Thrill takes too much criticism.
Look, I get it, I spend a disproportionate amount of time yelling at the television with Will Barton‘s boom-or-bust style of play. If I’m really honest with myself, I tend to overlook the clutch shots he nails, the steals he gets, the defense he plays because I focus on his mistakes.
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Last year, Barton was the Nuggets top clutch performer. That’s defined as performance within the last five minutes of the game with your team within five points of the opponent. Thrill was the most productive Nugget in that time. This season, Barton again leads the starters with 55.6% crunch shooting. Even more impressive, Will hits at a 57.1% clip from three in crunch time.
So, while it may seem like Barton is a freewheeling, turnover nightmare, he’s actually our most efficient player when we need him most. Statistics don’t really support that narrative, Barton turns the ball over less than Jokic, Beasley, Murray and Harris in crunch time.
What then is it about Barton that inspires such negativity? My theory is that on a Michael Malone team that strives to play the game the “right way” Barton’s freewheeling style is a glaring difference. We love when Denver is swinging the ball, finding the open man/shot, Barton is more of an iso guy.
The thing is, the Nuggets need Will Barton. They need that black sheep type, he’s the one that tends to stay immune when Denver falls into a team-wide funk from the field.
Barton is, for lack of a better analogy, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for these Nuggets, at times willing them through malaise almost single-handedly. When the offense starts standing around, you need iso guys to keep things moving. How many times has Barton saved the Nuggets or drug them back into a game with his uncanny ability to get to the rim and finish?
How many times has Thrill hit a three that started with yelling “no, no, no” at the TV and finished with “thank goodness, we needed that”?
That comes with some volatility. That comes with turnovers and decisions that don’t pan out but at the end of things, Barton is a net positive and an integral part of how this team is constructed.