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How Bones Hyland’s “growth” has changed the equation for Nuggets

MILWAUKEE – Bones Hyland didn’t need the ball to dance Sunday night.

As Hyland watched the Nuggets punish the defending champion Bucks with selfless ball-movement, uncanny 3-point shooting and a fifth consecutive win, the jovial rookie two-stepped to himself on Denver’s sideline.

It could’ve been for any one of the 23 3-pointers the Nuggets cashed in their 136-100 rout of the Bucks. Hyland did his bop more than once. It was the same joy Hyland exuded before the game when he polished off a set of push-ups and then flexed for anyone who was watching.

“I feel as though sometimes players forget to have fun with the game,” he told The Post after dropping 13 points, dishing six assists and draining three 3-pointers of his own.

It feels safe in saying no one has ever accused Hyland of such a claim.

Most importantly, Hyland commanded Denver’s second unit to the tune of 59 points in the win. It was the same story as the second half of Friday night’s win in New Orleans, when Hyland guided the Nuggets’ bench to 30 points.

“He’s being vocal, he’s getting them organized,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I’ve just seen so much growth from Bones Hyland recently.”

Whether it’s his quick-twitch breakdown ability, his fearlessness or his playmaking, Hyland adds another dimension to the Nuggets’ inconsistent second unit. There’s an energy with the ball in his hands, a teeming possibility that a crossover could be close or a 25-foot 3-pointer might be launched.

“With the rock in my hands, I always feel as though we’re good,” he said.

What’s the difference?

“Just (Malone) just trusting in me more,” Hyland said, acknowledging he’s most comfortable as a point guard.

But trust is a two-way street. As Malone cedes a bit more control to Hyland, the expectation is that the rookie will continue to play selfless basketball and use his 6-foot-10 wingspan to disrupt passing lanes. In other words, no one questions whether Hyland can score the basketball. Malone has challenged him to play team basketball. If Hyland holds the answer to Denver’s much-maligned second unit, perhaps the Nuggets’ biggest vulnerability might be solved.

“I’m proud of Bones,” Malone said. “Going out there, playing with great pace, making plays for his teammates, taking the open shot, guarding, competing, and that’s what you want to see from a young player like that who’s got so much potential in front of him.”

At least for now, Malone has entrusted him with the keys to the second unit. He’s shown significant chemistry with both Zeke Nnaji and JaMychal Green, building on the big men’s ability to stretch the floor. He found Green three times for assists, including a slick left-handed seed that Green dunked with authority. Pairing him with shooters Bryn Forbes and Austin Rivers only makes Hyland more dangerous, since defenders are less likely to help away from the ball.

The maturation is happening in real-time.

“He’s thinking a little bit different,” said Nikola Jokic, lauding the rookie’s willingness to make the extra pass.

Jokic isn’t quick to compliment rookies. It takes time and investment before the franchise centerpiece is willing to throw his weight behind a player. But Bones is starting to earn that trust, not just of his coach but of his teammates as well.

“He’s trying to learn the game,” Jokic said. “I think it’s great.”