The Nuggets would like Will Barton to return, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post, and the shooting guard whose contract is up this summer tells Dempsey that he wants to be back in Denver, too, reiterating his earlier remarks. The team is expected to tender the $1,181,348 qualifying offer necessary to match any competing bids for him, according to Dempsey, who indicates that Denver and the Brian Elfus client are likely to wind up with a multiyear deal.
Barton saw sparse playing time with the Blazers over his first two and a half seasons in the league, but the deadline trade that sent him to Denver this February landed him on a rebuilding team with plenty of minutes to go around. He averaged 11.0 points on 9.0 shot attempts in 24.4 minutes per game over 28 appearances for the Nuggets, compiling a better-than-average 15.9 PER during that stretch.
I identified the 24-year-old among several players eligible for restricted free agency this summer with relatively even chances of being tendered a qualifying offer, but it appears the team is much higher on the former 40th overall pick than I figured. Barton struggles from the outside, having shot only 28.4% from three-point range in Denver and 23.0% for his career, but Dempsey observes that he helped the Nuggets play an up-tempo game, the sort of style the team seems to want its next head coach to implement. Interim coach Melvin Hunt had praise for Barton, but Hunt’s chances of remaining in his job for next season are unclear.
Wilson Chandler‘s partial guarantee of $2MM has jumped to a full guarantee of nearly $7.172MM, as Dempsey notes in a separate piece, so the Nuggets have about $53MM in commitments for next season, not counting a player option of nearly $2.855MM for Jameer Nelson. It remains to be seen what a new deal for Barton, who made the minimum this year, and the Nuggets would look like, but extending the qualifying offer to up his cap hold by a mere $200K would do little to impinge upon the team’s flexibility against a projected $67.1MM cap.