Will Barton does not lack confidence. The University of Memphis swingman currently sits 38th on the DraftExpress.com prospect listing, but he recently told Lang Greene of HoopsWorld he believes he's the best wing player in the draft.
"If you look at stats across the board, I’m talking about every stat, every stat and you compare me to every shooting guard or even a small forward if you want to say," Barton said. "All the wings no matter which guys you choose, Kentucky, North Carolina, Washington, all those guys, I was clear cut better at every stat. Not one, not two, but every stat. Averaged the most assists, averaged the most points, averaged the most rebounds and we were winning."
If we assume by Barton's comments that he's referring to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky, Harrison Barnes of North Carolina and Terrence Ross of Washington, he's correct; Barton's per game averages from this past season of 18.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assists, as well as his 50.9% field goal percentage, are better in each category than those three players he seems to point out. They're also better than the numbers of Bradley Beal, currently No. 5 on the DraftExpress.com list. Conference USA didn't exactly provide stellar competition, ranking ninth in conference RPI according to CBSSports.com, but the league rated ahead of the Pac-12, which produced Ross, and Memphis had the 20th best strength of schedule.
The primary reason Barton's stats are downgraded is probably because the Tigers were so dependent upon him, as he was the team's leading scorer and rebounder by wide margins. Chad Ford's player evaluation on ESPN.com criticizes Barton's shot selection and streak shooting, but his 50.9% shooting seems to address that. Earlier this season, Walker Beeken of DraftExpress.com applauded Barton's improved shot selection, noting his increased willingness to attack the basket. Barton shot 34.6% from the college three-point line this year, a concern as he adjusts to the longer NBA distance, but less than a third of his shot attempts this season came from behind the arc.
A common knock on the 6'6", 175-pound Barton is his lack of strength, but that's an issue that an NBA-level weight training program can help address. He may not be able to rebound at nearly the rate he did in college even if he does bulk up, given his height, but he seems to have plenty of other attributes to make up for that. Don't be surprised if a team drafting at the end of the first round that could use a shooting guard, like the Cavs or the Pacers, scoops Barton up. It may be seen as a reach at the time, but it could wind up looking like a steal.