Denver Nuggets: One player to watch in Sunday’s preseason opener

Denver Nuggets: One player to watch in Sunday’s preseason opener

For a stretch that lasted far too long, Will Barton sat behind Wilson Chandler on the Denver Nuggets’ small forward depth chart. Night after night, Barton outperformed Chandler, but to seemingly no avail. The final minutes often saw “Thrill” replace Chandler on the floor, but Wilson opened 71 of his 74 appearances nonetheless (ESPN).

In the wake of injuries to Chandler and Harris, Barton did start 40 games for Denver last year (ESPN). He played brilliantly in these opportunities, demonstrating well-rounded stat-stuffing. Thrill proved himself a natural starting forward with his scoring, rebounding and play-making.

Barton appeared comfortable within the starting unit, averaging 17.7 points in 40 starts (ESPN). These scoring numbers would have landed him second-highest on the Nuggets. Thrill’s shooting percentage also benefited from starter’s minutes. He drilled 47.6 percent of field goal attempts, and 40.4 percent from three. Barton actually led Denver in layup opportunities, generating 3.6 rim attempts per game (Basketball Reference).

When starting, Will proved himself a particularly strong play-maker. Thrill averaged  4.4 assists, trailing only Jokic (ESPN). He often served as primary facilitator when Jokic rested. Barton even played point guard at times, utilizing strong passing and ball-handling skills.

Despite his pencil-thin build, Barton proved himself effective on the boards. He averaged 5.6 rebounds when starting. This would have rendered him Denver’s third-best rebounder in 2017-18 (NBA).

 

Will has desired a starting role for some time now. Per the Denver Post, this was a requirement entering free agency. After Barton re-signed, the Nuggets traded Chandler to the 76ers, allowing “Thrill” to start at small forward.

Barton will play to impress throughout Sunday’s preseason game. Look for Will to score early and often, wasting no time establishing his presence.

Why?

Because Barton cares too much to mail it in….even in the preseason. No begging is needed to inspire Thrill’s effort. His swaggy sense of pride pushes him forward, even when the outlook is bleak. Even when strong play fails to net him the rightfully deserved starting spot. Now, after much perseverance, the position is finally his. Why wouldn’t Will hit the ground hot?

Contrary to belief of some fans, Barton is by not a fallback starter. Nobody’s second-choice receives a $54 million extension. Additionally, Denver traded Chandler for mere cash considerations (NBA). The transition was very intentional…even if it happened a beat later than it should have.

Meanwhile, Will is set to embark on a career-best season. Look for him to prove his worth as a starter. Beginning in Sunday’s game vs. the Lakers.

 

Source: NuggLove | James Siegle | September 25, 2018