From the get-go, things have been a bit off for the Denver Nuggets this year. At 1-3 on the season, the the team has struggled with multiple issues which has prevented them from hitting their stride. The Nuggets prolific offense has sputtered, managing to score 100+ points in just one game so far this season while the defense continues to be a work in progress.
With everything that’s happened, the Nuggets are looking for a spark to help kick things into gear, and they may have one on the roster in Trey Lyles.
Acquired in a draft night trade with the Utah Jazz, Lyles fits the mold of the modern NBA and the style in which the Nuggets play.
At 6′ 10″, 234 lbs Lyles is built for the NBA’s up-tempo style with his ability to stretch the floor and be multi-dimensional. That combination means he has the potential to develop into a solid all-around role player for the Nuggets
Lyles averaged 6.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game while shooting 44% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc in his rookie season. However, after a solid rookie campaign, Lyles relapsed in his sophomore season as his field goal percentage dipped to 36% and was out of the rotation as Utah added veteran forward Boris Diaw for their playoff push.
The Nuggets were excited to trade for Lyles, as they considered selecting him back in the 2015 draft. Now a member of the team, Lyles has only played nine minutes total on the season for the Nuggets; a bewildering thought considering how profoundly they valued him.
“We had him in the top 10 two years ago,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said on draft night via The Denver Post. “He had an excellent rookie year. Last year he wasn’t able to build off that success — in a diminished role to some degree — but I think he can play both front court positions. He’s only 21, the same age as many of the guys who went (in the draft). He’s big enough to play the five. He’s a high IQ guy, can make shots. He’s able to move the ball and play the way we like to play.”
One would think Lyles would be able to find minutes based off of his upside; however, veteran forward Kenneth Faried stands in his way for backup minutes at power forward. Nevertheless, the lack of usage is confusing especially with Denver’s recent struggles on both sides of the ball.
Lyles suffered from not playing his sophomore year, and his junior season has started off similarly which may result in more of the same.
At 21-years-old, Lyles has plenty of upside and the potential to help iron out the issues that have plagued the Nuggets early in this season – if given a chance.
The Nuggets brought Lyles in for a reason, and it’s sure not so he could sit on the bench. It’s early, but the Nuggets need to inject Lyles into their game plan to give him the chance to blossom into a key contributor.
With Juancho Hernangomez out for the foreseeable future with mononucleosis, some playing time may be freed up at the small forward position. Lyles needs to find the floor consistently to progress his game further rather than have his talents wasted on the bench.