Trey Lyles moment to play well and begin to etch his name into the Nuggets coaching staff’s mind in any future rotation changes came on Saturday night in the second half against Golden State.
And this is what he put on the court in 15 minutes of playing time: 11 points, three rebounds and two blocked shots. He shot 4-of-7 from the field and made all three of his free throws.
“I felt good,” Lyles said. “I just continue to put in the work, so that when I get in the game in a situation like that I’m ready to play. I think it showed, especially that night. I’m just staying confident. I know I’m not getting the minutes I want right now, but I continue to work and continue to put the time in, and it’s going to come full circle. I’m going to get my chance, and I’m going to do everything I’m capable of.”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone has noticed his patience in this situation – though Lyles says he’s normally an impatient person — and his professionalism. It is one of the reasons he knew that when he got the chance he definitely wanted to get Lyles on the court.
“I just wanted to see what Trey could do out there,” Malone said. “He’s more than deserving of minutes because he’s been working so hard and has such a great attitude.”
Lyles did a lot.
On a pick-and-roll, he popped out to the corner after setting the screen for Emmanuel Mudiay and then attacked the closeout. He hit the defender with a quick head fake at the 3-point line, took a couple of quick power dribbles down to the block, then turned his back to create space and hit a short turnaround jumper.
With time running down in the third quarter, Lyles received a pass from Mudiay in the corner and immediately attacked the basket, driving in for what became a one-handed floater over the defender.
Working well with Mudiay, Lyles scored another on a slip screen at the top of the key and dive to the basket.
They were scorers scores. Lyles profiles as a player who has the ability to put up big numbers with significant minutes. In a small sample size, he’s averaging a healthy 1.11 points per possession, per Synergy. And take a minute to soak in these next numbers; per 36 minutes, Lyles averages are 20.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. Again, a small sample size to get there, but clearly displaying a player that can be very productive.
Overall, Lyles has averaged 3.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in six games. Malone says he’ll carve out more time for Lyles when he can.
“It’s very difficult, knowing that you’re an impatient person and knowing that you’re somebody who can help the team win the game, but not having an opportunity to play because of a logjam at your position,” Lyles said. “It’s frustrating but I’m still on this team, I’m still a teammate to all of these guys. So, I have to stay professional, I have to stay ready, I have to stay a good teammate. So that’s something I take pride in doing.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.