Our last scouting report for the new Clippers is on spunky second-year guard Bones Hyland.
Weight: 173 pounds
Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Years in NBA: 2
2023 Stats: 12.1 points, 2.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 0.7 steals in 19.5 minutes per game on 39.9% shooting (42.5% on twos), 37.8% from three (5.7 attempts), and 86.6% from the line (2.0 attempts).
Shooting: The highest volume three-point shooter on the Clippers, Paul George, takes 11.1 per 100 possessions. This season, Bones Hyland has taken 14.3 per 100 possessions – more than 5 more than Norman Powell, Marcus Morris, Luke Kennard, or any non-PG Clippers player. Considering that volume, a 37.8% average is extremely good, and shows just how capable of a shooter Bones is. That’s not all. In the Eric Gordon write-up, I mentioned that only 75% of Gordon’s threes are assisted, much lower than Kennard or Reggie Jackson. Well, only 54.9% of Bones’ threes are assisted, so he creates nearly half of his looks by himself. Bones’ possession of four critical three-point capacities – volume, efficiency, creation, and depth (he can knock them down from 30 feet regularly) – is extraordinarily rare, even more so for a young player. That sort of shooting opens up the offense for both Bones and everyone else on the court. His shooting is special.
Passing: Even though his raw assist numbers don’t look great, Bones’ 21.7 Assist percentage would be 4th on the Clippers behind just John Wall, Jason Preston, and Paul George. The eye test backs this up. Bones can run a pick and roll, he will make the extra pass despite his own scoring capabilities, and he has real flair for getting guys open looks. The raw ability as a passer and playmaker is there, which raises his play well beyond just “gunner”. To put a common phrase that’s been all the discussion in Clippers’ circles of late – there is a “true point guard” in Bones Hyland, even with his score-first attitude.
Exuberance: There’s something to be said for the ability to ignite home crowds and silence opposing ones. Not all players have it – in fact, most do not. Bones Hyland does. He became a fan favorite very early in his rookie season, partially for his dazzling play, but also because he just has an innate aptitude to connect with the crowd and build momentum. It’s something the Clippers have really been lacking the past couple years since the departures of Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley, and it’s something Bones Hyland could help bring to the table. More than anything, the Clippers have played with a distinct lack of joy this year – and that’s something Bones can rectify.
Defense: Every single advanced metric paints Bones Hyland as one of the worst defenders in the NBA, and the eye test backs it up. On-ball, his scrawny frame means that he gets obliterated by every screen, and that most players can push right by him. Off-ball, while the effort is usually willing, Hyland is simply not great at rotations and understanding where to be. The result is a player whose teams bleed points when he’s on the floor far too often. Bones can still improve there, but he’s a long, long, long way from being even competent on that end. That means if he’s not providing a lot on offense, he’s going to be a net negative more often than not.
Decision-Making: While Bones has great talent on offense and can make excellent plays as a scorer and passer, he frequently tries to do too much or makes the flashy play instead of the simple one. This can lead to bad turnovers and poor shots – the opposite of the momentum gaining plays mentioned above. Sometimes Bones will pull up for a 26 footer early in the clock when the game situation just doesn’t call for it. The crazy thing is, he can make that shot a good amount of the time! But when he misses, more often, those kinds of shots are deflating and can lead to fastbreaks the other way. If he’s just wiser about shot selection and learns how to run an offense a bit more, he can go from “bench gunner” to “starting-level guard”, even with the defensive woes.
On one hand, the Clippers could really use Bones’ verve, shooting, and ability to create open looks for himself and others. On the other hand, they’re a team hoping to win a championship, and it’s tough to play someone who’s currently as unreliable (and just so bad defensively) as Bones. The more pressing matter for Bones’ fit is just who else is on the team. There are nine players who seem clearly ahead of him in the rotation, and Ty Lue has mostly gone with a nine-man rotation this year. Maybe he widens it to give Bones a shot and to keep the veterans rested down the stretch, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Long-term, however, Bones is a great fit. As has been noted many times of late, the Clippers don’t have a “real” point guard in their rotation. The only other classical point guard on the roster is fellow second-year guard Jason Preston who has, to be frank, not shown nearly as much as Bones. Even if the Clippers have a very good postseason, it seems likely there will be lots of down roster change this offseason due to age, and Bones is a prime candidate for a larger role going forward. His shooting, ballhandling, and creation honestly makes him an excellent fit next to Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, and I think at some point, the Clippers will want to give him a true shot at big minutes.