On Monday night, I recorded a podcast with good friend and former head honcho at Denver Stiffs, Adam Mares, about the comparisons between Bones Hyland and Jamal Murray. It was great. We had a good time, and I definitely recommend listening to it for an in-depth conversation about the pair of scoring guards.
How similar are Bones Hyland and Jamal Murray? And could Bones have a similar upside?
— Locked On Nuggets (@lockedonnuggets) December 21, 2021
In the podcast, I referenced a number of statistics about Bones Hyland that I wanted to share here. In his first 20 games, Bones is producing at a very impressive level as a scorer, and the way he’s getting his shots should bring excitement for Nuggets fans about his future.
Let’s start with the obvious: Bones is averaging 9.0 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 16.8 minutes per game off the bench. Those are pedestrian numbers by themselves, but scoring 9.0 points in 16.8 minutes is actually fairly impressive for a rookie. Per 36 minutes, Bones is averaging 19.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists, which is much more in line with what he’s shown in his flashes. He’s also shooting 46.4% from two-point range, 36.2% from three-point range, and an absurd 92.9% from the free throw line.
Here are the Per 36 numbers for other rookie guards and wings by comparison:
- Cade Cunningham: 17.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 45.5/31.7/84.0 shooting (2’s, then 3’s, then FT’s)
- Jalen Green: 16.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 48.7/27.8/80.7 shooting
- Jalen Suggs: 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 39.4/25.5/76.3 shooting
- Josh Giddey: 13.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 46.0/25.3/63.9 shooting
- Franz Wagner: 16.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 47.8/36.3/81.0 shooting
- Davion Mitchell: 13.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 45.6/30.7/66.7 shooting
- Ziaire Williams: 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 55.9/24.6/66.7 shooting
- Chris Duarte: 16.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 48.4/34.0/74.4 shooting
- Corey Kispert: 10.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 60.0/26.4/70.6 shooting
- Trey Murphy: 11.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 33.3/36.9/83.3 shooting
- Tre Mann: 16.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 43.5/40.0/70.0 shooting
- Cam Thomas: 14.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 48.3/22.8/81.0 shooting
- Ayo Dosunmu: 12.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 55.0/41.5/57.9 shooting
- Josh Christopher: 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 53.0/44.4/76.0 shooting
Bones Hyland is currently leading the entire rookie class in points per 36 minutes, not just the above selection of guards and wings. Not even Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley, two rookies seemingly running away with the Rookie of the Year race while playing large roles on decent to very good teams, have matched Bones’ scoring output.
The biggest reason for Bones’ scoring has been the outside shooting. The rookie out of VCU is currently putting up 10.1 threes per 36 minutes, by far the highest rate in the class. His ability to take and make shots from longe range has fully compensated for a skinny frame that many (including myself) worried about at a more physical NBA level. Not only is Bones surviving, but he’s thriving on Denver’s bench unit as a high usage shooting threat that draws the attention of perimeter defenses further and further away from the hoop.
While the release isn’t lightning quick, Bones is accurate out to 30 feet even when there’s a contest from a defender. His footwork on catch-and-shoot threes remains very good, freeing himself up with both off-ball movement and a quick 1-2 step after he catches the ball. This often allows him to square up and get set toward the basket quickly, even while the actual release on his shot isn’t fast in it of itself.
Not to be outdone, Bone’s footwork on pull up threes remains great. When he runs pick and roll at the top of the key, he reads the defense very quickly, with smooth and subtle movement to regain shooting balance if the defender goes under the screen to give him space. On the season, Bones is shooting 31.3% on pull up threes (10-of-32), the highest percentage among rookies to attempt at least 20 pull up threes.
So much of Bones’ game shows the impact that Stephen Curry had on an entire generation of players growing up, especially skinnier guards like a Bones Hyland. His ability to shoot off the catch and shoot off the move from deep with clean, quality footwork is very reminiscent of Curry, and though nobody will ever be as great of a shooter as Steph, it’s nice to have a young player showing the confidence and the effectiveness needed to be such a daring outside shooter.
There are elements to Bones’ game that will continue to develop as he sees the floor. His passing and playmaking off the move will certainly help relieve the ball pressure he will receive throughout his career whenever he crosses half court. Bones is already showing signs of being a high IQ playmaker that can read the floor quickly when given an open window.
Between the clip above and the next clip, those are two different kinds of plays where reading the floor, navigating several defenders, and finding open space are all such a big deal. The touch and vision it takes to execute some of the plays Bones has made is definitely underrated. Though he only averages 3.4 assists per 36 minutes this year, there’s no doubt in my mind that he will improve that figure as his role transitions away from scoring guard to becoming a playmaking guard. That’s the next step in his development, and he’s well on his way.
I’m a believer in Bones Hyland. Initially, I was concerned about his size, and there are definitely moments where him being about 175 pounds can take away from his impact on both ends of the court. Still, the highs have certainly outweighed the lows, and it’s clear that Bones is going to be a dangerous player for a long time as he adjusts to the nuances of the NBA game.
How quickly he improves throughout this season and next offseason will have ripple effects on the rest of the Nuggets roster.