Last time we checked in on Kenny Boynton during our 2010 preseason coverage, we mentioned how important his ability to play efficient offensive basketball on a consistent basis would be to his NBA stock down the road. So far this year, Boynton appears to have heeded that call, putting up big numbers with the type of efficiency scouts have been looking for from the highly touted guard since his freshman year.
Boynton's improved offensive efficiency is significant for his draft stock considering his physical limitations. Standing 6'2 with an average wingspan, Boynton is a natural scorer who can be an effective secondary distributor, but is ultimately an undersized shooting guard because of his shoot-first mentality and lack of dynamic playmaking ability. While he is a solid athlete with a mature frame and good first step, the Florida native is not a prolific slasher and lacks great upside defensively due to his lack of size. Taking those things into consideration, Boynton's ability to make the most of his touches offensively from the perimeter has been absolutely crucial for his professional evaluation.
After shooting 37.6% from the field as a freshman and 38.5% as a sophomore, Boynton seemed to be falling into a niche as an inefficient high-volume shooter. Considering that 60% of Boynton's total shots as a college player have come from beyond the arc, it isn't difficult to see how Boynton's reputation as a gunner was playing against him as his solid scoring output was fueled by inefficient play.
This season has been a very positive one for the young guard. Though he's playing fewer minutes and not taking too many more shots than he did earlier in his career with the arrival of Mike Rosario and Bradley Beal, Boynton is scoring at a significantly higher rate, upping his points per-40 minutes pace adjusted from a solid 17.2 as a sophomore to a blistering 23.6 through 13 games. Perhaps more impressive than his sheer productivity has been his reliability from the perimeter he's connecting on 44% of his 3-point attempts.
The most intriguing aspect of Boynton's hot start from the perimeter has been the nature of the shots he's attempting, as he's proven to be more than just a set-shooter. Though he's still making his fair share of spot-up jump shots with his feet set, he's attempting even more shots off the dribble this season, especially when operating on the pick and roll. Whereas last year Boynton converted just 33% of his off the dribble attempts, this year they are falling 42% of the time.
Where he used to appear rushed with a hand in his face early in his career, Boynton has shot the ball with terrific rhythm so far this season regardless of the situation, and is making more three-pointers per-40 minutes than any player in the NCAA. Whether he's making a deep jumper late in the shot clock or elevating quickly dribbling off a pick, Boynton has shown that he can put points on the board in bunches.
Considering how rarely he gets into the paint in the half-court, Boynton's consistency as a shooter will remain a key part of how his scouts will perceive him at the end of the season. He's had a few poor shooting games this season, but has yet to fall into the type of lengthy slump that hurt his numbers in previous seasons. When Boynton is knocking down shots at a high rate, he looks like a clear pro, but considering his weaknesses in other areas, a sizeable downturn in his efficiency would take him back to square one and raise many of the same questions he faced early in his career. Whether Boynton declares for the draft this spring or not, it is worth keeping an eye on how he shoots the ball on a nightly basis.
Apart from his scoring ability, Boynton has shown the same solid passing ability we noted in our last report. He's making even better decisions with the ball than he did as a sophomore, improving his assist to turnover ratio for the second straight season to a solid 2.1/1, doing a nice job of making simple passes to unselfishly find the open man. His point guard potential remains limited by his average court vision and underdeveloped dribble-drive game, but despite Boynton's reputation as a scorer, he's also a serviceable passer for the Gators, which is certainly a plus considering the talent around him. He may not be a floor general at the next level, but he's more than a shooting specialist and is increasingly showing the mentality not to be a black-hole eithersomething that was definitely a concern earlier in his career.
Defensively, most of what we said about Boynton in our previous reports remains true. He's a hard worker whose fundamentals have improved to match his quickness, but his lack of size and length limit his upside at the next level. Whether his scoring ability compensates for questions about his ability to defend the shooting guard position at the next level remains to be seen.
No matter what parts of Boynton's game scouts put under the microscope, it is ultimately going to be his ability to prolifically and efficiently put the ball in the basket that is going to dictate how he is perceived by NBA decision-makers. It isn't likely that he'll continue his torrid shooting all year, but if he can avoid a significant slump and is still knocking down his jump shots at a 40%+ clip by season's end, he'll have made major headway towards legitimizing his draft stock.