Nuggets could have solved all their issues by nailing 2021 NBA Draft

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers
Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers / Harry How/GettyImages

It’s hard to be critical of the recent draft history of the Denver Nuggets. Across multiple regimes, the front office has largely nailed their draft picks; building the core of a championship roster by hitting on Jamal Murray at 7th overall, Michael Porter Jr. at 14th overall, and perhaps the greatest draft pick in NBA history Nikola Jokic with the 41st overall pick (11th in the 2nd round).

Even in recent years, the team has been impressive at finding value, seemingly hitting on Christian Braun with the 21st overall pick and Peyton Watson at 30th in that same draft. But one recent pick still haunts the Nuggets, and that’s drafting Bones Hyland with the 26th overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft.

Drafting Hyland over Herb Jones has been a disaster for the Nuggets

In a vacuum, the Hyland selection wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s hard to hit on a late first-round pick and Bones showed some promise as a bench scorer early in his career. But he failed to carve out a consistent role and was eventually dumped to the Clippers along with Mason Plumlee for late 2nd round picks.

The pick was perfectly defensible at the time and looked like a big hit early on, but the bigger issue is what the Nuggets passed on; chiefly Herbert Jones, the stellar wing defender for the New Orleans Pelicans. Jones was drafted 35th overall by the Pels. Jones averaged 11 points per game this season while shooting 42% from three-point range while being selected to first-team all-defense.

At 25 years old and going into his fourth season, Jones is already one of the best overall defenders in the entire league and has started to break out offensively as well. He’d be an incredible fit on the Nuggets, either as a stud 6th man or as an excellent replacement for either Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Michael Porter Jr.

Slotting Herb into the starting lineup with Murray, Jokic, KCP, and Aaron Gordon would allow the Nuggets to save money and give them a chance at a truly elite offense and defense. This could’ve given Denver the wing depth they so desperately need currently, and who knows what heights the team would have reached by now.

Other players the Nuggets could have selected over Hyland

Herb Jones was certainly the most brutal whiff by the Nuggets in drafting Bones Hyland, but other useful players they could have added with the 26th overall pick include Cam Thomas of the Nets (27th overall), Miles “Deuce” McBride of the Knicks (36th overall), Ayo Dosunmu of the Bulls (38th overall), and Aaron Wiggins of the Thunder (55th overall).

All of those players could at least be useful bench players for the Nuggets with the potential to carve out bigger roles. They’d all definitely be more helpful to Denver than Bones Hyland, who is currently wallowing away on the Clippers bench.