Northwest Notes: Barton, Pekovic, Payne

Nuggets small forward Will Barton is enjoying a breakout season in Denver and his former coach with the Blazers, Terry Stotts, saw this development coming, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post writes. I remember a postseason interview and someone asked me about what player made the biggest improvement or something like that, and in my mind it was Will Barton,” Stotts said. “Year 1, he was a young rookie, and he had a lot to learn. I thought the strides he made in Year 2 as a player and as a person and as a professional was good to see. I’d like to think the success he’s having now is in part because of the hard work he put in while he was here.

Since he knows he’s going to be on the court, he has an outstanding feel for the game,” Stotts continued. “Now he’s not pressing. He plays the game. He really is a student of the game, and since he knows he’s going to be out there, he does a little bit of everything and kind of takes what the game gives him.” In 33 appearances this season, with only one as a starter, Barton is averaging 16.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 47% shooting, and he should certainly be under consideration for the Most Improved Player award for 2015/16 if this production level continues.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic has been cleared to participate in full contact practices, which is the next step in his return from the surgery he underwent back in April to repair damage to his Achilles tendon, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune relays. It is unclear how much work Pekovic will need to put in before he is turned loose in game conditions, though Zgoda notes the big man will require at least a few practices before that is likely to occur.
  • The Thunder are pleased with the development of 2015 first-rounder Cameron Payne, and they credit his time spent in the D-League for accelerating his learning curve, Charles F. Gardner of The Journal Sentinel writes. “I don’t really look at scoring as much,” said Thunder coach Billy Donovan. “I think the thing to me that was really impressive is how easily he whipped the ball around and got guys shots. Cameron has earned, in my opinion, the right to have confidence because of the time he’s put in the gym.”
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