During his sophomore season at Memphis, Will Barton was among the best guards in the NCAA at rebounding, finishing around the basket and getting to the free-throw line.
A couple things stand out about that for me. One is that Barton managed to do all of this in spite of a very thin build. The other is that if he could eventually do those things for the Hawks, he would be the only guard on the current roster with that skill set.
That’s an big “if,” though, because Barton isn’t likely to add much much more weight to his 175-pound frame. He’s old for an NCAA sophomore at 21 and it’s not as if he hasn’t tried to bulk up.
“It’s just tough to put on weight,” he said. “I eat a lot. I do push ups. I lift weights. It’s a thing where I will probably just never put on weight. But [if I can] just keep gaining strength and be able to take hits and defend my position and rebound and do the things I do, I will be fine.”
Barton scored 1.328 points per possession around the basket as a sophomore, according to DraftExpress.com, which is comparable to group leader Jeremy Lamb (1.463). Barton also had good rates for rebounds and free throws.
Barton said those numbers were a result of adding strength.
“You can tell when you see me work out or play,” he said. “I live in the paint. That’s where I get most of my points. I rebound. I stay in the paint.”
Can Barton get to the rim and finish with contact in the NBA?
“Not like college,” Hawks assistant GM Dave Pendergraft said. “But I think he will [eventually]. Obviously he needs to get stronger but you can’t rush weight. You can rush it on a big guy sometimes but, guards, they go at their own pace.
“It will be an adjustment on the defensive end more than the offensive end. He’s quick enough. I think he will make the adjustment to negate his lack of strength and bulk if he could become a better 3-point shooter. It will make it easier for him. That way he gets more real estate to work with.”
Barton said some teams have told him they project him as a shooting guard, others as a small forward. The distinction matters less and less in the NBA, but no doubt bigger wings will seek to bully Barton into the basket area.
Still, Barton projects as a first-round pick because of his offensive skills.
“Reminds me a little bit of Jamal Crawford,” Pendergraft said. “He’s got a slick way of scoring the ball whether it’s shooting or getting to the rim. He’s thin as a rail, but he’s strong and obviously he’s durable or you couldn’t put up those kind of numbers. It’s going to be interesting to see how he does. He’s still on our board.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat