When the Wizards traded for a pair of Denver Nuggets a few weeks ago, point guard Monte Morris was the headline of the deal. That was mostly because Washington was in desperate need of a point guard to play with Bradley Beal and Morris fit the job description.
But the other player the Wizards got in the trade, wing Will Barton, could also prove to be a key rotational player in D.C. this upcoming year. At least that’s what his high school coach believes.
“He’s a winner. He knows how to play with other people, he knows how to accept the role of playing,” Herman Harried, who coached Barton at Lake Clifton High School in Baltimore, told NBC Sports Washington's Wes Hall. “He was just a good teammate…he was a very selfless, fun teammate. It wasn’t about him. Even though the hype was about him, he took the hype off himself and put it back on his teammates, and that made guys want to play with him.”
Barton and Harried enjoyed a torrid streak of success in the Baltimore high school circuit during the former's youth days. Lake Clifton enjoyed periods in which they would go weeks without enduring a loss, partially thanks to Barton's contributions.
Barton himself noted what the city of Baltimore does in terms of youth talent development.
"It's just a different brand of basketball out there," Barton explained in a sitdown with Chris Miller. "You've got to be tough. Nobody cares about your name, your rep. Most of us are little dudes coming from Baltimore so you got to bang, it's gritty out there playing physical, talking smack, talking trash. I mean, it's just a different. It's just a different life of basketball in B-more."
Barton first learned how to be selfless in Baltimore but certainly got used to letting other guys stay in the limelight during his NBA career. He played in Portland for just under three seasons where Damian Lillard was the bell cow, only to experience much of the same in Denver over the next eight seasons playing with Nikola Jokic and other superstars.
Barton, 31, will join a Wizards team led by Bradley Beal and complemented by a deep roster of fellow wings. Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura and others will bolster Washington’s perimeter along with the former Nugget.
Simply put, Barton will join a team full of scorers and adept playmakers. Harried, fondly known as ‘Coach Tree’ in basketball circles, recalled a time when Barton’s selflessness in those types of scenarios aided in team success.
“I always remember this story. I pulled him over once [after a game] and I think he maybe had only about nine or 10 points. I said, ‘Will, I need you to take some more shots.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Coach, we’re winning, man.’ Simple as that.”
Barton’s shot selection has been lauded as one of the reasons he was a valuable commodity in the NBA, as he’s shot at least 37% from three-point range and 43% overall in his last three seasons as a pro. Passing up shots in favor of open teammates has helped Barton’s résumé as well — he put up a career-high 4.4 assists per 36 minutes last year with Denver.
Pair a pass-first, effective shooter in Barton with Bradley Beal, and the Wizards could field a lethal one-two punch.
“I think [Beal] and Will have a lot of the same characteristics. They’re ball players,” Harried said. “And Monte, he’ll fit right in with them as well. I think the Wizards are getting a group of guys that’s going to blend well together.”
Barton arrives in D.C. as part of a crew of new faces, including fellow shooting guard and rookie Johnny Davis who will hope to shore up the rotation and depth of the squad. With Kristaps Porzingis ideally enjoying his first full, healthy season in Washington, Barton could add to an already talented and high-powered offense.