“Same swag, same attitude, same energy”: Damian Lillard saw Will Barton’s ascension coming

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Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Despite never cracking the 1,000-minute barrier in any of his three seasons in Portland, Will Barton was the Trail Blazers' most dangerous player on the practice court.

"He was the leading scorer in our practices. It was him," Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard told BSN Denver, reflecting on his former teammate who he spent three seasons with in Portland. "He used to go at Wes Matthews, go at Nic Batum. 360 lobs in practice. He was hoopin' the whole time."

Barton and Lillard were tied at the hip ever since the two were drafted 34 spots apart by the Trail Blazers in 2012. After Portland selected Lillard sixth overall and Barton 40th, the two met at a Trail Blazers' press conference a few days after the draft. They went on to play at Summer League together, where Lillard averaged 26.5 points per game across four matchups, while Barton added 15 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists in five Summer League games. Their two families, who were both in Portland at that time, became close.

From there, their two paths diverged in opposite directions. Lillard quickly became the face of the Trail Blazers' franchise, while Barton was relegated to the end of Portland's bench. But Barton, who Lillard fashions as a true playmaker and pseudo point guard, always made the most of his chances even in the fourth quarters of blowouts where most of his minutes would come.

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