When the Denver Nuggets were on the clock Thursday night at 26th overall they had a ton of players to choose from. All signs pointed to the Nuggets targeting a guard and players like Jared Butler, Jaden Springer, Miles McBride, and Ayo Dosunmu were all on the board when Denver’s pick rolled around. The Nuggets went a different direction though.
And with the 26th pick (Adam Silver voice) of the 2021 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets select Bones Hyland from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Here was the moment the pick was announced at Bones Hyland’s watch party in Wilmington: pic.twitter.com/gEt8WmI8Sg— Wayne Epps Jr. (@wayneeppsjr) July 30, 2021
You can tell just how special a moment it was for Hyland and his family especially considering everything they have been through. Just three years ago on March 25, 2018, Hyland lost his grandmother and young cousin in a house fire that forced him to jump from a second story window to save his life. The jump actually tore Hyland’s patella tendon which put his basketball career in jeopardy just months before ultimately committing to play at VCU.
An accident like that could have a major affect on someone, but Hyland used it as motivation to improve himself on and off the court while providing him a greater outlook on life. Hyland has since gone on to have a phenomenal collegiate career and can now call himself an NBA first round draft pick.
The one thing that really stood out from Hyland’s post-draft media session was just how happy he is to be a Denver Nugget. Hyland said his pre-draft interview with the Nuggets was his favorite one and that he just felt a different vibe with the coaches and staff. Hyland also rapped during his interview with the Nuggets, which is pretty awesome:
Great stuff from @msinger who heard @BizzyBones11 rapped in some of his interviews with NBA teams - including the Nuggets.— Ryan Greene (@RyanCBS4) July 30, 2021
Bones said he felt a different vibe with #MileHighBasketball @CBSDenver pic.twitter.com/CoFOLjau06
Hyland’s energy is infectious and it’s something Nuggets President of Basketball Operation echoed:
“Intense passion for the game... he just has an infectious energy, it’s not unique to the basketball court, you walk in a room with him the guy puts smile on your face... he just loves to play ball, he’s a hooper, we’ve had some good luck with those type of guys and we’re excited to have him” Connelly said when talking to Nuggets media following the selection of Hyland. “His personality and his passion for the game and life is really something that appealed to us.”
There is no doubt Hyland can be a seamless fit in the Nuggets growing culture as he views himself just like all of Denver’s roster does, as underdogs:
Bones Hyland said the Nuggets are a "team full of underdogs" and he knows he'll fit in with them right away— Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717) July 30, 2021
Hyland said he plays with that chip on his shoulder and will make every team that passed on him pay
Now, what are the Nuggets getting in Hyland? Well, scoring is the big thing as Hyland possesses an ability to score from anywhere on the court and is not afraid to pull up from anywhere. When you turn on Hyland’s tape the first thing that stands out is his range and confidence to shoot the three ball.
Hyland was a lights out shooter at VCU last season averaging 19.5 points per game while attempting 14.2 field goals a night. A lot of those shots came from behind the three-point line as Hyland shot 37.1 percent from beyond the arc on 7.8 threes per game. Even though his percentage is a little under 40, it’s still really high with how many threes he shot a game.
With better shot selection at the next level Hyland could easily be a 40 percent three-point shooter. Just two years ago during his freshman season he shot 43.4 percent from three while attempting 4.7 threes a game. A number hovering around five threes a game is likely where Hyland’s three point attempts need to stay at the next level if he wants to maintain success and stay on the floor.
Bones Hyland really LIKE THAT— Overtime (@overtime) July 30, 2021
He just got picked by DENVER at #26 pic.twitter.com/B8TO8gN1lH
Hyland played the role as VCU’s main ball handler this past season, which helped him ultimately win Atlantic-10 Player of the Year. It was a tough end to the season for Hyland and VCU as they were booted from the NCAA Tournament because of COVID-19 and were forced to forfeit their first round matchup against Oregon.
That would have been one of the best games of the tournament as Hyland would have got the opportunity to show his worth on a national stage against an elite prospect like Chris Duarte. The year prior, Hyland and VCU missed out on the tourney because of COVID once again so two years in a row he lost out on his chance to prove himself on the big stage.
Just add that to the chip on his shoulder as Hyland feels like a guy who truly has all the qualities the Nuggets value in a player. It’s also nice that Hyland fills a position of need as the Nuggets currently have only one true shooting guard on the roster in PJ Dozier. The Nuggets could still re-sign Will Barton once free agency opens, but there is no telling whether the Hyland pick affects that or not till free agency opens on August 2nd.
The one concern with Hyland is his his frame considering he is just 6-foot-3 and weighs around 170 pounds. Hyland does make up for it with his wingspan at 6-foot-9 which is pretty phenomenal for a guard. If Hyland can find a way to bulk up at the next level it will help his game out a ton because he will be going up against bigger and stronger guards.
3 consecutive possessions from Bones Hyland: deep pull-up 3, off-ball steal, deep spot-up 3 pic.twitter.com/CEAYIje99s— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) December 21, 2020
It does feel like Hyland could make an impact for the Nuggets in year one though as Denver has been searching for a consistent bench “bucket” getter for years now. Ever since Barton moved into the starting lineup it left a void on the Nuggets bench in a guy they could sub in who just makes shots, but now they have that guy again in Hyland.
Hyland was asked to do a ton of the ball handling and playmaking at VCU which is a position he struggled in at times. It had a lot to do with turnovers as Hyland committed 3.1 turnovers per game last year after averaging just 1.2 per game his first season at VCU. That also came with more responsibly as Hyland started in just nine of 31 games as a freshman before starting all 24 games his sophomore season.
Where Hyland can actually be really useful to the Nuggets is as an off-ball scorer and cutter. Hyland is pretty good about finding his spots on the floor and his quick release makes it incredibly tough for defenses to alter his shot. Whether he is starting or not, Hyland can be the Nuggets two guard and play off a point guard like Monte Morris or Facundo Campazzo that will do a nice job of finding him in those open spots for easy looks.
The only thing Hyland really has to worry about next year is getting buckets and getting better defensively. Not having to run the offense will be huge for his development because it’s just something the Nuggets will never need him to do. They have guys in place like Jamal Murray and Morris long-term to handle that, Hyland just has to fit in next to them.
It’s going to be a process, but the Nuggets added another offensive weapon who could make their team better as early as next season. There is no disputing Hyland’s talent offensively and if he can continue to perfect the other parts of his game the Nuggets might have just found themselves another diamond in the rough.