The Denver Nuggets drafted power forward Tyler Lydon out of Syracuse with the 24th pick. Here’s a breakdown of his strengths, weaknesses and future as an NBA player.
As the NBA season approaches we’re going to be doing some Denver Nuggets player breakdowns to get you ready for tip-off. Our first breakdown is on one of the newest Nuggets: Tyler Lydon.
Lydon was the 24th pick in this years draft after the Nuggets traded back with the Utah Jazz. The trade landed the Nuggets Lydon and Trey Lyles, while the Jazz used the 13th pick to select Donovan Mitchell.
After watching summer league you may be asking why the Nuggets traded back instead of drafting Mitchell. It’s likely because the Nuggets have a log jam at both guard positions, and guys they are super high on, like Murray and Harris. That might have been enough to steer the front office in another direction at the time.
But then you realize the team also has a log jam at the power forward position, which is where Lydon plays—as well as Trey Lyles. So they passed on Mitchell for a chance to trade for a power forward and draft another one. That has left some fans confused and disappointed, and it puts Lydon in a tough spot. He will likely draw direct comparisons to Mitchell all season long.
Here’s our breakdown on what to expect from the young rookie and what his playing time might look like in this upcoming season.
Lydon played some high level basketball in the ACC. Coming from Syracuse and being coached by a great college basketball coach in Jim Boeheim should help prepare him for the next level. He’s a 6’10” 225 forward who can play either the small forward or power forward position. That versatility could be important as there is a logjam on the Nuggets roster at power forward, but the team is badly in need of depth at the small forward spot.
One of the better facets of Lydon’s game is his ability to knock down shots—especially the three-pointer. In two seasons at Syracuse he shot almost 40% from beyond the arc and made 98 three-pointers in his college career.
Those numbers aren’t staggering, but he’s a bigger guy with some touch from deep. If his shooting makes the jump to the next level with him, then he’s the kind of player every NBA team can find a use for.
He is also a fairly good rebounder as his tall frame and good reach allows him to bring down boards. Lydon averaged over two more rebounds per game during his sophomore season (8.6) than he did during his freshman season (6.3). The Nuggets hope he develops into a knockdown shooter but his size and surprising athleticism could help him turn into a decent rebounder in the NBA.
Lydon was second in minutes per game in the ACC last season with an average of 36.1. There’s only 40 minutes of regulation in a college basketball game so Lydon was getting a fair amount of burn out there, a positive sign for his conditioning and endurance.
He also had a knack for finding the ball on offense in College, and he was an effective scorer in the paint. He even had a few spectacular dunks during his college career. This one came against Florida State last season:
This video shows all the facets of Tyler Lydon’s game that should make Nuggets fans excited about the young rookie:
Slowing the game down: Lydon didn’t play well for the Nuggets in summer league after averaging just 2.4 points per game in five games. He certainly got his chances to perform as he averaged 24 minutes per game. But he shot an unimpressive 13% from three-point territory during the tourney. Watching Lydon during summer league, it seemed that the game was going too fast for him and that he never got comfortable.
All of his jump shots looked rushed and he never seemed to get in a rhythm on the offensive end of the court. We know this guy shot the ball and ran the court at a high level in college, but those skills don’t always translate to the next level. He looked shook.
Playing at altitude isn’t going to do Lydon any favors. As far as his body goes, Lydon will need to get leander and stronger if he wants to compete with NBA players on both ends of the court. During draft season nbadraft.net did a review of the combine and Lydon’s part of the review was very interesting:
“For an NBA stretch 4, Tyler Lydon really measured out well in terms of length. With a 7’ wingspan, and an 8’11.5’’ standing reach, Lydon has legit size. The downside is that he’s just 215 pounds, and still 13.6% body fat. His stroke is pure, but his conditioning needs work before he hits an NBA court.”
The body fat percentage is certainly a concern and is something I’m sure Nuggets strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess already has a plan to work on.
Another concern for Lydon is his defensive recognition and ability to guard other stretch fours. Syracuse is famous for their 2-3 zone defense and very rarely will they play man-to-man. This will obviously require a significant adjustment from Lydon.
The 2-3 helped Lydon record all of the blocks he had in college, but hampered his development as a man-to-man defender.
Here’s a look at all of his perceived weaknesses as a prospect, per Draft Express:
It’s tough to see Lydon getting many minutes with the Nuggets this upcoming season. By drafting Lydon after trading for Lyles, the Nuggets created a massive log jam at the four.
Lydon has Paul Millsap, Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, and Trey Lyles in front of him at the power forward position as of now. Lydon could also play the three but has Wilson Chandler and Junahco Hernangomez (who will also play the four) in front of him. Plus, Lydon may have even more problems on defense trying to stay in front of NBA wings.
With the new two-way contracts in the NBA it’ll be interesting to see how the Nuggets handle Lydon. Perhaps he’ll be sent down numerous times to play in the G-League throughout the season. The Nuggets are one of four NBA teams without a G-League affiliate so they will have to use the flex assignment rule, which is basically just sending a player down to another G-league team that has an open roster spot.
Lydon might turn out to be a solid pick, but we won’t see that right away. He will likely have a tough and lengthy transition into the NBA.
Best case scenario? Lydon turns into a guy that provides a similar value and skill set to to that of Juan Hernangomez. A stretch four with the ability to handle some minutes at the three. Finding production from deep out of your power forwards is huge. But it’s especially beneficial with a big man like Nikola Jokic to pair them with.
Worst case scenario? The shooting never translates, the man defense is a real challenge, and Lydon provides little to no value to the Nuggets over time.
Lydon’s development will be a slow project, but he’s a player worth keeping an eye on.