It seems like the Denver Nuggets may have drafted a special talent in Bones Hyland.
The 26th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft found his rhythm in Denver’s fourth game at Las Vegas Summer League against the Dallas Mavericks. After going winless in the first three games, the Nuggets gave Hyland more freedom with the ball in his hands as a scorer and creator in the fourth game, and the Nuggets won 89-85 in overtime as a result.
Bones dropped 28 points, four assists, and six rebounds on 9-of-17 from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point range. His ability to create offense for himself and others was on full display on Saturday afternoon. Hyland used his deep range to hit several three-pointers, and on several occasions, he leveraged that ability to get all the way to the rim and create easy shots for himself and his teammates, including in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.
Though it took Bones (and the Nuggets) awhile to get going in the first half, shots started dropping for player and team in the second half. It was getting to the point where the Mavericks were trapping Bones at half court, the ultimate sign of respect in a Summer League setting. Bones handled the pressure well, playing with a smoothness and tempo that controlled the pace of the game for the second half and the brief overtime window, a great sign that the Nuggets have a player who thinks and understands the game well.
Among the rest of the roster, Bol Bol and Davon Reed were given the day off. In their place, Zeke Nnaji and Zylan Cheatham stepped up and helped improve Denver’s team defense. Nnaji’s overall offensive game was subpar (though he did have a clutch three-pointer in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter) but the defense was strong from Nnaji, who switched and communicated at a high level, things he will need to do to earn playing time at the next level. Cheatham also put together a solid performance by hitting the glass hard (18 rebounds) while also scoring relatively efficiently with 15 points of his own.
Caleb Agada stepped up nicely with 13 points and five steals off the bench while leading the team with a +17 plus-minus. Jason Burnell made his debut with the roster after missing the initial games due to health and safety protocols, scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds off the bench.
Overall, it was a good day for the Nuggets, who got their first win and saw this year’s first round pick acquit himself well. Bones was clearly the best player on the floor for either team and played with a comfort level of a veteran rather than a rookie in his third Summer League game. Few rookies can say they topped Hyland’s 28-point performance today, and the Nuggets should certainly be pleased with how the game went.
We will see if Bones will continue to play going forward or if he’s done after showing what he needed to show the coaching staff. I suspect that he and Nnaji will probably get the next game off, but we will see. These games are clearly more fun and entertaining when Bones Hyland has the ball, and fans are going to fall in love with his game at the next level too.