Here’s why the Raptors should keep Will Barton for 2023-24

Mar 24, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) moves to the basket as Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) defends Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) moves to the basket as Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) defends Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Athletic’s Shams Charania was the first to report that the Toronto Raptors will sign veteran forward Will Barton, who was waived by the Washington Wizards last Tuesday. In order to free up a roster spot, the Raptors released forward Juancho Hernangomez, who is now a free agent.

Hernangomez, who was signed by the Raptors this summer to bring some much-needed three-point shooting to their bench unit, was never able to realize his potential. The Spaniard shot a paltry 25.4% from downtown on the season. Unfortunately, his defensive awareness and acumen were never given a chance to shine in his limited minutes.

Nonetheless, Barton is a definite improvement over Hernangomez. Despite a mediocre season with a middling Wizards squad, the former Memphis Tiger has proven himself as a capable offensive contributor throughout his career.

His best years came as a member of the Denver Nuggets, with whom he spent seven seasons, posting averages of 14.2 points and five rebounds per game on 36.5% shooting from downtown. If he produces at a level even approximating his Nuggets tenure, the Raptors may need to consider bringing him into the fold for 2023-24.

Will the Toronto Raptors bring back Will Barton?

Although not a franchise-altering player, Barton brings a useful toolbox of skills to this Raptors team. He projects as a solid 3-point shooter, especially from the corner, where he has shot an impressive over 50% in three of his last four campaigns.

Barton joins Chris Boucher and Joe Wieskamp as the only Raptors bench players to have shot 30% or better from downtown this season.

He is also a reasonably skilled player attacking the rim. His athletic build and quick first step help him blow by defenders on his way to the cup. Defensively, Barton isn’t going to win any awards, but his body type and general basketball IQ should be compatible with the Raptors’ aggressive defensive schemes.

His most meaningful contributions, though, should come on the offensive side of the ball.

With this move, the Raptors’ bench contingent continues to deepen. The acquisition of Jakob Poeltl at the trade deadline, combined with the ascendance of Jeff Dowtin Jr. to the backup point guard position, has increased the pool of viable contributors available to coach Nick Nurse off the pine.

This move comes at a crucial moment for this team, who is fully intent on making the playoffs this season. Having won eight of their last ten games, they are trending in the right direction at 31-32.

While the Raptors are bent on making a playoff run this season, the team’s future beyond this season is still uncertain. Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent, Jr. are both expected to opt out of their player options in order to test the waters in free agency.

Things won’t get any cheaper for ownership in future years, either. Pascal Siakam will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024, and OG Anunoby is up for a new deal soon. Both of these guys will surely command massive contracts, leaving the Raptors brass with some tough decisions about the makeup of their roster.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the future of this team’s core, the signing of Barton gives the Raptors a bit of insurance going forward. His strongest skillset (3-point shooting) is universally relevant. Regardless of what this team looks like in future seasons, he will give them reliable scoring off the bench, a luxury they haven’t enjoyed over the past few seasons.

Although Barton won’t do much to boost the Raptors’ ceiling, the move should at least give the front office some flexibility as they buckle down for a tough next two years.

Some difficult decisions will have to be made, namely determining in which direction this team is heading. Is MLSE going to bite the bullet, dipping into the luxury tax for a potential playoff run? Are they going to stay below the tax and rebuild around a portion of the current core?

The details of the agreement between Barton and the Raptors have yet to be announced, but the contract could represent great value for a team whose future is still up in the air. The recent acquisition of Poeltl and now the Barton signing point towards the Raptors wanting to stock up on talent, preparing themselves for any eventuality.

These two could be serious parts of a contending core, or they could be solid role players on a team starting a rebuild. Either way, the Barton signing was a smart one, and the Raptors should do what they can to keep him.

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