Reviewing the 2021-22 season for Denver Nuggets shooting guard Will Barton
The story of the regular season
With the injuries to MPJ and Murray, the Denver Nuggets needed a healthy Will Barton, and they got that for the most part. His 71 games played were his most since the 2017-2018 season, and the 71 games started were the most in his career.
Barton finished the season tallying the second-most minutes per game while being Denver’s third-leading scorer at 14.7 PPG. Much has been said about Barton’s shooting consistency, but his scoring numbers remained fairly steady throughout the season. His highest scoring month was November at 16.6 per game, and the lowest was in March at 12.7 per game.
Denver started the season 4-2 in October with stifling defense, and Barton was a significant part of that. Denver was holding opponents to just 101.3 PPG, and Barton had his highest plus/minus figure of 8.3 during that month. As Denver’s defense slid back to reality, Barton’s plus/minus numbers also decreased, but after December, he did not finish a month with a negative plus/minus.
Barton might not have compiled All-Star numbers, but he filled a desperate need for Denver. Without him, wing scoring would nearly be absent. We sometimes forget the notion that Barton and Jokic are the key leaders on this team. His production and leadership helped the Nuggets maintain during times of adversity. His 2.2 threes per game were the most for Denver, and he ranked second on the Nuggets in second-half scoring. No, he was not elite, but he executed well enough to help the Nuggets on their way to 6th seed in the West.
Did it translate to the playoffs?
When you look at the statistics overall, Barton did translate his regular-season production to the postseason, but that would not be nearly enough for Denver to make it a series. He was tied as the third-leading scorer for Denver, and his 2.2 made threes per game were tied for the best on the team. His best scoring game, unfortunately, came in the blowout in Game 2. He scored 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists on 10-18 shooting.
The rest of Barton’s playoff outings resulted in 12-14 point games and one 6-point performance in the season’s final game. The Nuggets needed a fantastic Will Barton to defeat the dynasty of the Warriors, and they did not get that. His production was similar to that of the regular season, but they were not going to take the Warriors to a Game 6 or 7 without multiple 20-point outings from Will.
Barton is a talented player who can score from all areas of the court, but he is not an All-Star caliber player, especially at this stage of his career. With the injuries to Murray and MPJ, many may have expected Barton to fill those shoes and create career highs in scoring, but unfortunately, that was not the case. Barton was consistent with who he has been throughout his career. So no, Will might not have turned into the Thrill as much as we would have liked, but he did make big shots this postseason, including that late corner three in Game 4.
Best moment – 30 point outing versus Indiana
Barton’s best performance was when he helped the Nuggets capture a nail-biter against the Pacers on November 10th. The Nuggets needed a scoring punch from him because Jokic was suspended due to a shove on Heat forward Markieff Morris. Barton led the game in scoring with 30 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals on 11-19 shooting and 6-9 from three. He also scored 11 points in the 4th quarter to seal the deal for Denver.
Season Grade: B-
Barton gets a B- grade from me because he did not do anything outstanding, but he also didn’t do anything extremely detrimental. He remained consistent with who he has been through the majority of his career. He is a long-time veteran whose job is to get buckets. No, he doesn’t make as many shots as the elite scorers, and he has numerous head-scratching moments, but that is part of the Thrill. You never truly know what you are going to get and it did not change this season. That specific idea may garner a lower grade, but without Barton’s production, the Nuggets would have struggled mightily on the offensive end throughout the season. He had some good and bad moments throughout the season, but without Barton, this team does not share the same success.
What does the future hold for Barton?
During the end of the summer of 2021, Barton resigned with Denver on a two-year, $32 million deal. Barton will earn about $14.3 million guaranteed for the 2022-2023 season and will be an unrestricted free agent the following season. He is Denver’s longest-tenured player, and a person Denver fans should hold in high regard due to his loyalty to the franchise over the years, but his future is uncertain with the team. MPJ is expected to be back next season, which might force Barton to slide into a bench role. He is an excellent option off the bench, but if he is not willing to take on that responsibility, he and the Nuggets might think about parting ways.