With the 26th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets took a chance on a young point guard with immense scoring talent and a wildly popular personality. Their selection of Bones Hyland not only gave them an immediate fan favorite, but a legitimate scoring punch off the bench.
It wasn't surprising to see Hyland become an instantly beloved figure in Denver. During his draft workout cycle, he endeared himself to just about every team that brought him in for a workout. But very rarely do late-first round picks become true impact players for postseason-bound teams in Year 1.
That's exactly what Hyland accomplished as a member of the Nuggets. As the season progressed, he worked his way into the rotation, eventually becoming an integral part of it. By the Playoffs, Hyland was the player the Nuggets turned to when they needed a scoring threat.
He was also a popular pick within the organization to be named to an NBA All-Rookie Team. Head coach Michael Malone campaigned for Hyland several times towards the end of the season.
In his rookie season, Hyland showed that the sky is the limit for what he can be in the NBA. And as the team prepares for a potentially fully healthy roster in 2022-23, Hyland figures to be a major part of that equation.
Hyland's Season Timeline
As is often the case with non-lottery rookies, Hyland started the season closer to the end of the bench. In fact, he was a "DNP" in three of the Nuggets' first four games. However, whenever he got short stints of playing time, he managed to shine.
In his first 18 NBA minutes -- over two games -- he put up 13 total points of 5-for-9 shooting. His scoring abilities were well-documented at VCU, but he also had four assists, showing better court vision than many expected from him.
After those first two outings, he began getting increased opportunities. Over his next 11 performances, he played 17.7 minutes per game, but saw his shooting efficiency take a slight dive. Even still, there were flashes of potential that made it impossible for the Nuggets to relegate him back to the bench.
Over Hyland's first two months in the NBA, he had some impressive individual performances, reaching scoring figures of over 15 points in four of his first 18 games. But his first true breakout night came on Dec. 17 against the Atlanta Hawks.
In a blowout victory, Hyland amassed 24 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two blocks over 26 minutes played. With 8-of-11 shooting and 4-of-5 from three-point range, he announced his presence to the NBA world.
About one month later, Hyland had what would be his best night of the season. In the first game of his NBA career in which he played more than 30 minutes, the Nuggets rookie shined with 27 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and two steals in a 37-point win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The 27 points, 10 rebounds, and six made threes are all career highs up to this point.
From this night on, Hyland was officially a permanent part of the Nuggets rotation. He averaged 20.7 minutes per night, and shot nearly 40% from three for the remainder of the season. He reached double figures in scoring in 25 of his final 39 games in the regular season.
Not only that, Hyland hit double figures in three of the team's five postseason games. He had 15 points, four rebounds, and seven assists in the Nuggets' lone postseason win in Game 4 against the Golden State Warriors.
The fan favorite now has the offseason to work his craft and come back an even more complete player. For the Nuggets to build upon their success with a fully healthy roster, they'll need Hyland at his absolute best.
Facts and Figures
Hyland's rookie season could not be viewed as anything other than a massive success. In 69 games -- four starts -- Hyland averaged 10.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 19.0 minutes of play.
He shot 40.3% from the field, 36.6% from three, and 85.6% from the free throw line. His 14.4 Player Efficiency Rating was sixth on the Nuggets, and his Box Plus-Minus ranked fourth. The Nuggets were a plus-1.5 during Hyland's minutes this season.
Among rookies with at least 30 games played, Hyland ranked seventh in three-point percentage, 10th in net rating, and fourth in usage percentage. Hyland had the highest usage percentage of any rookie that made the postseason.