Will Barton

Free Agent Stock Watch: Northwest Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Northwest Division:

Hamidou Diallo, Thunder, 22, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.9MM deal in 2018

Diallo has entered the conversation for the Most Improved Player award. The Dennis Schröder trade to the Lakers opened up a little more playing time for the third-year guard and he has seized the opportunity, nearly doubling his scoring average (12.5 PPG from 6.9 PPG) and also contributing on the boards (5.4 RPG) while making more plays for his teammates (2.5 APG).

Diallo’s perimeter shooting remains an issue (28.9% on 3-point attempts) but he’s reached double figures in 13 of his last 15 games. He will be a restricted free agent and it will be intriguing to see if another team will overlook his perimeter woes and extend an offer sheet to force the Thunder’s hand.

Naz Reid, Timberwolves, 21, C (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4.2MM deal in 2019

Very little has gone right for Minnesota this season but Reid continues to be a bright spot. The undrafted second-year big man is averaging 12.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 1.2 BPG and his 3-point shot is improving (39.7%). Reid had a 29-point performance against OKC and a 23-point outing against the Clippers this month. He filled the stat sheet with 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three blocks in an overtime loss to Indiana on Wednesday.

Reid’s $1.78MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed; the Timberwolves’ front office will have some tough roster decisions to make over the next year but that won’t be one of them.

Gary Trent Jr., Trail Blazers, 22, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.92MM deal in 2018

Trent, who will be a restricted free agent, emerged as a valuable rotation piece in his second season a year ago. He’s become even more important with CJ McCollum sidelined by a foot injury. Trent is averaging 15.3 PPG while knocking down an impressive 44.7% of his 3-point attempts despite taking 7.2 shots per game from deep. He’s averaging 19.8 PPG during the team’s current six-game winning streak. The Blazers already have $70MM committed to their starting guards next season; can they afford to hold onto Trent if someone lavishes the sharpshooter with a lucrative offer sheet?

Will Barton, Nuggets, 30, SG/SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $53MM deal in 2018

Barton has a player option worth $14.67MM for next season and the way he’s played this season, he’ll have no reason to opt out. Barton missed the summer restart due to a knee injury and hasn’t been a consistent factor on a team with championship aspirations. He scored 10 or fewer points in six of his last 10 outings before taking off a few games for personal reasons. His PER for the season is 11.6, well below average. The Nuggets need more from their wings, including Barton, if they want to make another deep playoff run.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Michael Porter Jr. Returns To Nuggets, Will Play Friday

JANUARY 22: Porter will be active and will play against Phoenix on Friday night, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).


JANUARY 21: Michael Porter Jr., who hasn’t played in a game since December 29 due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, has reported back to the Nuggets and will be listed as questionable for Friday’s game against Phoenix, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Porter was originally held out for seven days for contact tracing purposes, then tested positive for the coronavirus, extending his quarantine period by another two weeks.

The young forward will have to ramp up his conditioning and complete additional testing – including a cardio exam – before he’s formally cleared to return to the Nuggets’ lineup (Twitter links via Singer and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN).

While it’s not clear if Porter will be game-ready by tomorrow, head coach Michael Malone said today that he’s optimistic the 22-year-old will be able to play at some point during Denver’s five-game road trip, which begins on Friday in Phoenix and runs through next Friday (January 29) in San Antonio.

Malone stated earlier this week that Porter’s spot in the starting lineup is safe, though he referred to Will Barton today as “a starter,” noting that he feels the Nuggets have more than five starter-caliber players, tweets Singer. As such, it remains to be seen whether MPJ will immediately supplant Barton as the team’s starting small forward or if he’ll be gradually eased back into that role.

Northwest Notes: Barton, Boylen, Blazers, Thunder, Gobert

Nuggets wing Will Barton made it clear multiple times earlier this month that he believes he deserves to be a starter. However, after coming off the bench in Wednesday’s opener, Barton said he’s happy for Michael Porter Jr. – who has been promoted to the starting lineup – and is prepared to accept his new sixth man role, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post writes.

“My concern is not about (starting) anymore once I channel my energy to where it has to be,” Barton said. “That’s where I am, so I’m locked in right now, I’m coming off the bench. I’m not trying to worry about if I’m gonna start again. Right now I’ve got a job to do, and that’s my focus is to come off the bench and try to change the game for us and still help us win games.”

