The Portland Trail Blazers face a new series of injuries this year. This includes the foot fracture of their first-round draft pick C.J. McCullom, who will be out until almost mid-season. Although they are unfortunate, these injuries left a window of opportunity for other players to step up. 22-year-old shooting guard Will Barton is helping to fill the void left by the injured and showing some true offensive value.
Barton left the University of Memphis after two years to enter the NBA Draft last season. The Portland Trail Blazers nabbed him as the 40th overall pick for the 2012-2013 season. He showed his youth and the Blazers twice relegated him to the D-League. His averages for last season were mundane: shooting 38%
and contributing a couple rebounds per game. He began this season as the lowest paid Blazer on the roster. Luke Adams of Hoopsrumors.com pegged Barton as first to go should the Blazers want to change their roster. He did not appear destined for great things.
But things are looking up for Barton as the bench shuffles to fill the void left by McCullom. He brought some value to summer league play, finishing as the team’s second leading scorer. The Oregonian’s Joel Freeman remarked that the once “herky-jerky” Barton “appeared calmer and more comfortable on the court. He has shown growth [in
summer league].” The shooting guard continued this evidence of growth during the last three exhibition games played by the Blazers. His field goal percentage has shot up to an impressive 75%. And while this might very well be a fluke, it demonstrates that the sophomore might prove less disposable than people thought.
Barton is conscious of his improvement. He comments: “There’s a comfort zone I’m in now. Last year, I was just going off my talent and being able to create plays; just going off my instincts. Now I can implement my talent and instincts to knowing plays. It makes it easier for me. I’m calmer, I’m more confident.” This sort of self-awareness and ability to grow is something the Association should cherish in any player. The team and fans must hope his achievements will continue into the regular season.