role as a secondary scorer, but the entire team was never healthy for everyone to gel together. Minus Murray, this roster is healthy. Barton won’t have to jump into his role as a facilitator right away, and he’ll get to grow into it while still being a scorer. Simply put, the best-case scenario for Barton is that he maintains his 3-point efficiency from last season while becoming a better facilitator.

Worst Case

The worst-case scenario for Barton is two different situations. For one, Barton could get banged up again which never lets him get settled into the rotation. Barton has missed at least 15 games in each of the last two seasons, and he missed nearly 50 percent of the year in 2018-19. Last year, he was in and out of the lineup all year long, and, despite returning for the playoffs, he wasn’t 100 percent. Denver needs the 2017-18 version of Barton healthwise.

The other bad situation is Barton fails to embrace a reduced role. In the bubble in 2020, Barton was the ultimate cheerleader for Porter while he was hurt, but, when the possibility of him coming off of the bench for the 2020-21 season was discussed, he was actively annoyed to the point it appeared he could have been a trade candidate. He obviously has now re-signed with the team and is back, but, with Gordon, Murray, Porter and Jokic all in the mix, is he going to still be ok being the “other guy?”

Bold Prediction

Barton is one of the most entertaining players on this roster when he’s cooking. He can score from all three levels, and, when he’s locked in on defense, he can make life difficult for opponents. My bold prediction for Barton is that he will eventually become the primary facilitator with the second unit. I think he’ll still be the starting and closing shooting guard when everyone is healthy, but he seems like a candidate to slide into the second unit early where they need more proven handlers alongside Monte Morris. He can create his own shot, which they need more of in that group, and P.J. Dozier can slide in with the starters to provide a defensive boost while being surrounded by offensive players. If you want a specific stat prediction, I see Barton averaging at least five assists for this time in his career.

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