While Barton may not have started the Nuggets’ opener, he got the opportunity to finish it, playing all five minutes of overtime in Denver’s loss to Sacramento.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers brought in former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen for a three-week consultation to help Portland’s coaching staff implement a more aggressive defense, says Jason Quick of The Athletic. “I was intrigued with his ideas and what he did in Chicago,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said of Boylen. “And we will be using some of the things he talked about and augmenting some of his other things with what we already do.”
  • Even after stockpiling future draft picks for a second consecutive offseason, the Thunder may not be done, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who points out that the team could continue to extract draft assets in deals for Al Horford, George Hill, and Trevor Ariza, or by using a pair of giant trade exceptions to accommodate salary dumps.
  • ESPN’s Lisa Salters conducted an in-depth interview with Jazz center Rudy Gobert, discussing his path to the NBA, how it felt to become the league’s “patient zero” for COVID-19, and his relationship with Donovan Mitchell, among other topics. “We had conversations as grown men, and we told each other what we had on our minds,” Gobert said of mending his relationship with Mitchell. “And the end of the conversation was that our goal was to win a championship together and, you know, I thought it was really mature from both of us to come out of the conversation like that.”

Rockets Seek Porter Jr. In Potential Harden Trade With Nuggets

The Rockets have focused on Michael Porter Jr. in trade discussions with the Nuggets as the centerpiece of a potential James Harden trade, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports.

However, the talks didn’t gain any traction, Singer adds. This updates an earlier report that the Nuggets are unwilling to give up Jamal Murray in a package for Harden. Murray was never included in any discussions and Nikola Jokic is also off-limits.

Porter would give the Rockets a potential star in return for the perennial All-Star guard, who wants to be dealt. Any potential deal with Denver would also have to include Gary Harris and/or Will Barton for salary-matching purposes salaries and that would seriously deplete the Nuggets at the wing spots, Singer notes.

Harden would make for an intriguing third star to join forces with Jokic and Murray but he could also wreck the good chemistry the team displayed while making its run to the conference finals last season.

Porter averaged 9.3 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 55 games (16.4 MPG) during his de facto rookie season in 2019/20 after he was sidelined the previous campaign due to a back injury. His playing time grew during the playoffs, as he averaged 11.4 PPG and 6.7 RPG while shooting 38.2% from long range.

Houston has reportedly been seeking a return that features an All-Star-caliber young player, along with several other assets (young players or draft picks).

Northwest Notes: McLaughlin, Harris, Barton, Lillard

The deadline for restricted free agents to accept a qualifying offer typically falls on October 1, but due to the NBA’s revamped calendar for 2020/21, that deadline has moved to today, says Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). That means that Jordan McLaughlin, the last remaining RFA in the league, will no longer be able to accept his QO after today unless the Timberwolves extend that deadline.

McLaughlin’s qualifying offer is for a two-way deal, but he’s not expected to accept it, according to Wolfson (Twitter links), who says that the second-year guard could sign a standard contract today if he wanted to. The Timberwolves are willing to promote McLaughlin to the 15-man roster, but want to do so on their terms, so the two sides continue to negotiate a new agreement, Wolfson adds (Twitter links).

If the Timberwolves don’t extend the deadline for McLaughlin to accept his qualifying offer, he’ll remain a restricted free agent, but without that QO as a fallback option. The deadline for him to sign an offer sheet with another team would typically be on March 1, but figures to be pushed back to April this season.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast today that the Nuggets tried to trade Gary Harris to “several different places” during the offseason (hat tip to RealGM). It doesn’t come as a real surprise that Harris was shopped, though it was likely more about his contract than his on-court value — his $19.6MM cap hit made him a logical salary-matching piece in any offer for an impact player, and we know Denver at least pursued Jrue Holiday.
  • After stating earlier this month that he believes he’s a “clear-cut” starter, Nuggets wing Will Barton came off the bench in his preseason debut on Wednesday. After the game though, he reiterated that he’s not ready to embrace a sixth-man role, according to Kendra Andrews of The Athletic. “I am a starter,” Barton said. “I have no plans on being a sixth man. I have no desire to be that.”
  • Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard believes he can be a viable candidate for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award in 2020/21, as Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com writes. “I feel like I’ve had a few MVP-level seasons, I just think with those seasons, you’ve got to be winning,” Lillard said. “I think the two years that we were a three-seed back-to-back years, I thought I had big years, it was just that guys on one and two seed teams had big years as well. That was that. But I feel like if we’re a winning team and we’re in that top two, top three, then I think it’s definitely a real possibility.”

