Bones Hyland Is the Underrated X-Factor as the Denver Nuggets Chase an NBA Championship

As usual, the Denver Nuggets are in the thick of a Western Conference playoff battle. That said, they need more oomph to get past the pack as Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. remained sidelined due to injuries. That oomph could come from rookie guard Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland. 

The Nuggets are 46-31, which is good for the fifth seed in the West. It’s incredible. Again, though, they’ll need a boost from someone not named Nikola Jokic to overcome high-octane teams like the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and Memphis Grizzlies. 

Hyland is on a tear of late, emerging as a legitimate source of offense for head coach Mike Malone’s rotation. 

Bones Hyland is coming into his own for the Denver Nuggets 

Bones Hyland of the Denver Nuggets encourages teammate Facundo Campazzo against the Minnesota Timberwolves
Denver Nuggets teammates Bones Hyland (R) and Facundo Campazzo | C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images

Bones Hyland is averaging 9.9 points and 2.5 assists while shooting 40.3/37.7/84.1 across 18.6 minutes per game this season. The point guard has kicked it into the next gear down the stretch. Hyland is averaging 14.3 points and 4.3 assists while shooting 51.1/47.6/80.0 across Denver’s last 15 games. 

The Virginia Commonwealth University product has been a sight to behold for the Nuggets. He has a tremendous perimeter game, best exhibited by his infinite range. All the while, Hyland can score off the dribble and has been highly efficient from the perimeter.

Denver finds a way to join the party no matter who it lacks. That’s because of the team’s ability to develop from within and stockpile depth. Hyland, who Denver selected with the 26th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, went from a depth piece to a vital source of offense.

The 21-year-old rookie’s growth has lifted the collective play and reliability of the second unit. Hyland being instant offense off the bench allows Austin Rivers to play with more aggression and JaMychal Green, Zeke Nnaji, and DeMarcus Cousins to operate inside the three-point line.

Hyland is holding down a mere rotation role and has found more success with a minimal uptick in playing time. He can only get better. The Delaware native’s game has upside in that he’s an exceptional shooter who has showcased an ability to get inside off the dribble. It’s more feasible for a player who’s a reliable shooter to become a shooting scorer rather than an attacking scorer to become a reliable shooter.

If and when Hyland becomes more accustomed to creating and shooting off the dribble, his game will soar to a new level. It could also get him in the starting five, where he would do damage. 

Bones Hyland is an ideal fit in the Denver Nuggets’ offense

In all likelihood, Hyland is going to be part of Denver’s playoff rotation as rotations tend to become more condensed in the playoffs. This means there will be times when Hyland is on the floor with members of the starting five, specifically Jokic.

Hyland has an ideal complementary skill set to be on the floor with Jokic. The big man is adept at handling the rock and drawing double-teams near the basket. When a double-team comes at Jokic, he kicks it out to someone on the perimeter. There are times when that player will be Hyland, who has consistently made a difference on that part of the floor. 

The Nuggets are an athletic, fundamentally sound team. Jokic is a multifaceted scorer and player. Aaron Gordon can handle the rock and score on his own. Will Barton is a cunning scorer. Monte Morris can generate offense. A great deal of the players coming off the bench can score in varying ways. As a whole, they’re a respectable defensive team that finds success in the half court on the other end of the floor.

The Nuggets’ issue? In the playoffs, they’ll face teams that have a handful of prolific scorers. They have one such player.

Denver can attempt to get around its offensive weakness in two ways: First, it could acquire a star scorer, which it can’t do because the NBA trade deadline has passed. Second, it could get another respectable scoring option from within. Hyland is the X-factor. Teams won’t focus on Bones, but if he connects at a high level from behind the arc, it will take some eyeballs off his teammates.

Plus, it’s possible that the Nuggets get Murray or Porter back at some point in the playoffs. The two players’ absences are the reason for this conundrum in the first place. That said, the Nuggets can’t merely bank on their return.

Hyland is still raw and the player with the most upside on their active roster. He can change the game for the Nuggets.

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference. 

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