David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Will Barton has been a staple in the Denver Nuggets’ rotation for seven years, but his time with the Western Conference team may be coming to an end.
Barton declined his player option worth $14.7 million for the 2021-22 season, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.
There was a time when it appeared the Memphis product wouldn’t remain with the Nuggets for long after they acquired him from the Portland Trail Blazers in February 2015. Chris Haynes, who was with ESPN at the time, reported in December 2016 the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans “reached out” to Denver with interest in him
What’s more, Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post noted the 6’6″ scorer was a “hot commodity” during the 2015-16 season and said some teams “even offered first-round picks for him.”
However, the Nuggets kept Barton for multiple seasons.
He averaged double-figure scoring totals every year in Denver, including when he posted 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists a night in 2019-20 for a squad that reached the Western Conference Finals. He followed with 12.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in 2020-21, although he missed extensive time with a hamstring injury.
That Barton carved out such a key role with the Nuggets was notable because he didn’t see much playing time in a rotation behind Wesley Matthews and CJ McCollum for the Trail Blazers after they selected him with a second-round pick in 2012.
He seized his opportunity to demonstrate what he could do at the NBA level in Denver as someone who can shoot from three-point range (38.1 percent in 2020-21), electrify the crowd with high-flying dunks, attack the basket and get involved on the boards on both ends of the floor.
While Barton won’t be the biggest free-agent signing of the offseason, he will be a solid addition for whichever team gets him after he decided against exercising his option.