Northwest Notes: Hollis-Jefferson, Horford, Barton, Jazz

Veteran forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is making a strong impression on the Timberwolves so far, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Hollis-Jefferson is on a non-guaranteed contract, but made a case for a regular season roster spot with his play on Monday night, when he scored 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting and made several plays on defense.

“Since Day 1 Rondae has been great,” Timberwolves wing Josh Okogie said. “He tells me all the time we got to be the ones that anchor the defense down. Just seeing him play is very inspiring. The energy he brought out (Monday), and he just makes you ask yourself, what kind of guy wouldn’t want to play with a guy like Rondae?”

The Timberwolves are only carrying 12 players with fully guaranteed salaries and don’t have a ton of depth at the power forward spot, so Hollis-Jefferson looks like a good candidate to be retained for the start of the season.

“I’m a competitor at the end of the day,” Hollis-Jefferson said, per Hine. “Any time I come out and compete it shows with how I play, the energy. I feel like everything else will naturally come when the time is right. I’m definitely looking forward to being out there competing in the regular season.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Al Horford was traded by Philadelphia just one year into his four-year contract with the club, but the veteran big man is looking forward to making the most of his new role with the Thunder, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “I wasn’t expecting (to be traded),” Horford said. “But I’ve known the type of organization the Oklahoma City Thunder is. That was the one thing that was positive for me when I looked at it. And now that I’m here I’m actually really excited and looking forward to getting the regular season started.”
  • Nuggets guard Will Barton hasn’t played a game since March due to knee and back issues, but he appears to be on the verge of returning and he’s very happy about it, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post details. “I’m just ready to go out there and compete and play,” Barton said. “I just love the game. Being away from it, it’s very, very, very tough for me to just watch and not be able to play. I can’t wait. I’m excited. I’m just looking forward to it.”
  • Jazz forward Georges Niang and guard Miye Oni are focusing on improving their defense as they look to claim roles in the team’s regular season rotation, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Niang is entering a contract year, while Oni’s 2020/21 salary remains non-guaranteed, so both players will be motivated to prove they deserve to play.

Northwest Notes: Harrison, Beasley, Maledon, Nuggets

The contract signed by new Jazz guard Shaquille Harrison is non-guaranteed, per John Hollinger of the Athletic. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder also told reporters today that Harrison is currently recovering from a broken hand, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. The newest member of the team is engaging in individual workouts with a single coach at present.

Snyder lauded Harrison’s potential as a defender for the Jazz. “When you watch him play, it jumps out at you that he can defend,” he said.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Newly re-signed Timberwolves shooting guard Malik Beasley is stressing connection and communication in training camp, per Chris Hine of the Star Tribune“Every day I ask [D’Angelo Russell] and Ricky [Rubio] what I can do to be a better playmaker,” Beasley said. He also noted that he and Minnesota star center Karl-Anthony Towns are similarly communicative. “We’ve built a relationship to be able to talk to each other and hold each other accountable. So I think this year is going to be a great year for KAT and the whole unit.”
  • Thunder second-round rookie selection Théo Maledon has signed a four-year, $7.8MM contract, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Maledon will earn a $2MM guaranteed salary in each of the first two years of his new deal, according to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Smith goes on to note that each of the final two seasons of Maledon’s deal – which comes out of OKC’s mid-level exception – are non-guaranteed, and that the Thunder will have a team option for the fourth year.
  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has deemed wing Will Barton “doubtful” for Saturday’s first preseason bout against the Warriors, Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports tweets. Malone also hailed guard PJ Dozier as the “MVP” of Denver’s training camp thus far.

