Philadelphia finished the first half of the regular season in strong fashion, with an easy win over the Indiana Pacers and an overtime thriller over the league-leading Utah Jazz. But with the Milwaukee Bucks two games behind them, and the surging Nets only half a game back in the standings, it certainly seems as if the Sixers could use some extra help. Most fans would probably agree that the team would benefit from a backup 4 or 5 man who could run the floor with Ben Simmons, protect the rim, and space the floor by knocking down open triples. They’ve reportedly called to see if Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. who fits the bill is available. Fans might also agree the team could use another ball handler or wing. And while it remains to be seen whether or not Daryl Morey, Elton Brand and Doc Rivers agree with our Dan Volpone that they need a 4th high end starter or simply additional bench depth, we do have a new rumor to check in on.
A Bleacher Report piece from earlier today, by Jason Dumas, talked about some of the Sixers' needs, and some recent feelers they’ve put out. Per Dumas:
“Based on conversations with sources close to the team, they are not content with their current roster. A source tells B/R the team has inquired about the availability of Will Barton, P.J. Tucker, Delon Wright and George Hill.”
We’ve heard already that the Sixers were interested in the latter trio. So let’s focus on Barton here.
Will Barton of the Denver Nuggets does not represent the type of player teams are usually able to acquire ahead of the deadline. Barton is a rotation player on a leading contender out West, so it doesn’t make a ton of sense that the Nuggets would look to get rid of their ninth-year man out of Memphis. Barton averages 11.6 points per game, shoots 38.8 percent from downtown, logs a respectable 3.1 dimes, and 4.1 boards in just under 30 minutes per game. That’s a lot of minutes per game they’d be looking to fill if they moved him.
He is not a guy who generates a ton of fouls, taking just 1.5 FTA per contest. But at the end of the day, he offers some shooting and some help on the wing. Below, how he can change the complexion of a game with his ability to catch and shoot or stick a pull up contested jumper:
WB has experienced a bit of a downswing from a season ago. Fans may recall Barton left the bubble last year to deal with some right knee soreness which lingered and also contributed to pain in other parts of his body. His numbers have been down a bit since returning this year. A report noted he had not played a ton since March 2020, prior to this season’s jump. His TS% this year is down from .549 in 2020 to .537 in 2021. He has also seen dips in his FTr (from .180 to .146), a sizable drop in offensive win share (2.4 down to 0.3), defensive win share (1.8 to 0.8) overall win share (4.2 to 1.1) and VORP (1.5 to -0.1) per Basketball-Reference.com.
But perhaps Morey has seen signs that the former Tiger was turning a corner ahead of the All Star Break or figures Doc can use the help now and then they can explore signing him to a team-friendly extension in the off-season....
The big question here would be the cost. Morey almost certainly would not want to part with Danny Green who makes a similar amount. It makes little sense for Denver to covet a combination of say Mike Scott, Terrance Ferguson, and Tony Bradley, names who could be swapped to fit Barton’s $13.9M salary. I also don’t see a world where the Nugz would be excited to make the necessary roster cuts to fit some dudes who aren’t even in the Sixers rotation. So you might need a third team here.
Barton has a player option for next season worth $14.8M and it remains to be seen if he would elect to exercise it or try his hand on the open market. If Denver wanted to save money and didn’t see Barton as a long-term fit, maybe they’d ask the Sixers to redirect a couple of aforementioned bench players to that third team along with some picks for a name they prefer (Denver could really use a defensive-minded off-ball guard who doesn’t crater their floor spacing).
Might Denver be looking to add draft capital in order to make a pre-deadline splash for someone like Kyle Lowry or Lonzo Ball? Would Morey have to go into hiding from angry fans if he helped Denver land one of those sexier names and only had Barton to show for it?
Per Dunksandthrees.com, Barton isn’t exactly a great player right now, registering negative “Estimated Plus-Minus, and a negative Estimated Defensive Plus-Minus:
If the Dumas report is true, perhaps Morey checked in on Barton because he felt he could get more out of the 30 year-old (nicknamed Will the Thrill) than his current team is getting from him at a very (“is there any chance you guys just simply don’t want him around?”) low price. Perhaps Morey feels Barton playing alongside Ben Simmons might further unlock his potential, or (playing alongside a pair of stud defenders in Simmons and Joel Embiid) mask some of Barton’s relative weaknesses.
Lots of fans are holding their collective breaths waiting to see what the future might hold for the Sixers. If they did land Will Barton without breaking the bank, it might lend a big boost to their bench rotation although I’m not quite sure if he’d wind up carving out a starter or closer’s role unless he got back to the level he was playing at pre-knee injury, the one that cost him a role during that electric bubble run the Nugz enjoyed last summer.