As a casual observer of the comments of fellow members of Blazer's Edge, I enjoy hearing the expectations, excitements, and criticisms that the community has towards Blazer players. Some say RoLo is our key to being defensively adept, some say his effect will be negligible. Some say Nicolas is prepped to be a consistent 17, 5, and 5 guy, others say he'll fizzle out like usual. It's all good debate in the end. However, there is one ubiquitous sentiment that I take umbrage with: Everyone hates Will Barton in a way that is far overblown.
Let me preface my argument with this: It's not the criticisms themselves that bother me. He isn't always careful with the ball, he shouldn't be so quick to spearhead a fast-break alone, it would help his game tremendously to develop a jumper beyond 12 feet. I believe all of those sentiments are true and I have no problem with those who voice them. It's just that I peruse the comments and every time I see Will Barton come up as a topic of conversation, all I seem to read is: "He's a no-good chucker", "He has the lowest basketball IQ I've ever seen", "He absolutely can't shoot", "He's selfish", "He's never going to be any good", "He's nothing more than a turnover machine" et cetera, et cetera...
But I think that amongst the pack of young guys, Barton is the Blazer who's made the most noticeable amount of improvement since joining the team. Think back one year ago. He used to take on 100% of the fast-break opportunities presented to him. Now I see him dribble it out and go into an offensive set a lot more. He used to try to do fancy up-under-backward-leap-flip-lay-up-tear-drop-over-four-defender-type shots, and now he's doing a lot more drive-and-kick. And his statlines aren't nearly as atrocious as they once were.
Also he has skills that we don't have in other places. He's one of only two non-point guards on this team who can bring the ball up and initiate the offense. He's the one player who can consistently put the ball on the deck and manufacture a paint presence. He's one of our most consistent rebounders. Also, his defense is underrated. Yet, people don't seem to give him much credit. Worse yet, whenever he does do something good, people just rationalize it: "Well a broken clock is right twice a day..." Can't we have at least one player on this roster who doesn't act like a middle school boy at his first dance on offense?
It just seems to me that the same way Joel Przybilla has a special place of love in Blazer fans' hearts, Will Barton has a special bastion of hate. I don't see that level of vitriol thrown onto other players, even if the criticisms are identical. I mean, Meyers hasn't shown half the improvement that Barton has. People aren't in Wes' face about how he has been a turnover machine in the paint. People aren't all up on Claver for the fact that he can't hit a consistent three-pointer (Don't say "well his form is so pretty". If you shoot like Shawn Marion and it goes in, it goes in). People don't mind when Mo Williams puts his head down and charges forward taking on three defenders in the paint. It's just Barton for some reason. He draws a special ire from Blazer fans and it's not really fair.
Overall, I think it's easy for Blazer fans to get underwhelmed about Will Barton because we haven't had a player like him. We haven't had a player who we've had to reel-in. In Portland, we're used to players being shy and nervous, and to them we're always saying "Be more aggressive!", "Take a chance!". But now that we have a player who does exactly that, and to a fault, it's scary. As a fanbase, we are woefully inexperienced in seeing a wily, uncontrolled player develop in the opposite manner that we're used to, slowly becoming more controlled and efficient. And therefore it's harder to support someone when we're less sure about the trajectory of that type of development.
At least that's my conjecture...