The Final Days of Josh Boone

Josh Boone never had the look of a budding superstar, but there was a period where he looked like an above average big man, that could spot start when needed and be productive enough to help the Nets off the bench.

But now, Boone looks to be spending his finals days in a Nets uniform at the back of the bench. He’s been connected to trade rumors for weeks now, and has been predicted by beat writers and others in the know as “the next Net to go,” but additionally, a chronic knee injury and the arrival of Kris Humphries from Dallas has rendered Boone pretty useless.

For the month of January, Boone is averaging 6.8 minutes, 1.2 rebounds, and .8 points per game. In his last three games, Boone has only played a total of 8 minutes, attempting zero field goals and collecting three rebounds (all of which were in one game).  And there’s no reason to expect an increase in any of these numbers going forward. Kiki Vandeweghe is clearly favoring the team’s new toy, Humphries over Boone and Hump hasn’t disappointed – averaging 15 points and 7.7 rebounds in his first three games with the team.

Meanwhile, despite getting the opportunity to start 22 games earlier this season while Yi Jianlian was on the shelf, Boone has still never shown any tangible progress from his semi-breakout 07-08 season, when he averaged 8.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 55 percent shooting.  Boone, who got a lot of his points that season on either putbacks, or off pick-and-roll plays, seemed to be a true benefactor of the Jason Kidd era in New Jersey, who was always seemed to be able to thread a pass to Boone, who to his credit, has very solid hands for a big man.

It all seemed to fall apart for Boone early last year, when an injury forced Brook Lopez into the starting lineup, a spot he would never relinquish. When Boone’s second chance at the starting lineup came in November and December, he did very little to distinguish himself, averaging about 5 points and 6 rebounds on 50 percent shooting in those two months.

From an advanced statistics point of view, Boone’s numbers continue their decline from two seasons ago – a troubling development for a player who’s supposed to be entering his prime. His current numbers for field goals (49.3 percent), free throws (29.3 percent), points per 40 minutes (9.2), True Shooting (47.6 percent) and Player Efficiency Rating (12.23) are at all career lows.  His turnover rate (12.3) is at all time high. While his rebounding rate is up this year (16.1), it’s still off his career high (16.6) from two seasons ago.

And while some of the beat guys were praising Boone’s defensive abilities earlier this year, there’s little to suggest he was an asset there either.  While he was on the floor, opposing PFs had a PER of 20.3, averaging  21.5 points, 12 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per 48 minutes, according to 82games. As for his off court/on court numbers, the Nets defense allowed 112 points per 100 possessions with Boone on the floor and 110.1 points when he was off the floor.

When I look at this numbers and wonder why Boone is moving in the opposite direction of where he should be at this stage of the career, I always come back to statements like these:  “As noted above, his free throw shooting is a major liability, and he hasn’t put forth the effort to improve. That’s a common complaint in general about Boone — he seems more dedicated to being a great video gamer than a great basketball player,” wrote ESPN’s John Hollinger in his preseason look at Boone.  Then in his Draft Express profile in 2006 there’s this:

The most concerning thing about Boone has to be his mental approach to the game. Watching him play, following him throughout his career, and speaking to people that have been around him over that time, there are major question marks about just how much he enjoys playing basketball. He shows very little passion and enthusiasm out on the court—displaying especially concerning body language—and you have to wonder just how hard he is going to want to improve over the next few years, as some question whether he is lazy.

Is it unfair to base my opinion on Boone on statements like these? Maybe, but for a team that is accused daily of lacking passion and energy, players with Boone’s reputation probably should be moved to the back of the bench and/or to another team.