In his second season with the Nuggets, Will Barton is emerging as a candidate for the Sixth Man award, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Barton’s scoring average has doubled to 14.0 this season, and coach Michael Malone calls him one of the team’s “one or two” best players. “I put in a lot of work in the offseason, even during the season — going back to the gym after practice, things of that nature. So it’s expected,” Barton said. “And I want more for myself and also for this team. So I can’t just get satisfied. I can do so much more.” Barton, who was acquired in a deal with Portland in February, is signed through 2017/18.
There’s more news from the Northwest Division:
- For the second straight game, Malone opted to go with veteran point guard Jameer Nelson over rookie Emmanuel Mudiay in the closing minutes of a tight contest, Dempsey writes in a separate story. “For me it’s always going to be a balancing act, Emmanuel or Jameer,” Malone said. “… I trust Jameer with the ball in his hands.”
- Thunder coach Billy Donovan is enjoying the transition from the college game to the NBA, writes Shandel Richardson of The Sun Sentinel. Donovan left Florida to take over a team coming off a rare non-playoff season and has Oklahoma City off to an 11-8 start. “I really enjoy it,” Donovan said. “It always starts with the organization, the people you’re working with. The staff’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed those guys. They’ve been helpful. The players have been really, really good. I think I’m coaching a hard-working team. The one thing I respect about [Kevin] Durant and [Russell] Westbrook is those guys come in every day and work.”
- Damian Lillard, who received a five-year max extension over the summer from the Blazers, hasn’t lived up to his clutch reputation, contends Jason Quick of CSNNW.com. Lillard is known for the buzzer-beating shot that knocked the Rockets out of the 2014 playoffs, but Quick points out that he hasn’t been sinking those late-game shots as much as expected. In fourth quarters this season, Lillard is shooting just 26% from the floor and 20.9% from 3-point range, and a year ago, he made just 34.1% of his shots in “clutch moments.”