NBA AM: Will Barton, The Sleeper Of 2012 Draft?
As the NBA playoffs carry on with Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Miami and Boston battling on the court for a title, there are twenty-six other franchises that have now shifted their primary focus to next month’s draft and adding a collection of new talent to their pipeline.
The goals are quite simple. Lottery teams are hoping to secure a prospect with the ability to reverse the fortunes of their franchise and lead them back to the land of relevancy, while teams on the cusp of contention are seeking to land the rotation player who pushes them over the top.
The draft is a crapshoot. Guys with the loftiest draft rankings sometimes fail to deliver on the hype, while players much less ballyhooed unexpectedly raise their games to a higher level once in the league.
One player hoping to fit the latter category is former Memphis standout Will Barton.
According to most experts, Barton is currently projected to be either a late first round or early second round selection, in the 22-37 range depending how the chips fall. Barton, who led Memphis to a Conference USA title this past season and a second round NCAA Tournament appearance, is using his middling early draft projection as a motivational tool to ultimately prove his doubters wrong.
“No doubt,” Barton responded to HOOPSWORLD about whether he’s being underestimated leading up to the draft. “That shows that I don’t get enough credit and my name should be higher. I feel like I should be higher in the draft and it definitely puts a chip on my shoulder. If you look at stats across the board, I’m talking about every stat, every stat and you compare me to every shooting guard or even a small forward if you want to say. All the wings no matter which guys you choose, Kentucky, North Carolina, Washington, all those guys, I was clear cut better at every stat. Not one, not two, but every stat. Averaged the most assists, averaged the most points, averaged the most rebounds and we were winning. It’s not like we were losing, we were winning. My field goal percentages were higher, I shot the best percentages from the field. My three point percentage was right up there with guys. I just don’t understand it. It definitely keeps me motivated, keeps me working hard.”
“I’m not complaining,” Barton added. “I understand what the circumstances are and try to work as hard as I can and do the best I can and go as high as I can. Whatever happens, happens. I just feel like I should be mentioned higher. I feel like I’m the best wing in the draft. Best shooting guard in the draft. I feel like I’m the best one out of all of them. So I just keep working.”
Barton averaged 18 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the charity stripe as the clear leader for a Memphis team not originally expected to be in the NCAA Tournament field. The leadership shown at Memphis hasn’t translated into much pre-draft hoopla like those shined on his peers and the early draft entrant is a bit puzzled.
“I definitely don’t get a lot of credit for everything I did [at Memphis],” Barton said. “I don’t know if it’s because I was playing in a non-BCS conference or whatever the case may be but I know I didn’t get the credit that was deserved. We started out the year [on a bad note]and as the leader of the team I made sure we stayed together as a team and we stayed as one. So I definitely didn’t get enough credit for what I did from the media and around the country but my coaches knew it so that was all that pretty much mattered to me.”
Barton’s pre-draft thoughts aren’t uncommon. If you ask most veterans around the league who were in a similar position as Barton as they prepared for the draft, the likely response would be that they have also carried a chip of confidence on their shoulders throughout their respective careers because of the early perceived slights.
It is clear Barton has a strong self-belief in his abilities. Most guys in the league view their respective games the same way. But Barton is quick to point out it is a high level of confidence that fuels his competitive fire which stops way short of blind arrogance.
“Definitely confidence, I’m not cocky at all,” Barton said. “Everyone who knows me, I’m a real humble guy. I’m real outgoing, real nice and easy to talk to. I respect the game. It’s just confidence and production. The numbers don’t lie. Some people think I have an attitude problem. I tell them the truth. I love basketball and I’m real passionate about the game and I love to win, I love to compete and I’m a leader and I definitely don’t have an attitude, I’m not that guy. Anyone who knows me will tell you that once you get to know me you’ll see for yourself. I’m just a guy that loves to compete and loves to win and I like to play the game the right way.”
Most scouts view Barton as a shooting guard prospect with the ball handling ability to handle some point guard duties and the athleticism to potentially guard three positions.
The question is can Barton become the sleeper of the draft and add his name to the long list of performers over the past seven seasons who also received a lukewarm reception from scouts when they were entering draft time.
