2021 Draft Watch: Nah'Shon "Bones" Hyland
2021 Draft Watch: Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland
Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland is a 6’3” Guard who just finished up his Freshman season at VCU. The Wilmington, Delaware native attended St. George’s State High School. Hyland was a 4-star recruit and a top 100 player in the 2019 high school class per 247. While he came off the bench for the majority of his Freshman year, he started VCU's final 7 games in place of the injured Marcus Evans.
High School Stats (Senior Year)
College Stats (Freshman Year)
(per Sports Reference)
*The vast majority clips used come from full game tapes (special thanks to “MistaChill” on Youtube). I used a few clips from a mixtape via “NextOnes.”
Hyland isn’t just a good shooter. He is an elite shooting prospect. In his Freshman year, he shot 43.4% from long range on 4.7 attempts per game. He also attempted 13.1 attempts per 100 possessions. This combination of volume and efficiency isn’t common.
Hyland’s touch, range, and versatility are all extremely impressive. He can get his shot off in so many ways. Hyland’s mechanics are consistent, and his release is lightning-quick.
These first few plays are nearly identical. He loves to use a subtle jab-step move to keep his defender guessing. Look at how far behind the college 3-point line he is.
Here, he sprints off a screen, sets his feet, and drills it.
Some intelligent after-pass relocation…
And…another one working off of a screen for good measure.
The three plays above highlight what makes special off-ball shooters special. Relocating without ball in hand and shooting off of motion are so important in today’s league.
Players like Landry Shamet and JJ Redick have mastered this art.
Hyland is still technically a “Point Guard,” so many of his three-point attempts come on-the-ball as well. Hyland uses his advanced handle and shiftiness to create space for himself.
Hyland can pull off this double step-back move from anywhere. He can be standing in the bleachers, and then comfortably step back to the parking lot.
He does a good job using ball screens to get his shot off. In this one, he comes off a DHO, gets the switch, and hits a step-back from the top of the key.
In transition, teams will need to watch out for his pull-up.
I could show even more clips, but I’m sure you’ve caught my drift by now. He can shoot the hell out of the ball.
While Free Throw percentage is usually a reputable indicator for three-point shooting projection, Hyland’s meager 66.7% clip from the line should simply be disregarded. He only attempted 24 shots from the foul line, and with that low of volume, his percentage from the charity stripe is noisy. In his senior year of high school, he shot 81% from the line on more meaningful volume (204 attempts).
Here’s a look at how his volume/efficiency numbers stack up with recent top shooting prospects.
(per Sports Reference)
Carsen Edwards, Isaiah Joe, and Trae Young all shot with ridiculous levels of volume and difficulty, thus causing the dips in their respective shooting percentages. Nesmith has excellent volume and bonkers efficiency, but it’s worth noting that he only played in 14 games this year. As for Hyland, he cracks the top half of this group in terms of attempts/100 while still maintaining strong efficiency.
Interestingly enough, Hyland attempted 145 shots from beyond the arc this year, and only 86 from 2-point range. He actually shot a higher percentage from three (43.4%) than he did from two (43%).
Hyland isn’t a guy who puts a lot of pressure on the hoop. He only took 55 shots at the rim this year, so it’s pretty clear that slashing is not his cup of tea.
Many of Hyland’s rim attempts come while utilizing ball-screens. Here he is able to get inside versus a dropping big and finish with his left hand. Unable to take off like a jet plane, he uses a simple hesitation move to get the lumbering big man out of his way. Notice how Hyland gives Jordan Chatman a little push off with his right arm to keep him on his hip.
Similar idea here, but this time he uses his left arm to keep his defender on his hip.Sometimes, he manipulates his defender by rejecting the screen.
While Hyland doesn’t have the quickest first step off the dribble, he uses his change-of-pace ability and handle to create separation while going downhill.
He misses a wide-open layup here, but Hyland’s shake is simply too overwhelming for his defender.
