NBA general managers carry an immense amount of responsibility for their respective organizations. From hiring qualified trainers and coaches to identifying talented prospects and managing all of their salaries.
However, if you’re the lead decision maker for a struggling franchise, then the number one most important thing you’re looking for is a generational superstar. Somebody with the talent and potential to change the future outlook of the team and become the face of the franchise for the next five to ten years.
While it’s not impossible to find talented veterans that can lead a team late into their careers, rarely can you build a team completely around a 30-plus-year-old player (with the exception of maybe LeBron James). That’s why it’s so important to appreciate the longevity of the NBA’s aging superstars while also focusing on the next generation of up-and-comers poised to take control of the league in the near future.
So, with the 2022-23 season just weeks away, it’s time to shed some light on a poll that was taken in January of 2022 by HoopsHype. Who asked 15 NBA executives to rank their top five players under 25 years old by the start of the NBA season to build around.
Denver Nuggets: NBA Execs share impressive list Bones Hyland is destined for
All of the players one would expect to see have their names cemented at the top of the list, beginning with Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, and Ja Morant. Past that, you’ll find a few players entering their second year like Evan Mobley (4), Scottie Barnes (7), and Cade Cunningham (11). As well as other exciting players to watch such as Anthony Edwards (5), Zion Williamson (6), and LaMelo Ball (8).
As for the Denver Nuggets, two of their three best players are technically at or under the 25-year-old benchmark in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. (Nikola Jokic falls just out of range at 27 years old, unfortunately). However, one player who feels destined to crack this list in the coming years is Bones Hyland.
After trading away Monte Morris earlier in the offseason, who averaged 29.9 minutes per game last season, which was fourth on the Nuggets roster. Denver will look to Hyland to be the first guard off the bench and one of the primary playmakers in the rotation.
In Bones’ rookie season, he proved to be one of the most effective and efficient shooters for the Denver Nuggets. Through 69 games played in 2021-22, Hyland hit over 40 percent of his shots from the field and 37 percent from deep. He also made more than 86 of his free throws and was a member of the Second Team All-Rookie by the end of the postseason.
Since Hyland’s just entering his second season, it’s hard to predict how many minutes he will receive in 2022-23. Currently, the most likely starting lineup to begin the year would be Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, and Jokic. As Jamal can easily slide into Monte’s role as the starting point guard, while KCP steps in as his backcourt running mate.
This is probably the most balanced lineup the Denver Nuggets can string together, but that doesn’t mean that Michael Malone won’t switch things up throughout the season. While KCP certainly provides Denver with more options to space the floor, Hyland has a far more diverse and explosive skillset on offense.
Chances are that when the Denver Nuggets find themselves down in games or missing one of their big three, Hyland will be the man that’s needed to get a bucket. KCP and Gordon offer exceptional value as 3-and-D specialists, but neither can impact the game offensively as much as Bones Hyland.
Throughout the 2021-22 NBA season, we saw Hyland go on multiple runs where he would absolutely torch opposing defenses. However, his best shooting stretch came from February 8 to March 24, 2022, when he shot a ridiculous 45 percent from deep on 5.5 attempts per game over the course of 20 consecutive contests. In which the Nuggets went 14-6, including pivotal wins against Philadelphia, Golden State, and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Now that both Will Barton and Monte Morris are gone, who were responsible for over 60 combined minutes per game last season. It feels like nobody is going to benefit more than Bones Hyland, who’s already coming off an impressive rookie campaign and remains the only true point guard the Nuggets have in their rotation.
As the season progresses and the level of competition rises, we could see Hyland’s 19 minutes per game from last season jump up closer to 25 to 30 minutes per game in 2022-23. This would put him on pace to average over 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game, which, if he were to maintain his efficient shooting, would make him a key difference maker for the Denver Nuggets.
Bones Hyland is just entering his second season at 22 years old, he’s completely surrounded by talent and plays for a team that’s capable of winning a title as early as next year. If he can continue his impressive form, there’s no reason why he can’t crack this list in the coming years as one of the most exciting and explosive young combo guards in the NBA.