Grading Bones Hyland’s start to the 2022-23 season

Bones Hyland of the Denver Nuggets in action during the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Bones Hyland of the Denver Nuggets in action during the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

Bones Hyland is expected to be a vital part of the Denver Nuggets rotation going forward, and Michael Malone seems prepared to offer a bigger role to the sophomore guard.

Through the first nine games of the season, Hyland had his ups and downs, coming off the bench and providing 20.8 minutes. However, the Virginia Commonwealth product quickly established himself as a rotational player, and his productivity has increased in some major statistical categories.

While he’s shooting just 38.8% from the field, he’s making an impressive 50% of his attempts from the three-point stance. Despite his shooting struggles from inside the arc, the Nuggets’ scoring guard remains aggressive, and that’s a good sign of what we can expect from him going forward.

The Nuggets have used Hyland as the leader of the bench group and even as the secondary ball-handler alongside Jamal Murray in the starting lineup. For example, in their win against the Indiana Pacers, the guard played for a season-high 30 minutes. With Nikola Jokic out due to foul trouble, Hyland had to navigate the Denver Nuggets offense and did it with success, to an extent.

With that said, he still had slips-ups in the defensive side, and at times seemed to be doing too much in an extremely iso-oriented offense when Jokic was not on the floor.

Bones Hyland is poised to make a leap this season

The Denver Nuggets have shown a willingness to offer a more important role to Hyland after trading away Monte Morris this past offseason, and the sophomore guard even said that he was ready for a breakout season as the leader of the bench unit. We also knew that Hyland would be getting more usage early in the 2022-23 campaign with Jamal Murray still trying to find his footing.

Hyland is currently leading the Nuggets in USG% with 29.2, and he’s fourth in shot attempts with a career-high 11.4 field goals per game. Though his shooting splits aren’t quite there yet, as he still seems a little hesitant to shoot from inside the paint and his aggressiveness around the basket is lacking so far, attempting just 2.9 free throws per contest.

Regardless, I believe Hyland has all the tools to initiate contact inside and get to the line more often, he just seems unwilling to aggressively attack the basket against a set defense. His shot percentages from the field are abysmal, as he only converts 28.2 percent of his 5.6 attempts. In addition, the sophomore guard is making only 27.3 percent of his shots in the paint.

Hyland knows that he has to do better in that department, as this would certainly relieve some of the pressure Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray face on a nightly basis. On the other side, he follows the rest of the team in converting outside the arc as he’s the second-best three-point shooter of the team, behind only Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Bones Hyland needs to improve as a defender

I believe the offense will come along for Hyland as we get deeper into the season and he eventually becomes more comfortable in his role as a leader off the bench. However, there are still some major issues on the defensive end and I’m not so sure that we will see improvements in that aspect this season.

The 21-years old guard very often is missing his assignment and appears to be getting lost in actions in which he has to slide his feet and cover a player moving away from the ball. His off-ball defense is bad and he puts the Nuggets’ defensive plan under pressure on various possessions. He fares better guarding players one-on-one but, yet again, he’s not ready to face stronger and more experienced competition at the moment.

Through nine games, Hyland has shown that he has a bright future ahead of him. However, with the Denver Nuggets in a “championship or bust” window, Hyland will have to do more to stay on the court.

Michael Malone knows that “Bizzy” can offer the Nuggets some sparkly highlights and efficient scoring from beyond the arc. However, when his shots aren’t falling, then he will have to find ways to help his team in other aspects of the game.

In reality, it’s still too early to say that the Nuggets did the right thing to move Morris and offer Hyland a more important role. As of now, I think it will be difficult for him to stay on the court in a competitive playoff matchup.

On the other side, we must not forget that Bones Hyland is a second-year player and he might have more pressure than he can possibly handle as a sophomore. With this in mind, I believe that we will see him improving his “grade” as we progress deeper into the NBA season.

Grade C+

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