Will Barton is one of many Portland Trail Blazers that got away, finding a bigger role with a different team and enjoying career highs. Barton’s trade to the Denver Nuggets is reportedly something Damian Lillard brought up in his meeting with owner Paul Allen—Lillard later downplayed the mention of Barton.
Barton’s trade is viewed poorly in hindsight. Not only did his career take off with the Nuggets, but Portland also surrendered a first-round pick while Arron Afflalo, whom the Blazers got in return, was mostly a dud.
On episode 68 of the Road Trippin’: Richard vs. Channing podcast, Barton reflected on the trade with Richard Jefferson, Mason Plumlee and Gary Harris. Here’s the full transcript, edited for clarity (this conversation starts at the 10:55 mark and ends at about 12:17):
Mason Plumlee: Not knowing how it’s gone in Denver now, when you got traded from Portland, were you excited about it? Or what was your feeling towards that?
Will Barton: I wanted to be traded ... for an opportunity … When I actually got traded, I was excited because I knew I was going to a young team, they weren’t winning yet, and I was still young and I knew I would get an opportunity to play. I didn’t know it would go this well, but I knew ... [if] I worked hard I would be prepared and I would do okay. And now it’s going better than planned, and now we’re winning.
Richard Jefferson: Shoot you said it, you were like ‘Man, had I not been traded, I probably would’ve been out the league.’
Barton: Oh yeah, that’s the truth ... that trade saved my life. I’m in Portland, I’m not playing, three years, no minutes, you know I’m going to be a free-agent … [I] could’ve easily been in the G-League or a country where I don’t speak the language.
Barton is averaging 14.4 points (tied for a career best), 4.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists with Denver this season.
In 224 games with the Nuggets, he’s averaging 13.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 28.9 minutes per game. In 144 games with the Blazers, he averaged 3.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists on 11.0 minutes per game.