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Will Barton is finding his stride and could become the Nuggets x-factor come playoff time

The People’s Champ is quietly putting together a really solid season.

Utah Jazz v Denver Nuggets Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images

In the Nuggets first game following the All-Star Break, Denver was able to pick up a solid 128-110 road victory over the Sacramento Kings. The play of Will Barton was a massive reason why as he scored a season-high 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field, 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.

Barton’s 31 points were only six behind his career-high, which he set on November 30, 2017 in a 1-point victory over the Chicago Bulls. It’s crazy to think, but Thursday nights game was just the eighth time in Barton’s career that he’s scored 30+ points in a game. In games that he’s scored at least 30 points the Nuggets are 6-2, so good things usually happen when Barton is putting the ball through the rim.

Not only was Barton scoring the ball with ease against Sacramento, but he also hauled in five rebounds, dished out three assists, and committed just two turnovers. Barton is averaging 1.9 turnovers per game this season, which is not a bad mark considering how much play making he does for the Nuggets.

You could definitely argue the Sacramento game was Barton’s best performance of the season, but it could also be argued that he’s putting together a more solid season than he’s been given credit for. Barton is averaging just a tick under his career-high in points per game (15.5), which he set back in the 2017-18 season when he averaged 15.7 point a game.

Chicago Bulls v Denver Nuggets

That number 2017 has already popped up twice and it’s no coincidence why as that was the last full season in which Barton was healthy. Barton played in 81 of the Nuggets 82 games that season, which could not be said for the three years following as he’s played in 43, 58, and 56 games each of the past three seasons.

This year has been a different story though as Barton has appeared in 52 of the Nuggets 59 games.. Even though he’s missed seven games, Barton has been able to avoid those long-term injuries that have plagued him the past few seasons. Because of that, Barton has been able to establish more of a rhythm and is hopefully starting to play his best basketball when the Nuggets need him most.

Barton is currently shooting a serviceable 37.3 percent from beyond the arc on six attempts a game, which is basically a mark he’s been at his whole career. His best season from three came last year when he shot 38.1 percent from three and career-wise he shoots 35.5 percent from deep.

Detroit Pistons v Denver Nuggets Photo by Ethan Mito/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images

The one point to make about Barton’s threes is that he’s attempting six per game, which is a career-high. Barton is also making a career-high 2.3 threes a game, which is a number you like to see with how many he’s attempting. Even though it feels like Barton has struggled at times this season to make threes, he’s actually been pretty productive from distance.

Where Barton continues to make strides is as a rebounder as he’s averaging five boards a game this season, which is a great number for him because it allows him to push the ball and get out in transition. Barton is also averaging close to a career-high with 3.9 assists per game. His career-high in assists came back in — you guessed it — the 2017-18 season when he averaged 4.1 dimes per game.

It’s also no secret that Denver could have used Barton’s contributions in the playoffs each of the past few seasons. Barton has appeared in just three of the Nuggets last 29 playoff games as he fought back to play in Denver’s last three playoff games against Phoenix last season. At that point it felt like the series had already been lost for Denver and even though Barton did not play great in those three games, he still had a 25-point performance in Game 4.

Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets - Game Three Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

There is no telling when or if Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are going to return this season, which puts more pressure on a player like Barton to perform alongside the Nuggets superstar big man, Nikola Jokic. As the Nuggets continue to climb in the standings, a player like Barton is going to play a massive role in how far the Nuggets go this season.

If his play against Sacramento was any indication of things to come, the Nuggets may have found their x-factor in Will Barton as they push towards the postseason.