Will Barton came into the 2016-17 season with high hopes after his career-best year in 2015 and was looking to further his development and help lead the Nuggets back to the playoffs. Barton played point guard for stretches and also filled in as a small forward when injuries began depleting Denver’s roster in the middle portion of the season.
Statistically, Barton had his most efficient season of his career. His 54.7 true shooting percentage, and 37.0 percent shooting from 3-point distance, and 3.4 assists per game were all career-highs this season and he did so with just a slight dip in his usage rate.
Overall, Barton averaged 13.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in 28.4 minutes per game.
What grade would you give Barton’s season?
Harrison Wind (NBAWind): B+
Joel Rush (NuggetsDenJoel): C+.
Kalen Deremo (PrincePickaxe): B.
T.J. McBride (@BSN_McBride): B-.
Harrison: Say what you want about Barton’s fit and how the Nuggets are trying to play with Nikola Jokic, but you can look back at last season and pick out three or four specific games that Denver isn’t even in, if not for Barton. What this year was about for Barton was proving that last season was no fluke and he did just that. He’ll be a premier Sixth Man and spot starter for the rest of his career at this rate.
Joel: After an injury-plagued season start, Barton emerged to play consistently well in December and January, only to get mired in a slump after that which would effectively continue through the remainder of the season. He didn’t really slip too much, but neither did he truly build on the impressive progress he made in the previous season.
Kalen: Barton actually played fewer minutes than he did last year and was constantly pressured to alter his position, mentality, and purpose with a vastly different rotation both in terms of overall age and ability, yet he stayed consistent throughout most of the year. Granted he got a bit overzealous on offense for a good 20 games or so, but similar to Jameer Nelson he was simply attempting to fill a void that Denver’s youth wasn’t ready to handle.
T.J.: Barton had some incredible moments for Denver this season and provided much-needed injury insurance when he was not injured himself, but he also shot the Nuggets out of a couple of games and played far too ball-dominant for stretches. Barton is stuck between sticking to his playground roots and fitting into a motion and ball movement oriented offense and has not found the right balance yet. For that, he gets docked but overall, Barton was a solid contributor for the Nuggets.
What aspect of Barton game did he improve on most this season?
Harrison: Shooting. Many, including myself, were a bit wary of Barton’s 3-point prowess last year, where he hit on 34.5 percent of his threes after not shooting north of 30 percent over his first three seasons in the league. This year, Barton shot 37.0 percent on the same number of attempts per game, showing that his 2015-16 numbers were indeed no fluke.
Joel: I honestly don’t think he had a single area of improvement significant enough to qualify for an answer here. In lieu of that, I would say the fact he didn’t regress to pre-2015-16 levels of production and efficiency was in itself commendable. As it turned out, the solid role player who emerged last year appears to be the player Barton has legitimately become.
Kalen: His attempt to lead. Barton has always been a positive influence in the locker room but he seemed especially vocal this year, often saying what needed to be said in times of frustration when others preferred to remain silent.
T.J.: Barton’s 3-point shooting. Every year he has been with Denver, Barton’s 3-point percentage has climbed higher and higher. When Denver acquired Barton from the Portland Trail Blazes during the 2014-15 season, he proceeded to shoot 28.0 percent on 2.4 attempts a game. He then came back the following season and put up a career-high four 3-point attempts per game and shoot 34.5 percent from deep. This season, he finished shooting a career-high 37.0 percent from deep on 3.9 attempts and was one of the Nuggets best threats from three all season.
What does Barton need to work on this upcoming offseason?
Harrison: Defense. Maybe it’s because Barton really had to carry Denver’s second unit offensively this season with the amount of injuries the Nuggets had, but the next step for him is becoming more of a two-way player. Whether he’s in Denver for the long haul or not, more consistency on that end of the floor unlocks Barton’s remaining potential.
Joel: It’s not really Barton’s fault that he doesn’t mesh very well with Denver’s new Jokic-centric offense which is founded on ball sharing and player movement. He plays hard, but through much of the latter part of the season, he really seemed to be the odd man out in this respect. He’ll need to find more effective ways of integrating himself into the offensive flow going forward to retain as big of a role as he’s had.
Kalen: I’d be great to see Barton work on his lower-body strength, rebounding and defense so that should Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari depart from the Nuggets this summer, Barton is ready to step in and assume the role of reserve or even starting small forward. Standing 6-foot-5 with a solid 6-9 wingspan and ample hops, Barton is more than capable of playing small forward given the NBA’s increasingly diminutive five-man rotations.
T.J.: Accepting a bench role. At media day before this last season, Barton had made it known that a goal of his was that he wanted to start. He ended up starting 19 of his 60 games this season after being in the starting five just six times in the first four years of his career. Barton played extremely well in the starting lineup but if Denver is to get the most out of the roster, as currently constructed, Barton will need to accept a full-time bench role and be the explosive volume scorer off the bench that can operate in the pick and roll and push the pace.