Will Barton is excited to play with Daniel Gafford

Will Barton

WASHINGTON -- Asked at his introductory press conference which of his new Wizards teammates he is looking forward to playing with, Will Barton first said everyone on the team. Then, he specified star guard Bradley Beal and then Kyle Kuzma due to his "shot-making ability."

Then, Barton honed in on a player that would perhaps be less obvious given he may be coming off the bench next season.

"Big Gaff, I want to get out there with him, man," Barton said, referencing 23-year-old big man Daniel Gafford. "I’m a guy that likes to get to the rim and when I get to the rim, if I can’t score it myself, I want to put that lob up there and I know he’s a guy who can go get it. So, he’s definitely a guy I’m looking forward to playing with."

Barton, 31, is joining the Wizards after eight seasons with the Denver Nuggets where he played alongside 2-time MVP Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets had the 6th-ranked offense last season and are annually one of the more potent scoring teams in the league.

Gafford, though, brings a dynamic that is fairly unique to Barton's time in Denver as a high-flying big man capable of throwing down a wide range of alley-oops. That should bode well for Barton, who tends to impact the game with his passing.

Barton, in fact, had more assists (276) last season than any one player on the Wizards' roster. That is despite the fact he plays on the wing and shared the offense with Jokic, who averaged 7.9 assists last season playing essentially as a point-center.


Barton should help add more ball movement to the Wizards' offense, which is a goal Unseld Jr. has tried to instill in his year on the job. Barton explained his approach in sharing the ball.

"Just knowing that the open man is the best man. Get us some easier shots, get us some threes and just make the ball pop. I feel like when the ball is popping and moving, you have more fun playing that style of basketball. Hopefully I can help bring that," he said.

The Nuggets led the NBA last season in passes per game (310.7) and Barton ranked third on the team in the category (37.3), right behind point guard Monte Morris (47.3) who also came to the Wizards in the same trade. The Nuggets were also third in assists (27.8). The Wizards, meanwhile, were 11th in passing (289.3) and 13th in assists (25.0). They had the 25th-ranked offense in terms of efficiency.

Barton added that he and Unseld Jr. spoke about ball movement and the offense after he was acquired by Washington. But Barton felt there wasn't much that needed to be said given their long history together in the Nuggets organization.

That's one of the positives of bringing in Barton and Morris. They should be able to hit the ground running.

"I’ve been around him for so long, he’s coached me for so long, that I already know that’s his identity," Barton said.