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Denver Nuggets Film Friday: The rookie

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.

Under Michael Malone, young guys, especially rookies that have lacked standout play on the defensive end of the floor, have struggled to see regular minutes. The Nuggets made just one pick in the 2021 NBA draft. That pick was Bones Hyland, and, after seeing spotty minutes to begin the year, he’s inserted himself as one of the team’s primary guards off of the bench, and he’s even closing games on some nights.

In the month of March specifically, Hyland has been absolutely torching the nets on the offensive end. He’s shooting a blistering 51.5 percent from the field and 52.5 percent from 3-point range. His 118.3 offensive rating since March 1st is the fourth-best mark on the team in that time, and it’s third among rotation players. Bones still has room to grow on the defensive end, but we’re seeing his value grow right in front of our eyes on the other end.

Despite the absence of Jamal Murray and occasional struggles from Will Barton, who has been battling an injury for the last month, Hyland has stepped up to take on some of that workload. Heading into a playoff run where rotations shrink, Malone is going to have the ability to go to Hyland off of the bench and have confidence that the unit won’t be a huge loss because of the guy leading the charge.

Gets His Own Shot

Hyland’s ability to create his own shot is something the second unit lacked in their playoff run last season due to the multitude of injuries the team was dealing with. That problem will be solved with Hyland on the floor. Whether it’s in close or outside the 3-point line, Hyland has no issues hunting for an open look. On this play, he uses the screen from DeMarcus Cousins to generate some separation between him and his defender. This gives him the mismatch he wants. While he could look to set him up and drive to the basket, he sees how much space he has and uses it to knock down the turnaround jumper. That’s not just a routine shot that anyone can take and make, and, yet, he makes it look routine and easy for him.

Sometimes, Hyland can get caught trying to do too much. Other times, he can put his defender on skates and just put together a play that’s fun to watch on a loop. This is one of those good times. JaMychal Green is there to set the screen, but Hyland works the other way. He sets his defender up with a couple of dribble moves before using the stepback to generate a ton of separation. Once that move is done, the defender has no hope of contesting the shot, and Hyland drills it.

Setting Up Others

Not only can Hyland get his own shot. He can also set up others with great passes. On this play here, you could even make the argument that Hyland didn’t have to pass the ball when he did. As he’s driving, Thomas Bryant begins to rotate over, which would have left Nikola Jokic wide open. Hyland could hit him, or, if Bryant stays out on Jokic, Hyland gets to the rim for the easy layup. Hyland has his man beat, and he has just a slight window to find Green underneath the basket. He whips the ball past Ish Smith’s head before he can even process that the ball is coming his way, and Green gets the easy dunk. Getting your own bucket is important, but, when you can find shots for other guys, that can open up room for you to work in the future.

This is a play that really shows off the patience that Bones can exhibit at times. He’s a guy that runs at full speed a lot, but he’s forced to downshift and wait for Green to rotate to the rim. He’s attacking and preparing for a shot, but, rather than just having his head down and preparing for contact, his eyes are up to look for teammates. Green gets behind the defense, and Hyland hits him for the easy alley-oop dunk. Now that the defense has to honor his willingness to throw that pass, the next time he drives could see him get an open look at the rim.

Fearlessness

A tie ballgame in the fourth quarter against the team that’s got one of the top options for the MVP after your team trailed by as many as 19 earlier in the game. This is the perfect time to work for a great shot to get your team a key bucket. In the mind of Hyland, it seems like the perfect time to put up a 30-foot 3-pointer and drill it. Hyland uses the physical screen from Cousins that jostles Matisse Thybulle to create a ton of separation, and he puts the shot up because his confidence in himself tells him he can make that shot. He does, and it was a huge shot in the moment where your lineup was five reserves against four starters for the Philadelphia 76ers.

On the very next possession, the entire arena is losing their minds. Joel Embiid goes down hard on the other end, and they’re still frustrated that Cousins wasn’t called for a moving screen on the previous possession. Bones is calling for the ball the whole way, and, once he gets it, there’s no doubt he’s going to shoot it. He gets across the halfcourt line and heads towards his spot. He pops the shot, and it just sucks the life out of the 76ers. A nearly all-starter lineup is on the floor, and they went from tied to down by six due to some incredible shooting from Bones. Playing fearless when the lights are brightest are what matters most when the season is on the line. He’ll have no problem dealing with those lights when Malone calls his number.

For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.