With the 26th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets select… Nah’Shon Lee “Bones” Hyland, Shooting Guard, Virginia Commonwealth University. The 6’3.5” & 169 pound guard made some noise during his two college seasons and took a big jump during his sophomore season when he became the full-time starter. With a gap in the guard rotation and the potential for Will Barton to be going elsewhere this offseason, the team needed a player that could score added into the mix.
That’s exactly what President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly is getting in Hyland. Hyland doesn’t have the size to slot in well alongside Jamal Murray in the team’s starting lineup, but he can pour in points in a hurry off of the bench. He also has a 6’9.25” wingspan that makes him a pain for opposing guards to deal with when he’s on the ball. The Nuggets’ bench has lacked a guard with Hyland’s skill set for the last few years, and they now have it.
Hyland is only 6’3.5” which isn’t ideal if he’s going to play the shooting guard role, but his wingspan more than makes up for it. Denver’s main guards off of the bench last year were P.J. Dozier, Facundo Campazzo and Monte Morris. Neither Morris nor Campazzo were particularly apt defenders or possessed great length. Hyland adds competition to that group which raises the production level of everyone else.
In Hyland’s first season, he averaged 9.0 points per game, but that average jumped to 19.5 during his sophomore season. He shot 39.9 percent from 3-point range during his two college seasons, including 43.4 percent from downtown from his freshman campaign. One skill that Hyland is bringing to the team that they don’t have yet is the ability to get to the free-throw line. Hyland was averaging 4.5 free-throw attempts per game during his second season on campus. That would have been the second-best mark of all Nuggets’ players last season.
Hyland was a menace on the defensive end last season. He averaged 1.9 steals per game last season, and that translated to 2.1 steals per 36 minutes. For reference, that 2.1 steals per 36 minutes would have been the best mark among all Nuggets’ players last season. Hyland brings three particular skills that this roster doesn’t already have, which is exactly what they should have been looking for in this draft with their lone selection.
At 169 pounds, Hyland is small. There is no two ways around it. Using last season’s player weights, he would have been the fourth-lightest player in the league. The three players lighter than him rarely saw the floor for their respective teams, and that’s simply due to the fact that it’s easier for defenders to take advantage of smaller players. Hyland likely won’t be able to put on much weight, but he’ll need to add some size to his frame to survive at the NBA level.
Per 36 minutes, Hyland averaged just 2.3 assists. Simply put, when he had the ball, he wasn’t passing it to someone else. That may have worked in college, but, at the next level, teams will know and take advantage of a player that’s not going to pass the ball. Bones can’t be that way. He doesn’t have to become a pass-first guard, and that’s not what he’ll be expected to do. However, he does have to work on at least offering up the threat of the pass to make the defense think when he gains possession.
As good as he is at taking away the ball on defense, Hyland was just as good at getting rid of the ball on offense. He averaged 3.1 turnovers per game last season, and that’s just simply a matter of getting overzealous and getting himself into bad situations. This is where working on his passing can really come in handy. When he’s more willing to pass, defenses have to give him more room to operate which would result in fewer turnovers
Final Grade: B-
Hyland is a fine player, and he brings skills that the Nuggets’ roster doesn’t currently have. The main reasons that this grade isn’t higher have to do with other players that were on the board that may be more pro-ready than Hyland. Denver’s window to compete is open, and they don’t have time to wait for a player to develop for a year. It’s beyond possible that Hyland will come in and be a walking bucket from Day 1 and make me look stupid in a year. However, it’s also possible that Hyland’s lack of size will hurt him early on which could make this a “wasted” pick when Denver could have looked to get a player with a lower ceiling that is ready to play right away.