Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton will decline his $14.7 million player option and become a free agent in August, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. Barton was traded to Denver in 2015, and in the 2018 offseason, he signed a four-year, $53 million deal that included an option for this season. By declining it, he will have the chance to test the open market in a fairly limited free-agent class.
Denver's preference would certainly be to re-sign Barton. The veteran wing has averaged over 14 points per game since becoming a starter during the 2017-18 season while improving significantly on defense in the process. After trading away Gary Harris and RJ Hampton at the deadline, Denver has already lost a significant amount of talent at the shooting guard position. Without Barton, it is unclear who would start at that position next season.
But the Nuggets cannot afford to break the bank for Barton considering their other financial obligations. Michael Porter Jr. is eligible for an extension this offseason that will surely clock in somewhere near the max. Aaron Gordon will be a free agent next offseason, and after giving away Harris and Hampton to get him, the Nuggets surely view him as a long-term priority. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic both already have max deals, and by winning MVP last season, Jokic made himself eligible for a supermax extension next offseason when he meets the service time criteria. That deal could pay him up to $241 million over five years, depending on where exactly the cap lands in the coming years.
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The Nuggets have accumulated a remarkable amount of talent in recent years. Sadly, few teams can afford to pay as many high-end players as Denver has developed. Now, the Nuggets have to decide if they view Barton as a member of their long-term core, or as someone they're willing to sacrifice in the name of keeping others.