Here is a list of guys who were picked where Barton is currently slotted to go in the draft since 2005:
2011: Kenneth Faried (22), Marshon Brooks (25)
2010: Jordan Crawford (27)
2009: Taj Gibson (26), DeJuan Blair (37)
2008: Courtney Lee (22), Serge Ibaka (24), Nicola Batum (25), George Hill (26)
2007: Wilson Chandler (23), Aaron Brooks (26), Arron Afflalo (27), Carl Landry (31), Glen Davis (35)
2006: Kyle Lowry (24), Steve Novak (32)
2005: David Lee (30), Brandon Bass (33)
Barton feels he’s up to the challenge to add his name to the list.
“I feel like my game is going to be the guy who’s a [solid] defender,” Barton told HOOPSWORLD. “A scorer, a guy who gets out in transition, a guy who creates his own shot and creates for others, just make plays and rebound and play tough, what I’ve been doing. Whatever role the coach gives me, that’s what I’m going to be. I’m going to be a guy who goes in there and competes and push myself and push others.”
Barton has worked out for numerous teams and can further improve his draft positioning during the Chicago Draft Combine scheduled to take place in early June.
“I’m ready,” Barton said confidently. “I already know when I go out I’m going to be at the bottom of the totem pole, I’m going to be the rookie. I’m not going to have any say so and I’ve got to earn everything I get. I’m used to that my whole life growing up. I always had to start from the bottom and prove stuff and work my way up. I’ve been doing that my whole life so now I’m doing it again.”
The 2012 NBA draft is scheduled to take place on Thursday June 28.
Eric Gordon Intends To Test Free Agent Market: One of the most coveted free agent targets this summer is expected to New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon who boasts a career scoring average of 18.2 per game.
In all likelihood the Hornets will issue a qualifying offer to Gordon before the start of free agency which will give the team the ability to match any contract offer received for the guard’s services. Nevertheless, Gordon says he fully intends to test the market and will entertain overtures from teams around the league.
“Wherever I end up will be a good situation or I’m going to make it a good situation,” Gordon told Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
Sources say Gordon turned down the Hornets’ four-year $50+ million offer back in January despite battling a serious knee injury during the 2012 season. Gordon played just nine games for the Hornets after arriving as part of the Chris Paul trade but still managed to score 20.6 points per contest on 45 percent shooting in the games he suited up.
The Hornets won the draft lottery this week and are widely expected to select former University of Kentucky standout Anthony Davis first overall. The prospect of bringing Davis into the fold won’t be a factor in Gordon’s free agency decision, but the fourth year guard is impressed with the collegiate star’s game.
“He reminds me of another player I played with: Marcus Camby,” Gordon said. “If [Davis] can get that jump shot, he can be really, really good for a long time.”
The Hornets currently have just $36 million in salary commitments for the 2013 season, but must also make free agent decisions on the futures of Chris Kaman, Marco Belinelli and Carl Landry with the organization – to go along with Gordon.
Derrick Rose On The Road To Recovery: The Chicago Bulls are coming off their second consecutive season owning the league’s best regular season record and all of their core guys are under contract for the 2013 campaign. But there isn’t a lot of optimism in Chicago for the team’s title chances next season.
The reason of course is former MVP Derrick Rose tore his ACL in game one of this season’s playoffs and the expected recovery time could likely wipe out the chance of an on court return in 2013. Despite the disheartening news veteran guard Richard Hamilton says Rose is still in good spirits while rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee.
“I just saw him like 4-5 days ago, we were talking in the training room (at the Berto Center),” Hamilton told Roman Madrowski of ESPN Chicago. “He’s in good spirits. He knows it’s going to be a process. But it’s hard for everybody right now, especially us. Just that the season is still going on, there are still teams playing. That’s the hardest part for everybody.”
Most are predicting a down year next season without Rose in the lineup, but Hamilton remains confident that the team can continue winning, like it did for most of this season when Rose was out of the lineup.
“I like our chances (of winning),” Hamilton said. “As players we hope and pray that he’s back, because he makes everybody’s job that much easier. But I feel as though if he doesn’t, it will be our job to hold things down until he does come back.”
NBA Chats: There is one NBA chat today starting with Yannis Koutroupis who will drop his weekly chat at 11 a.m. EST. You can always find the next upcoming chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats or if you are looking for a chat that already completed try here: Previous NBA Chats