Our exit interview series on the 2024 Clippers continues with Bones Hyland, the team’s third-string point guard.

Basic Information

Height: 6’2

Weight: 175 pounds

Position: Point Guard

Age: 23

Years in NBA: 3

Key Regular Season Stats: 6.9 points, 2.5 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 0.7 steals, and 1.2 turnovers in 14.6 minutes per game across 37 games played (5 starts) on 38.6/32.6/78.3 (3.6 3PA, 0.6 FTA) shooting splits (49 True Shooting)

Postseason Stats: 3.7 points, 0.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in four minutes per game across three games played on 42.9/20/100 shooting (3/7, 1/5, 4/4)

Expectations

Coming into the season, Bones Hyland had a clear role as the backup point guard behind Russell Westbrook. While there was a faction of fans that wanted Bones to start due to his youth, upside, and shooting, that was never going to happen. Still, with Russ being old and inconsistent, it was reasonable to assume that Bones would have a real impact on the Clippers, even with an iffy fit alongside Norm Powell on the bench. For play, the hope was for Bones to provide shooting, playmaking, and energy, while hopefully improving his decision-making and defense.

Reality

Unfortunately for Bones, the Harden trade disrupted that vision. Bones played great the first four games before the trade, but his play dipped significantly the four games after, when he was getting a blend of back-of-rotation and garbage time minutes. From that point, November 10, Bones would play in only a handful of garbage time performances until March 1, when he re-entered the rotation when Russ got injured.

That time period was mostly a good one for the Clippers, containing as it did their now infamous 26-5 stretch in the middle of the season, but it was a bad one for Bones. The Clippers garbage time unit was absolutely abysmal, nearly blowing several massive leads with bad turnovers, sloppy offense, and lackadaisical defense. And Bones, if not the cause of the issues, was also not the solution, lacking the control and command to keep the third string organized. There were also rumblings of dissatisfaction with Bones’ work in staying ready, culminating with him getting sent back to Los Angeles along with PJ Tucker in the last game before the All Star Break.

When Russ was out after the All Star Break, Bones got his chance, playing steady-ish minutes as the backup to James Harden. He mostly played well, even though the Clippers went 4-3 over that stretch and did not play great as a team. Then, on March 14, James Harden was ruled out as well, and Bones got to start alongside PG and Kawhi against the Bulls. He put together one of the best guard performances by a Clipper all year, scoring 17 points on 9 shots, dishing 11 assists to 1 turnover, and adding 5 rebounds and 4 steals. It was a virtuoso performance that showed all of Bones’ upside in one game.

Sadly, things got ugly after that. The following game Bones started again, and was pretty bad in a loss to the Pelicans. The game after that, he was abysmal in a rout at the hands of the Hawks, tossing away 5 turnovers in 11 minutes and going 0-4 from the field, with awful body language and sulking to boot. Brandon Boston Jr., of all people, played over him the next game or two until Russ retuned, and Bones departed the rotation for most of the rest of the season. He only played again for real when the Clippers rested key players at the end of the season, and had a monster 37 point, 9 assist game against the Suns before a lesser outing against the Jazz and then a DNP-CD to close the year.

Bones’ season-long numbers look quite bad, especially his efficiency. This was definitely a step back for him. However, if you remove the games where he played less than 10 minutes (or roughly his garbage time stats), his field goal percentage jumps from 38.6% to 41.6%, and his three-point shooting goes from 32.6 to 34.5%. Not great, certainly, but a lot better, and a sign both of the small sample size of his season and Bones’ effectiveness in a larger role. In fact, if you look at only the 12 games Bones played 20 or more minutes, his shooting goes all the way up to 45.3/38.3.

Thus, it’s hard to make much of Bones’ season. His poor attitude is inexcusable (though his teammates seem to like hm and he was cheerful enough on the bench most of the time) and a real issue for him. But in terms of judging his talent and what he can actually offer the Clippers, we learned next to nothing this year. And that’s a shame.

Future with Clippers

Bones has one more year left on his rookie-scale deal, for just over $4.1M. What happens to Bones probably largely depends on the Clippers’ larger offseason moves. If James Harden and Russell Westbrook both return, the Clippers probably won’t want to keep Bones as the 3rd string PG – it’s not really doing either party any favors. If one of those guys leaves, Bones’ chances of being on the roster next season will go up a significant margin.

Even though I think the Clippers should keep Bones – he has by far the most talent and upside of any of their young guys – I have a gut feeling he will be moved this summer. The combination of guys ahead of him and the attitude issues will, I think, have the Clippers looking elsewhere for a reserve point guard this summer.

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