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Film Friday: What to do with Will Barton

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NBA: Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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.

After playing four games in seven days, the Denver Nuggets were probably a little excited that their game against the Detroit Pistons was canceled because it gave them almost four full days off ahead of last night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. One player in particular that needs some time to figure things out is Will Barton. After being the clear third-best player on the team last year and second-best on some nights, he just hasn’t been able to find his footing this year.

Last season, Barton was averaging 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He also matched his career-best 1.1 Box Plus/Minus while turning in a -0.2 Defensive Box Plus/Minus, which was the best mark he had gotten since 2014-15. Through 20 games this season, he’s averaging 11.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He’s also shooting just 41.8 percent from the floor. His advance metrics aren’t much better. He’s at -1.4 for DBPM and -2.2 BPM.

Barton has started 16 of the 20 games Denver has played this season, and it’s unlikely that Michael Malone is going to go away from that. What’s going wrong with him this year that’s got him struggling so bad? Is it a conditioning issue after missing out on the bubble games? Is it that last year was a fluke? That’s what we’re here to look at today to hopefully figure out what the Nuggets can do to get Barton back to the levels he was at previously.

*A disclaimer that all stats were prior to last night’s game with the Lakers.*

Confidence

Something has happened to Barton’s confidence. This play against the Brooklyn Nets. He knows he’s pulling up the whole time. He has the ball with 11 seconds left, and it looks like last season when Denver could get him the ball late in the shot clock where he would make something happen. These moments have been few and far between though because there have been many instances where he looked like he wanted no part of that big shot.

Compare the previous play to this one. Barton has the chance to rise up and get this shot off when he catches it. Instead, he hesitates which allows the defender to get into his space and contest the shot. If you compare this instance to Michael Porter Jr., that shot is going up as soon as he touches the ball. Barton’s confidence can sway from game to game, but they need him fully in. He’s going to hit those shots, and he is shooting just under 40 percent from distance this season. When you have the shot, have confidence that you’re going to make it.

Be aggressive inside the 3-point line

This somewhat goes towards the confidence point, but it’s a little different. Barton needs to be aggressive when he’s moving inside the arc. On this play, he’s 1-on-1 with Derrick Favors. That’s a matchup that favors him. Rudy Gobert isn’t on the floor, so the rim is open. No one is going to be able to get over and contest that shot. Instead, he settles for a long pull-up jump shot. He’s never been a guy that generates a lot of free-throw attempts, but the opportunities for him to get them are there if he would take them.

Same game. Just over four minutes later, and he has a more difficult matchup with Royce O’Neale guarding him with a defender waiting inside the paint for him at the rim. Instead of settling for a jumper. He goes right at him, and he gets a shot up that further stretched the lead out. Do more of that. When you threaten a team with your ability to drive, they’re going to be more concerned about it and give you easier jumper looks. Use your athleticism and your ability to put up off-balance shots to your advantage.

Get Engaged on Defense

Was this a decent move by Jalen Brunson of the Dallas Mavericks? Yes. Was this also a terrible defensive display by Barton? Also yes. Barton gets caught ball-watching on Luka Dončić, and Brunson takes advantage of that. Barton’s -1.4 DBPM is just a brutal mark to see, and his defensive rating of 113 is the second-worst mark of his career. Help defense is needed at times, but Barton needs to focus on his individual assignments better.

We can all agree this is what we all want to see. Up by 22, Barton has no reason to chase this play down. It’s a good play by Kendrick Nunn off of a questionable pass by Barton, and he could just let it go. Instead, he puts his head down and starts running to the other end. He waits and bides his time before going up for the block. It saves two points because Paul Millsap hustles behind him and secures the rebound. Plays like that are the ones that don’t always show up in the box score, but they can be the difference in a close game. He’s one of four guys on the roster with more than five years of experience, and this play shows the young guys you’re never above making those plays.

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.