Nah’Shon ‘Bones’ Hyland was a surprising pick to some but the Nuggets could have a real sleeper here. Many thought the Nuggets needed a 3-and-D guard, and while Hyland is more 3 than D, he is an absolute bucket. He has a vast offensive repertoire combined with the ability to shoot Trae Young range three-pointers.
Great offense beats great defense any day of the week, and that might be what Denver envisions for their basketball team. They needed a defensive guard and/or big yet they choose an offensive-minded guard, so get ready for a lot of high-scoring affairs next season if they cannot improve in those areas.
With that being said, Hyland has the potential to be an effective defender at the next level. He has good length and the tools will be there with more NBA training, he just needs to bring them together more consistently.
Think Will Barton when you think of Hyland. They play highly similar on the offensive end except Hyland has more range. Barton is three inches taller at 6’6” but their wingspans are the same at 6’9”. Barton has produced effective defensive seasons. but he’s not the most consistent defender either. Overall, Hyland profiles very similar to Barton with a higher ceiling because of his ridiculous three-point range.
What makes Hyland a great fit in Denver is his grit and passion for the game. He’s a small city kid from Wilmington, Deleware and he absolutely eats, breathes, and sleeps basketball. Hyland plays with a chip on his shoulder stemming from his incredible battles through adversity.
Nah’Shon and his family were victims of a tragedy in March of 2018. Shortly following the conclusion of his high school junior season, Nah’Shon and his family were trapped in a burning house. Hyland escaped through a window suffering a significant knee injury, but his grandmother, Fay Hyland, and nearly one-year-old cousin, Maurice Williams Jr. passed away.
The loss of his cousin and grandmother were large obstacles alone to endure, but when you add potential career-threatening injuries to his patellar tendon and other ligaments, that is enough to make someone crumble. Nah’Shon battled mentally and physically to receive the honor of being a first-round draft pick, and I have the utmost confidence he has what it takes to succeed.
NBA comparison: Will Barton/Immanuel Quickley
Hyland is an instant offense type of prospect. He’s not a three-level scorer but a four-level scorer with his range from deep and craftiness around the basket. He isn’t an elite ball-handler yet, but he was an excellent shot creator in college. He loves the step back whether that's from three or mid-range. He can cross over, go between the legs, and use his hesitation moves when he chooses the step back.
He’s not the most explosive player, so he doesn’t have an elite change of pace but he’s crafty, lulling people to sleep with the dribble, and next thing you know he’s by you. His hesitation is a move he really likes. He pushes off his back foot well, quickly launching himself towards the basket.
The most exciting part of his game might be his range. He undoubtedly has NBA range and can shoot from 25+ feet routinely. He will also do it in transition too. He loves the pull-up transition three and shows the ability to knock it down.
Hyland is a tough shot maker as well. He can contort his body around the rim to finish inside among the trees but also has good touch from the mid-range. The type of touch where if he finds himself in the mid-post, he can kiss it off the glass for two. He also can stop on a dime pretty quickly to get off a shot which aids his mid and long-range ability.
He also understands how he is guarded. He knows defenders respect his three-point game so that affords him the options to glide by defenders for mid-range or inside opportunities. He is an absolute matchup nightmare for bigs in isolation because he can shoot from incredibly deep and has the change of pace to get by them.
He’s a shot creator at heart, but he’s also shown shades of good pick and roll play. Defenders cannot go under the screen because of his shooting, so he can exploit open areas of the court as he gets downhill. Hyland has a little bit of the clutch gene too. Down two with seconds left, he hit a go-ahead three-pointer to beat Rhode Island. He had 18 of his 23 points in the 4th quarter and shot 5-9 from deep.
As I said before, this kid has Trae Young type of range. He not only shot a lot of deep threes but he made them too. He’s not just a still shooter from that deep though. He employs the step back and other dribble moves to create space and still has the touch to make it from three. He also has traces of a good floater so he has range from inside as well.
Bones has the potential to be one of those players defenses must pick up when he passes half court. They cannot fall asleep, they have to always have a hand up because as Mark Jackson says, “Hand down, man down.”
