BARTON: MY ULTIMATE GOAL IS TO RETURN TO DENVER
By Christopher Dempsey
For the first time in his career, Will Barton has the chance to control his own destiny. And the Nuggets shooting guard, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, already has a preference. He wants his next chapter to be right where his current one is playing out.
In Denver, with the Nuggets.
“My ultimate goal is to return to Denver,” Barton told Altitude Sports. “You know me, I’m a real loyal guy. I’m real big on that. They gave me a chance to really showcase what I could do. So, I would love to finish what I started here.”
Asked if he’s expressed that to team management, Barton said, “I think they should know. I think they do know. I go out there and give it my all every night. I got a good relationship with my teammates and the coaches. I’m respected around the team. So, I think I’ve done a good job of expressing that, and it’s just all about keep moving forward and growing.”
And the Baltimore, Maryland native is sold on the Mile High City.
“I like Denver,” Barton said. “It’s given me a good place to focus on my career, where I can just focus on basketball a lot. It’s great people there. A lot of food places, and it’s growing. Just like me, the city is growing. When I first got here it wasn’t that many people. Now, people are moving to Denver, so it’s cool.”
Barton is in the midst of his best season of his six-year NBA career. He’s averaging career highs in points (15.0), minutes (32.6), field goal percentage (44.6), assists (4.1) and steals (1.1). He has been the most versatile player on the team in playing with the starting unit or reserves, and playing everything from point guard to small forward.
How quickly does time fly? Barton is in his fourth season with the Nuggets after the team traded for him in the 2014-15 season.
“You guys have watched my game really grow and evolve,” Barton said. “And my playmaking ability, being able to now play multiple positions, (point guard) through (small forward). Just making better reads – everything just evolved.
“When I got to Portland, once I became a pro, I started experimenting with different positions and working on my game a lot in the summertime, always really evaluating myself after every season and wanting to improve. And I saw my ball-handling getting better, and my passing. Once I got here, my shooting got much better. So, I knew once I put all of those things together I could be a real threat and it would make me more versatile.”
Barton signed a three-year, $11 million contract with the Nuggets in 2015. That per year average stands to rise a lot with his next deal. Nuggets coach Michael Malone has praised Barton all season long, saying he should be in the conversation for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award on multiple occasions.
In the Nuggets’ game at Miami on Monday, Barton found himself among the five-man lineups Malone trusted most to get defensive stops when the team needed them in critical moments. Defense is among the areas Barton says he continues to want to improve.
“Just to be more consistent on the defensive end, staying locked in,” he said. “Staying disciplined on that end. And just keep being aggressive, keep being myself, knowing that teams are kind of game-planning and knowing my game. So, just reading defenses and seeing what they are giving me and making plays off of that.
But for now, he, along with his teammates, are dialed-in on trying to qualify for the NBA playoffs.
“It’s real fun,” said Barton of the Nuggets’ playoff chase. “It makes you lock in, see what you’re made of. So, we’re going to take it one game at a time, and hopefully we can do what we’ve got to do to get in.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter