Durant has high praise for Baltimore bud and Nuggets’ 6th man Barton

Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton goes high for a slam dunk during a game against the Houston Rockets.
Chris Humphreys/Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Will Barton never got much run during his first two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers. Now into his second season with the Denver Nuggets, he’s taking the league by storm, emerging as a legitimate sixth man of the year candidate.

Barton is averaging career-highs across the board: 15.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds — which is fourth in the league among guards and first among reserve guards — 2.5 assists, 44.8 field-goal percentage, 38.9 3-point percent, 84.4 free throw percentage and 29.5 minutes.

Tuesday night, the 6-foot-5 Barton and the suddenly hot Nuggets, winners of three of four on their season-long eight-game homestand, take on Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant, for one, has taken notice of the damage Barton has inflicted this season, telling reporters following the Thunder’s morning shootaround: 

“I heard of him when he was in high school coming up in Baltimore, about an hour away from me. He’s always working. There are only a few guys on the list that I root for and see as guys who keep playing well and keep playing well. He’s on that list. Every time I watch, I get excited when he has a great game because I know how far he’s come. I don’t know him personally but I know he’s had a long journey. He’s a guy that I really root for."

If Barton continues his upward curve, he’s going to be quite a steal for the Nuggets, who was traded from Portland to Denver at last year’s trade deadline with Victor Claver and Thomas Robinson, plus a 2016 first-round draft pick for Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee. 

Barton, 25, is signed through the 2017-18 season at $3.53 million in each of the next two seasons.