Hyland’s off-ball shooting helps him a great deal in terms of attacking closeouts. His insane shooting range forces defenders to closeout hard on him from all over the floor. While his first step off the dribble isn’t particularly impressive, I think his first step off the catch is pretty quick.
The problem with each of the above plays is that his finishes are uncontested. Hyland shot 54.5% at the rim this year. For context, that puts him somewhere between Nico Mannion and Kira Lewis Jr.
I wasn’t able to find an accurate wingspan measurement. It seems like he has a reputation as an outlier-length guard, but I think his skelaton-like arms make him look longer than he really is. Take this with a grain of salt, but I’d guess his wingspan is somewhere around 6’5” or 6’6”. In theory, this could allow him to pull off extension finishes to some degree, but I don’t think his length makes up for his thin frame and lack of vertical athleticism. To compensate for his lack of finishing tools, Hyland will need to become a more creative around the rim scorer next season.
While it’s possible for players to bulk up, it’s uncommon to see skinny Guards undergo full-body transformations. Maybe he can get to around 175 lbs., but he can’t change his body type.
Earlier, I brought up how he only has 24 free throws to his name. It’s rare to see a player who competed in 31 games only attempt 24 free throws in a season. He’s the anti-James Harden. His free throw rate of 0.104 is one of the lowest I have ever seen. He simply doesn't have the strength to draw contact.
Hyland’s in-between game leaves a lot to be desired as well. On non-rim attempts from inside the arc, he made just 7 of his 31 attempts. His mid-range pull-up game is practically non-existent. He’s much more comfortable stepping-back to the three-point line than he is pulling up from mid-range.
He’s able to stick this one, but it’s clearly an uncomfortable play for him.
Considering how little he offers in terms of inside finishing and pull-up mid-range shooting, an important shot for Hyland to have in his bag is this little floater. He has had trouble with front-rimming his floaters in the past, but his feathery touch leads me to believe that he has the ability to hit this shot at a higher rate going forward.
Now, I’ll shift over to Hyland’s passing ability. While his 1.8 assists per game don’t look great on paper, Hyland is certainly a better passer than the numbers suggest. He isn’t dynamic enough to create advantages for others all by himself, but he’s developed into an impressive playmaker out of the pick-and-roll.
Here he hits the roll man with a nice wrap-around pass.
Richmond hedges hard, and Hyland gets pushed all the way back to the logo. While many undersized guards would panic and pick up their dribble in this situation, Hyland doesn’t kill the play. He stays composed, and finds the roller with a righty bounce pass.
This is probably his best pass from this season.
He’s not perfect though. The Duquesne defender makes a play in the passing lane on this one. Hyland would have had the roll man open if he had thrown it to the other side of his body.
But all in all, his passing is genuinly impressive. He fakes the pull-up to get LSU defender Emmitt Williams off his feet. He then proceeds to hit the roll-man with a pocket-pass.
He's capable of dropping it off to the dunker spot.
He's capable of dropping it off to the dunker spot.
He had a hard time executing lob passes early on in the season. At times, he struggled to put the right amount of arc on these passes, which made for some ugly turnovers.
But as the season progressed, he was able to figure things out. This is another one of my favorites. Notice how Hyland swats his defender’s hands away. When the big comes up, he fakes the pocket pass and hits the roller for a wide-open lob.
NBA pick-and-roll ball-handlers master the weakside-corner skip pass. This isn’t a natural read for Hyland, but it’s still encouraging to see him make this play.
His gravity in transition opens up his fast-break passing. While neither defender actually stops the ball, both have their eyes glued to Hyland. This leads to any easy streaking lay-in.
VCU’s defense doesn’t look fun to play against. They love to throw traps at opposing offenses, and suffocate teams with full-court pressure from the opening tip. As a team, they rank 45th in the nation in KenPom’s Adjusted Defensive efficiency and rank 12th in turnovers forced per game. LSU’s lead ball-handlers, Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart, each had 7 turnovers against the Rams.