Northwest Notes: Conley, Anthony, Barton, Miller

Mike Conley is one of two Jazz players in the COVID-19 protocol, though he has tested negative for the virus. He had close contact with a family member who tested positive, which has forced him to the sidelines. He has to produce seven consecutive negative tests before he can exit quarantine, according to the Salt Lake Tribune’s Eric Walden (Twitter links). The other player who is not currently allowed to practice has yet to be named publicly.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Carmelo Anthony realizes he’ll probably be coming off the bench this season with the Trail Blazers but he admits it’s a difficult adjustment for a longtime All-Star, ESPN’s Royce Young tweets. “I tried it in Houston but it was only seven or eight games,” he said. “This is new for me. … I had to take a deep breath and figure it out. We’ll make it work.”
  • Swingman Will Barton believes he should be part of the Nuggets’ starting five, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “I’m a starter in this league. … I think it’s clear cut,” he said. “I’m a starter. At the end of the day, (it’s up to Coach (Michael) Malone).” Barton missed all of the restart, including Denver’s playoff run, with a knee injury. Barton could wind up competing with Michael Porter Jr. for the small forward spot, though Porter will also see action at power forward.
  • Darius Miller expects to be fully recovered from his Achilles injury by the start of the season, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “I’m feeling pretty good,” Miller said. “Unfortunately with COVID I haven’t had a chance to play a lot, but the team’s working with me, and they’ve got me going at a pretty good pace.” Miller, who was on the Pelicans roster, missed all of last season due to the injury. He was dealt to the Thunder in the four-team deal that sent Steven Adams to New Orleans.

Northwest Notes: Wolves’ No. 1 Pick, M. Morris, Thunder, McDaniels

The Timberwolves haven’t received tempting offers yet for the top pick in next week’s draft, but executive vice president Sachin Gupta said “three phone” time is coming soon, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. That’s what Gupta calls the days immediately before the draft when front office members are balancing several phone calls at once.

“There’s not a whole lot of pleasantries that are happening with those calls,” he said. “There’s no time for it. It’s, ‘What do you want? What do you got for me?’ ”

Minnesota should find a lot of interest in the top selection between now and November 18. The Warriors and Hornets are both believed to be eyeing former Memphis center James Wiseman, while Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball may entice other teams to move up. The Wolves could have the luxury of playing teams against each another to drive up offers.

“We’ve always been active, and with these types of assets at our disposal, it really plays into sort of our mentality of turning over every rock and figuring out what all the possibilities are,” Gupta said.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

Nuggets Notes: Barton, Offseason, Roster, Harris

Nuggets swingman Will Barton missed the entire summer restart due to a nagging – and somewhat mysterious – right knee injury, leaving the Orlando bubble in mid-August to continue his rehab away from the team. However, Denver’s president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and GM Calvin Booth denied today that there’s any sort of rift between Barton and the club.

“No, not at all,” Booth said, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “I think he left the bubble to get the best care he possibly could for his injury. He wasn’t anywhere close to playing at the time he left the bubble. We all thought it was the right decision.”

Both Connelly and Booth stressed Barton’s importance to the Nuggets, with Connelly referring to the 29-year-old as “part of our core,” while Booth suggested he might’ve been the team’s third-best player during the regular season. Booth said the Nuggets don’t have long-term concerns about Barton’s knee, which they think should be fine by next year.

“It’s a shame that he got banged up during the hiatus,” Connelly added. “I think he’s as motivated as ever. We talk all the time, and we fully expect to see the best version of Will that they’ve seen, thus far, next season.”

Here’s more out of Denver:

  • According to Connelly, the league-wide perception of the Nuggets has changed in recent years. He explained that four or five years ago, agents wouldn’t necessarily want their players traded to Denver, but now it’s become “a team that you want to be around” (Twitter link via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN).
  • Both Connelly and Booth told reporters today that they’d like to bring back as many players from this year’s team as possible, tweets Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Jerami Grant, Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee, and Torrey Craig are among the players expected to reach the free agent market.
  • Asked about the possibility of adding another piece to their roster this offseason, Connelly said today that the Nuggets are always trying to be aggressive (Twitter link via Singer).
  • Gary Harris wasn’t at his best this summer after returning from a hip injury, shooting just 25.9% from the field in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers. However, head coach Michael Malone praised Harris’ postseason defense and said that his confidence in the veteran guard hasn’t wavered, Singer writes for The Denver Post. “We don’t get to the Western Conference Finals without him,” Malone said. “That’s just the truth.”