Will Barton is exactly the kind of player one of the team’s youngsters should beat out for a starting role this season. He’s had a kind of journeyman’s career, though without much journeying — two-and-a-half seasons with the Portland Trailblazers followed by seven-and-a-half with the Denver Nuggets.
Barton first cracked average in my PPA metric at age 27 — his sixth season in the league. He followed that with an injury-plagued year in 2018-19. He appeared in just 43 games, and managed a 71 PPA — down from 113 the previous season.
PPA pegs his best season as 2019-20, which was Barton’s age 29 season. He posted a 145 PPA (average is 100 and higher is better), which included solid all-around numbers, including about average offensive efficiency on about average usage.
Last season at 31, Barton started 71 games for the Nuggets, and posted a solid 115 PPA. His season was a lot like his career as a whole — subpar efficiency (about four points per 100 possessions below average) on about average usage. For the most part, he was pretty average across the board. One exception was playmaking — 6.0 assists per 100 team possessions against just 2.7 turnovers.
Here’s a look at some of the stats I use when evaluating players (box score stats are per 100 team possessions, unless otherwise noted):
- PPA (in PPA, average is 100 and higher is better): 115
- Offensive rating (points produced per 100 individual possessions): 108 (-4 relative to league average)
- Usage: 20.4% (average is 20.0%)
- Points: 22.5
- Rebounds: 7.3
- Assists: 6.0
- Steals: 1.2
- Blocks: 0.7
- Turnovers: 2.7
- Fouls: 2.5
- Free throw attempts: 2.7
- Three-point attempts: 9.3
- efg: 52.5%
- 2pt%: 50.4%
- 3pt%: 36.5%
- FT%: 80.3%
Barton is a decent-but-aging veteran who’s entering a contract year and will be motivated to earn one more contract. That could set up an interesting and competitive training camp, as he dukes it out with guys like Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert and Rui Hachimura for a starting role. My guess: Barton wins it and opens the season as the team’s SF.
But we’re not here for prediction, we’re here for Doppelgängers. For those unfamiliar, my Statistical Doppelgänger Machine works by comparing a player’s performance across 14 different categories that include age, playing time, pace-neutral box score stats and scores from my PPA metric. All that’s rolled up into a single score that (in theory) provides a list of NBA players since 1977-78 with similar production at a similar age.
- Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic, 2009-10, age 30 — Similar production at a similar age, though their pasts were quite different. Lewis was a consistently above-average producer who had six seasons with a PPA of 140+. His best season was his last with the Seattle Supersonics — a 165 PPA. Lewis was also a better three-point shooter than Barton. This was Lewis’ last above average season (115 PPA). The following season, he got traded to Washington in the Gilbert Arenas deal.
- Jason Richardson, Orlando Magic, 2011-12, age 31 — Like Lewis, Richardson was a better player throughout his career than Barton. Richardson’s peak was about the same as Barton’s, but he had 10 seasons that rated better than average to Barton’s three. At this point, Richardson’s career was almost finished. He played just 54 games at a 104 PPA at 31, managed just 33 games the following season, missed all of his age 33 season with a knee injury, and then came back for 19 final games at 34.
- Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons, 1997-98, age 34 — This was a declining Dumars nearing the end — he would retire after the following season. In his prime, Dumars was significantly better than Barton — especially on the defensive end.
- Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets, 2014-15, age 33 — Johnson was chronically overrated, and at this point was into his age-related decline. Even so, he was better throughout his career than Barton, though their production was similar at this age.
- Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets, 2013-14, age 32 — Not a duplicate — this is Johnson at 32. He managed a 119 PPA in this season, which he followed with a 101 at 33.
- Peja Stojakovic, New Orleans Hornets, 2009-10, age 32 — Don’t get excited. This was Stojakovic’s worst non-rookie season — and his only non-rookie season to rate below average. This was also basically the end of the line for him. He appeared in 33 games with three different teams the next season, and then retired.
- Danny Ferry, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1995-96, age 29 — After having several comps who had better careers but were hitting age-related decline, here’s a comp who was consistently less productive than Barton. This was Ferry’s best season (106 PPA) and the only time he cracked average. Somehow, he stuck around until age 36 — a 13-season career.
- Peja Stojakovic, New Orleans Hornets, 2008-09, age 31 — I repeat: don’t get excited. This isn’t the outstanding player with the Sacramento Kings. This is a formerly terrific player in steep decline.
- Dan Majerle, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1995-96, age 30 — Interesting comp. Majerle had the better career — similar peak, but Majerle was much more consistently better than average. This was one of four above average seasons for Majerle at age 30 or older.
- Rex Chapman, Miami Heat, 1995-96, age 28 — This comp feels about right for Barton. Chapman had a few average or better seasons, but his best PPA was a 118 with the Bullets. Not great. Not bad. Just...a guy. In Chapman’s case, his last above average season was at 30. He was out of the league after his age 32 season.
As noted, several of Barton’s comps were excellent players in decline. All were at least decent in their comp years. In Washington, Barton will be plenty motivated to have a good season to try and stick around the NBA a few more years.
Next up: Delon Wright.