Every season there is a sleeper among the rookie class. I've picked up the habit of trying to identify these sleepers. In past seasons I have written about Tyler Herro and Tyrese Haliburton. Today I'm writing about Na'Shon Hyland; the 26th pick in the 2021 NBA draft. He's more commonly known as Bones Hyland and he has been quietly proving that he will remain a valuable player in the league for years to come.
One thing that will always ring true is, that if you're good enough they will find you. Bones Hyland is proof of this fact. He's not even supposed to be here. At 6'2 and 169 pounds, Bones is already at a disadvantage physically. Add the tragedy and hardships he had to face and you have one of the more inspiring stories of perseverance.
Before being an NBA player, Bones and his family suffered a tragic fire in 2019 that would change his life. Bones narrowly escaped the fire by jumping from a second-story window but lost his grandmother and 11-month old baby cousin to the fire. That jump from the second-story window caused Bones to tear his patellar tendon. Doctors say he will never play basketball again. Three years later, Bones is doing more than just playing basketball, he's providing for himself and his family with the game of basketball. Resilience is an understatement.
Today he dons a Denver Nuggets jersey playing alongside the likes of Nikola Jokic. In his first season Bones has put up averages of 10 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds while playing 20 minutes a game. While the stats don't immediately jump out at you, the potential is there. Bones is only 21 years old and has plenty of time to grow his game and improve. His silky smooth jump shot makes it that he will always be able to carve out a role for himself no matter when or where he plays.
Denver is the perfect place for a player like Hyland. The Nuggets up until this point, have proven to be one of the franchises that know how to nurture young talent while giving them the experience of wining basketball and playoff contention. Look at Jokic who was a second-round pick, or Jamal Murray who was one of the league's electrifying players prior to his injury. If the past is any precursor of what the future brings, then Hyland should follow that same path.
This praise is justified, Bones has shown glimpses of what is to be throughout the season. Most recently he put up 23 points against the Phoenix Suns (arguably the best team this season) on 53% shooting from the field and 50% from three on eight attempts. Another glimpse came two months ago when Bones gave the Lakers 27 points and hit six threes in a win, or two weeks ago when he scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers to come out with the win.
The potential to be great in this league is there. Bones himself has said he wants to go down as one of the greats, that mentality can carry him far. As the Nuggets gear up to enter the post-season Bones might prove to be an x-factor for them. As time goes on and his experience increases I can see him turning these glimpses into the norm. Everything about his spirit and mentality makes it hard not to believe so.
If Bones had listened to those doctors he wouldn't be in the league. If he let his lack of size and strength dictate how far he went with basketball, he wouldn't be doing what he's currently doing. Hard to root against this guy after everything he has been through. Bizzy Bones is a hooper, and we will continue to watch him hoop for years to come.