Sources say the Nuggets anticipated Barton's decision, made in an attempt to maximize his earning potential during the prime of his career.
Barton, 26, is one of the league's premier sixth men. He will be entering the final year of his three-year, $11 million contract in the 2017-18 season. His $3.5 million annual salary can be seen as a sizable bargain given his production. In Barton's first two full seasons with the Nuggets, he averaged 14.4 points and 13.7 respectively and shot a career-high 37 percent from 3-point range in 2016-17.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, players who are on three-year contracts are eligible to sign an extension after the second-year anniversary of the pact. If Barton chose to go the extension route, his salary would be the greater of 120 percent of his 2017-18 salary or the average salary of next season, which is expected to be approximately $9 million. With eight percent increases, Barton was looking at roughly a four-year, $39 million extension.
Last offseason the Portland Trail Blazers matched a four-year, $75 million offer sheet made by the Brooklyn Nets to retain reserve guard Allen Crabbe, and signed backup small forward Evan Turner to a four-year, $70 million deal. Additionally, the Atlanta Hawks inked wing Kent Bazemore to a four-year, $70 million deal.
Barton's scoring average over the last two seasons is higher than the aforementioned players'.
The Blazers selected Barton out of Memphis with the 40th pick in the 2012 draft. However, he wasn't able to latch on to consistent minutes in Portland because of playing behind veterans Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews. After two and a half seasons, he was traded to Denver and given the opportunity to have a defined scoring role off the bench.