It's been no secret the Portland Trail Blazers have been seeking any type of firepower off the bench.
With the worst scoring bench unit in the NBA, the Blazers have relied heavily on their starters.
Well, on Sunday, there came a little glimmer of hope when rookie Will Barton had a career night, totaling 22 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals in a near comeback effort as Portland lost 96-91 to Dallas at the Rose Garden.
More impressively, it's been 18 years since an NBA rookie put up the kinds of numbers Barton did, according to the Trail Blazers PR department.
Will Barton is the first NBA rookie with 22 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals since Grant Hill on 3/25/95.— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) April 8, 2013
So what can we make of this performance?
The Blazers have waited for this type of output from Barton since making him the 40th pick in last year's draft. He was known as a scorer coming out of Memphis, averaging 18 points as a sophomore before turning pro.
He showed an impressive amount of athleticism and courage against the Mavs, and was not afraid to drive to the basket and mix it up. Barton had a couple highlight plays as well, displaying the ability to finish alley-oop lobs from Eric Maynor and Damian Lillard.
More importantly, he was able to create his own shot, take contact and either finish inside the paint or get to the free-throw line. From the perimeter, he's by no means a great three-point shooter, but from 15-17 feet, he is solid.
The obvious weaknesses are his strength and size. At 6'6" and only 175 pounds with his style of play, it will be key for him in the offseason to get stronger so that he can absorb contact if teams try to play him more physical.
The NBA has proven that skinny and svelte players, such as Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, can succeed and Barton definitely has the potential to have a solid career.
For most rookies, it's simply a matter of confidence and finding out where they fit in the league. Barton admitted as such in a post-game interview (h/t OregonLive.com).
"I'm a rhythm player," Barton said. "Most of the time, I don't play that many minutes because we got guys like (Nicolas Batum) and (Wesley Matthews) that's in front of me, and they deserve the minutes they get. They produce and like I told you, any time I get those minutes, I'm going to go out there and produce, and today happened to be that day."
Here was Twitter reacting after the game from teammates and media.
Shoutout to my lil bro @willthethrillb5 for having a career night!— Lamarcus Aldridge(@aldridge_12) April 8, 2013
Barton also predicted career night to me before game: “Remember?" he said. "I told you. I said, ‘It’s going to be a Thrilling day today.’"— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) April 8, 2013
Game time. What a performance by rookie Will Barton (22 pts, 13 rebs, 6 assts) but the #Blazers fall 96-91— Candace Buckner (@blazerbanter) April 8, 2013
There's no doubt Barton can score the ball. Now heading into next season, the biggest question will be whether he can consistently give the Blazers 8-10 points per game on a nightly basis. Sunday was certainly a start of a possible future for Barton in Portland.