Nah'Shon "Bones" Hyland was one of the most electrifying players to watch last season. He was awarded A-10 Player of the Year and led his conference in scoring. Standing 6'3" and only 169 pounds, Bones and his VCU Rams were unfortunately disqualified from the NCAA tournament due to a positive COVID test before their first round matchup against Oregon. He made tremendous improvements from his freshman season, and after an impressive showing at the Draft Combine, the Wilmington, DE product is gaining more and more first round buzz.
You can't start a discussion about Bones Hyland unless you start with his shooting ability. Aside from Gonzaga's Corey Kispert, I think he is the best shooter in this draft. And what separates him from Kispert is his ability to do it in all dimensions. He relies on perimeter scoring heavily, as over half of his shots come from deep. He has ridiculous range that extends well past the NBA line, and shots from 30+ feet out were made routine from both off the catch and off the bounce. The percentage doesn't look like a supposed flamethrower's would, but his team relied on him for a huge portion of their offense. On an NBA team with far less pressure to carry the load offensively, with more of an emphasis on good team offense and smart shots, that percentage should climb a lot closer to 40.
Hyland's shot creation repertoire is so polished for someone his age, with a multitude of different step-backs and side steps in his bag. And because the defense has to be aware of his shooting prowess and deep range, he was able to impose himself as a driver, and was great at using hesitations to catch his man between guarding the shot and the blow-by. He is a strong pick-and-roll scorer, changing pace beautifully to get the shot he wants. Because he isn't very physically imposing and doesn't play above the rim, finishing at and around the basket he was good, but not great (55.4%). He's got good touch and a solid floater game already, but being able to go up strong and seek out contact will go a long way for him being a true three-level scoring threat. The shot selection was a little shaky, but it comes with the natural scoring talent.
At the Draft Combine, he measured in at a legitimate 6'3.5" with a 6'9.25" wingspan, which showed teams that there is a lot to be excited about with Bones on the defensive side of the floor. He nearly nabbed 2 steals a game, and with his length and anticipation, he certainly should translate as a potent help defender looking to jump passing lanes. But he has a lot of work to do as an on-ball defender, especially in terms of technique. Admittedly, a lot of his issues on this end have to do with a lack of muscle mass, and as he puts on some pounds, some of these issues will solve themselves. But right now, he is a poor pick and roll defender, often getting wiped away by the screen. When the offensive player drives right into his body, he can't provide much resistance. The length is still enough to bother shots, and he has the tools to be a good guard defender down the road.
As of right now, Hyland is not an offensive initiator, another reason why an official 6'3.5" measurement makes it easier to project him as an off guard for the time being. It's not even that he made poor decisions with the ball, he just has severe tunnel vision on his drives, missing way too many routine kick outs or dump offs. You might be able to chalk some of that up to a VCU program that isn't stocked with talent, or having a shaky shot selection. Of course, he had his moments. But he registered more turnovers than he did assists by a comfortable margin. His NBA future more than likely wouldn't be as a point guard. Being able to develop into an initiator, even if it is just for small spurts, will raise his ceiling that much more.
The likelihood of Bones Hyland becoming a first round draft pick get higher and higher by the day. His maturity and poise radiate off of him, especially for someone who survived what he did. He was slated to be a mid-second round pick just a month or so ago, and is now looking like he could sneak into the end of the first round. The biggest detractors to his game are very easy to improve upon. Having a 20-year-old pack on some more muscle mass? Very much in his own control. As of this instant, the Sixers need someone who has a knack for scoring from the perimeter, and Hyland absolutely fits that bill. I think there would be a couple players of higher draft ranking available at #28, but if Daryl Morey & company love the fit and are enamored with what he brings to the team dynamic, I'd absolutely be on board with it.
Until the Ben Simmons situation comes to a solution one way or another, it will be difficult to see what they should do with their first round pick this season - if they even keep it at all. The guard rotation at this moment is actually quite full. Simmons and Seth Curry started last season, but you still have Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, George Hill, and Isaiah Joe under contract next season. And that's not including free agents to be Danny Green and Furkan Korkmaz, both of which the Sixers hold their bird rights (meaning they can go over the salary cap to re-sign them if they please). Of course, depending on who is being acquired in the presumed Simmons trade, some of those names may not still be here.
If Bones were to be drafted by his hometown team, he would almost certainly become a rotation player, but to what extent? Hypothetical (but realistic) scenario: The Sixers trade a package centered around Ben Simmons to Portland for Damian Lillard, and lose a good deal of their guard depth. Obviously, Lillard is a ridiculously talented offensive force, so in this case, I think they'd prioritize a different skillset or position, like defense. If they go a different route altogether (Pacers package around Malcolm Brogdon rumored recently), they still might be in the market for another scoring threat. But in this scenario, they maintain a lot more of their depth, so would he get significant playing time over guys like Maxey, Milton or Hill? If they decide to hold off on trading Simmons until the bid increases, Hyland is an obvious choice to aid Joel Embiid and give the offense an injection of scoring.
NBA comparison: Malik Monk. Electrifying shooter and scorer with a lot of uncertainty elsewhere. After a disastrous first three seasons in the league, the former lottery selection finally found his footing and put together a very impressive two-month stretch in Charlotte (15.3 pts/g on 46/42/83 shooting splits) before he was sidelined for a month due to injury. Bones definitely has a higher ceiling than Monk based on his defensive potential and the possibility of playing himself into an initiator role in time. He should have a place in an NBA rotation from day one with a reserve lineup looking for half court scoring options (hmmm....).