Hyland was nothing more than a cog in the wheel for VCU’s defense. He only ranked 7th on the team in Defensive BPM. But in all honesty, the fact that he didn’t pop is probably good thing. As a 165 lbs. Freshman guard, the goal is to not stand out in a bad way. Did he hold VCU back this year? I don't think so.
That’s the question that teams will have to ask themselves when analyzing Hyland as a prospect. Is he going to hold us back at all defensively? Let’s not kid ourselves here. It’s nearly impossible for a player with his build to be a positive impact defensive player. And as I discussed earlier, he can add weight, but his body type isn’t going to change.
It’s just so easy for him to get bumped out of place.
Obviously, Hyland is a limited defensive player, but he showed some things this year that lead me to believe he won’t be a major negative at the NBA level. Unlike the last play I showed, Hyland is able to fight through a double screen. He proceeds to stunt at the ball and pick up a steal.
There are some lapses. This isn’t exactly a textbook closeout.
Hyland gets a bit sidetracked here and lets his man go right to the hoop. This also seems like a miscommunication between Hyland and Vince Williams (#10 in headband).
There are instances where he gets caught flat-footed while defending on the perimeter.
But compared to other players his age, Hyland’s awareness isn’t all that bad. He usually rotates on time and does a good job keeping his head on a swivel. Nothing too flashy here, but Hyland does rotates on the perimeter and then has the wherewithal to stunt at the driver.
He’s far from a lock-down on-ball defender, but he can be pesky.
He gets through another screen, stays active off-ball, and makes a play in the passing lane.
Hyland’s 2.4 Steal Rate isn’t anything worth drooling over, but it’s a respectable mark for a Freshman. I’m a big believer in Hyland’s off-ball anticipation, and I expect that number to increase next season.
Here are the 10 Freshman between 6’2” and 6’4” in the last decade to shoot 140+ threes at a 35% or better clip while maintain a BPM of over 5 and greater than 55% true shooting. More bluntly, this is a list of Freshman guards who have matched Hyland’s shooting volume and efficiency while being clear-cut positive impact college players. (per BartTorvik)
This is a strong group of guys. While he is second to last on this list in BPM, he’s also 1st in 3-point rate and 3rd in 3-point percentage.
Going back to a name that popped earlier in this piece, here are Clippers Guard Landry Shamet’s stats per 40 minutes in his first full season at Wichita State compared to Nah’Shon Hyland’s this year.
Age (at beginning of season)
Free Throw Rate
Making 1-to-1 comparisons is a dangerous game, but in terms of both statistics and playstyle, Shamet and Hyland’s similarities can’t be ignored. Shamet was further along as a driver in college, but I might give Hyland the edge defensively. Shamet isn’t an NBA superstar, but he’s returning near lottery-value in a historically good 2018 Draft Class.
Hyland’s raw box score numbers from this year might not be that impressive, but they are bound to improve next season. VCU’s top two guards in De’Riante Jenkins and Marcus Evans have graduated, along with Isaac Vann and Mike’l Simms. That’s 4 of their top 6 highest scoring players. It can be reasonably assumed that Hyland’s role next year be significantly larger. He’ll have “the keys,” if you will.
Offensively, Hyland could become a major-impact player in the NBA. There's a reason why VCU scored 8.6 more points per 100 possesions with him on the floor. Given his versatility, range, volume, and efficiency, I think it’s safe to say that Nah'Shon Hyland is one of the best shooting prospects in recent memory. His passing IQ will help to keep him on the floor, and his handle is hard to teach.
Hyland’s defense could hold him back, especially if he ends up in the wrong environment. However, I think he’s a smart enough team defender that in the right situation, he’ll only be a slight negative on that end.
While he may not have the buzz that other more established college players possess, Hyland is currently my favorite returning player for next year. I would not be shocked if Nah'Shon Hyland winds up a late lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.