With his great shooting range comes other open opportunities. He demonstrates the ability to cut effectively which is nice in this offense. He knows his defenders want to crowd the three-point line on him, so he will use the backdoor cut for easy layups.
When he’s off-ball he can be effective as well. He can relocate to various areas from deep to knock it down. He shot 36.6% on catch and shoots and is very comfortable from that right-wing area.
This is my favorite part of his game. He prides himself on his “dog” mentality and persistent work ethic. He knows he’s not the strongest guy out there, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to let anybody knock him off his spot. With that being said, this mentality shows more on the offensive end, but the intangibles are there to translate to other areas of his game.
He plays the passing lanes well too. Hyland predicts, reads, and reacts on the perimeter. He averaged 2 steals a game last season with six games tallying 3+ steals and two games with 6 steals.
Again, he’s not the most explosive but he’s very crafty offensively which makes up for a lack of elite athleticism. He uses his toughness as an asset when he drives to the basket, shielding defenders with his off-arm and maintains balance when defenders fly at him. There are a bunch of possessions where he slithers to the rim and finishes with a reverse off-hand layup, or he will use the rim as protection and contort his body for a dominant-hand reverse layup.
He’s got a lot of tools in the bag folks.
Unfortunately for this Nugget team, he's not the most polished defender yet. He’s going to have to be more engaged defending NBA guards. He will bother and block some shots thanks to his wingspan but that comes when he is fully engaged. His craftiness offensively makes up for a lack of explosion, but defensively he does not share the same craftiness yet.
You’ll see him come out of his stance fairly frequently, so he stands too straight avoiding a strong, athletic defensive position. If he doesn’t get lower to the ground more frequently, elite ball handlers will take his ankles and he will end up with a face full of hardwood.
He’s also not a physical defender either. He’s thin so stronger guards will use their size and body positioning to drive him to the basket. His footwork is far better on offense than defense. Hyland doesn’t show a ton of great lateral movement defensively, so short-area quickness in defensive situations will be an area of improvement.
Although he plays the passing lanes well, he’s a gambler so it can hinder his defense at times. He might inch a little too far off his assignment causing open perimeter opportunities and late closeouts defensively.
You ever seen a bird fly into a window before? That’s Bones Hyland running into screens. He gets caught up in screens a lot which will need to improve because the NBA is all about screening on and off-ball. Guards will receive single and double screens, so Denver will work with him to navigate and predict them better.
Overall, he has the potential to be an effective defender at the next level but he has a lot of room to improve. If he can be coached into focusing more on details and bringing his offensive mentality to defense, he can be a solid defender.
This is the concern for most college athletes heading to the NBA so it’s nothing he can’t overcome, but if he wants to produce consistently he will add some strength. He’s a thin 169 lbs. 6’4” athlete and NBA players will exploit that.
We’ve seen struggles from Michael Porter Jr. because defenders get physical with him and knock him off his spot. As MPJ has and continues to learn, NBA contact is different and the learning curve can be steep.
As I said, he reminds me a lot of Will Barton. Barton looks thin, but he plays stronger than he looks. Will has great core strength and balance, and if Hyland can look to anybody on this team it should be Barton.
How many times can I say he is like Will Barton before it gets annoying? I promise this is the last one. If you didn’t like Barton’s shot selection then you’re probably not going to be too thrilled about Hyland’s shot tendencies. He’s a tough shot maker, but with that comes a tough shot taker. Contested, deep, step-back threes are only good shots if they go in. He also will display tunnel vision, driving to the rim ferociously with his head down missing kick-out opportunities.
He has great offensive confidence which is an essential trait to have but it can get him into trouble. At times, he relies on his craftiness and isolation ability too much where the defense just collapses on him and it's a turnover. The Nuggets won’t offer him as many isolation situations as he is used to, so he will have to find other ways to impact the offense.
Hyland isn’t an elite ball handler but he does love to dribble. He needs to take care of the ball better at the next level because he has shown the tendency to crumble in traps or intense defensive pressure. He averaged three turnovers a game last year which is a clear concern.
Nah’Shon exhibits shades of excellent passing ability but it’s not near consistent yet. Too often he tries to force it or thread the needle into a turnover instead of using a pass fake. NBA coaching will give him better knowledge of passing angles so look for him to improve in that area.