Will Barton Is Making A Case For Minutes
By sarahhecht Posted in: willbarton
There’s no doubt the learning process for NBA rookies can be rough. An arduous journey loaded with extended stretches on the bench, hours of extra practice and the mentally taxing task of maintaining confidence and preparedness for the big moment you get called up to the big leagues. But when coach gives your name a shout you’ve got to pocket your nerves and play your best, because if you don’t there’s a good chance you’ll end up right back where you started, warming the pine.
Watching this journey is one of the great stories of the Trail Blazers season. Rookies, who are getting more minutes than they might elsewhere with a deeper and more experienced roster to contend with, get meaningful minutes and literally blossom in front of our eyes.
The newest rookie to shine is shooting guard Will Barton
who seems to be on a nice upswing as of late.
Yesterday against the Kings, Barton posted a career-high 14 points in 26 minutes of play while shooting 6-for-9 from the field. The night before—another night of increased minutes with starter Wesley Matthews on the mend from injury—he tallied seven points, five rebounds and three assists.
Barton got into the action early against the Kings on Wednesday, driving the lane and finishing a layup just minutes into his first shift during the opening quarter—a tactic he credits to a better overall performance throughout the night.
“Anytime I get a easy bucket, a layup because I’m an attacker, I feel like I got a rhythm going and it helps me to do other things,” Barton said. “It felt real good to get out there and just play. I never worry about one category out there, I just wanna get out there and produce and help.”
Recently he’s been doing just that and his productivity can be narrowed down to a few key areas that have been the focus of his development. “In practice I kinda just focus on the things I’m gonna do in the game,” Barton said. “So I focus on attacking the rim, attacking to make plays for others and defending.” These specific spotlights are accentuated by what the coaching staff has him dedicated to and seem to be translating well to his in-game play.
Head Coach Terry Stotts broke down the aspects of Barton’s game that are getting the most attention and what we can expect to see from him in the future “Coming off screen shooting, catching on the weak side and attacking off the dribble, being a play-maker off the dribble,” he said. “He’s not necessarily a 3-point shooter right now, we work on that, but that’s down the road for him, he still works on it.
“But realizing what his strengths are, right now we’re trying to accentuate his strengths and I think for young players when they come in they need to really do what they do well. Obviously you’re working on you weaknesses, but you don’t want them to shadow what you do well.”
Undoubtedly, what Barton does well is bring energy to the floor through his confidence to continue shooting and attacking whether his shots are falling or not. Stotts knows he needs some freedom to make mistakes and learn, but Barton also knows he’s got to make the most of the minutes he’s given.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure, but you kinda feel that way,” Barton said of how he feels with he steps on the court. “You just want to do good so you can stay out there. Everyone wants to play, but you just worried about doing good things for the team and hopefully everyone is playing good while you’re out there and you’re making shots and defending and hopefully you’ll stay out there.”
If Barton can consistently, or somewhat consistently, replicate his last couple performances he’ll likely continue to get the nod from Stotts for more playing time. And with those minutes comes the increased confidence—not something Barton lacks at all—and the ever coveted game experience rookies yearn for.
“The more game time I get, the more comfortable I get,” Barton said. “You’ll see me making more plays and getting better and my development will skyrocket the more minutes I get.”