Veteran Rookie: Michael Gbinije

Sorry about this coming a couple days late, went to the Wall. Coming home in just a couple of days though.

 

Who Is Michael Gbinije

First off, (as far as I am aware) the "G" is silent in his last name, it is pronounced "Binije" just in case anyone didn't know that.

He was born in 1992 in Connecticut, he did the really good basketball player thing and was awesome in high school and won a state championship. He was fairly highly ranked prospect and went to Duke. He transferred after just one season to Syracuse for whatever reason. After sitting out a season, he got little playing time in his first year with the Orange, but in his junior year he started to get some traction playing over 30 minutes per game and averaging nearly 13 points. His senior season he reached new heights and was the best player on a team that went to the final four (even if they were nothing special in the regular season.) and played nearly 38mpg and led the team in points and assists per game. (17.5 and 4.3 respectively.)

He's 24? 

Yeah, it isn't quite as weird as it sounds. He spent 5 years in college, and was old for his class already. For example, he was in the same recruiting class as Austin Rivers.

 

The Good?

The best thing that I can say about Gbinije is that this dude can straight ball. Time will tell how many of and how well his abilities translate to the NBA, but he has them.

First off he is was a really good shooter from the outside in college and he also shot exactly 39% from 3 in both his junior and senior seasons, which are the only two years he played real minutes. And he regularly showed NBA range as well, even beyond that, is he was not just a spot up guy either. He would take them off the bounce and in traffic with some regularity, all of which bodes well for him to be able to, at the very least, be a reliable shooter at the next level.

Even though he was primarily a wing player in college at 6'7. He regularly ran the point in his senior year at Syracuse, and was actually pretty good at it. The Pistons have in fact said that they drafted him with intention of trying to play him at the PG spot, (he will play the summer league at PG and they will evaluate from there.) this is good because even if he doesn't really work as an NBA PG, he has more ball handling than your typical wing player, and also gives him some versatility as he should be able to play either wing spot or at PG. 

At 6'7 and long, he figures to be a good defensive player as well. He certainly was in college, although it can be a little bit tough to judge defenders from Syracuse because they play a zone defense. But he has the tools and should bode pretty well. I don't know how good he would end up being but he projects as a plus defender, something that the Pistons could really use on the wing since of their 5 current guys who can play guard, KCP is the only plus defender right now (Stanley will get there.) so he can give the Pistons some more defense when required. Also on this note, he is actually a really good athlete, dude can jump and has good quickness.

Lastly, even though it doesn't (in a measureable way at least) make him any better as a player, his Dad is Nigerian so he plays for the Nigerian national team. He helped them win the AfroBasket tournament last summer, and will be playing with them again at the Rio Olympics. It may or may not really help him, but it is always kind of fun to have a guy from your team playing in the Olympics, and will give Pistons fans a little something extra to watch for this summer. (And FWIW, he actually does play, he isn't just riding the bench for them.)

 

The Bad?

He is 24, he just turned 24 less than a month ago, but still. For an NBA rookie that is pretty old. And to clear this up since a lot of people have questioned "Why does it matter? He can still be just as good look at *insert 4 year player here*." The reason it matters that he is 24 is not because he will have a shorter NBA career, even if he is really good, between his rookie contract and then an extension the Pistons would have him through his prime. (another argument for age not really mattering.) The issue is that, players get a lot better when the play in the NBA, even playing in practice against NBA guys with NBA coaches makes you way better than playing in college. (with some exceptions.) And regardless of age, it usually takes at least 1 or 2 years to adjust to the NBA game, sometimes even longer. Think about it like this, Henry Ellenson will be younger when he signs his first extension than Gbinije is right now. (or maybe the same age.) Those years will be spent improving, and adjusting to the NBA game and life in the NBA. Ellenson will literally be a veteran by the time he reaches his real physical prime. Whereas Gbinije, being 24 right now, is just entering his physical prime, and he will be spending at least 1 year of his physical prime (and possibly more time) just adjusting to life in the NBA, and the NBA game. Simply put, guys who get to the NBA younger, usually end up with better primes than guys who come in later, and that isn't just because the best players leave early.

As far as his game goes though, the main issue I see is that, even though he played a lot of PG at Syracuse and had 4.8 assists per game, he had 2.8 turnovers per game. That is not a totally terrible ratio, but it certainly isn't good. And is a sign that the Pistons might be a bit optimistic to hope that a guy who after 5 years in top level college programs was not great at making good decisions will be able to do it in the NBA. This by no means is saying that he can't play PG in the NBA, it is just saying that there is reason to doubt his future at the point. (Which obviously is ok, he's 6'7 and can shoot, if he's a wing player that is totally fine.)

The last thing is the simple fact that Syracuse guys often have some trouble adjusting to NBA defense because they play the zone there. There are guys who adjust fine, but some look like really good defenders there, and then don't really pan out in the NBA, once again, this isn't saying he can't be a good defender in the NBA, just that there is reason to doubt him.

 

Where does he fit with the Pistons?

Wherever the holes are. The Pistons have said that they want to try and have him play the point, and watching how he does there in summer league will be a big indicator of whether the Pistons go for 2 or just 1 PG in free agency/trade. If he plays well he could be the 3rd PG and possibly even become the full time backup in a year or two. On the wing he should provide a good combination of shooting and defense that (as of now) the Pistons don't really have. And this is nice because with the news that the Pistons are almost certainly moving Meeks, there are a lot more questions than answers for the Pistons on the wing. (and SG more specifically) KCP might not be able to shoot or do much of anything on offense, Reggie Bullock was brilliant to close the season last year but it is still like 20 games in 3 years where he has looked any good at all, and who knows if Hilliard is actually any good. Obviously KCP will probably improve at least a little on offense and cement himself as a quality starter, and Bullock might actually be the player he showed at the end of last season, in which case there will be no minutes available at the SG spot, and actually not many on the wing at all. But it is still a question with them both, so it is not bad to get another option there in case someone disappoints.

The main place he fits (for now at least) is giving nice versatility to the end of the bench. I've said this before but whatever, you want the end of bench guys to be able to play multiple positions, since the only time they play is when a hole is opened by injuries or foul trouble, you want your 2-4 end of bench dudes to be able to plug all the holes, and Gbinije can play 3 spots.

 

NBA Comparison?

I don't know for sure, the NBA player's game that I see most in him is Evan Turner (Celtics version, to be clear), but Turner can't shoot and isn't a very good defender (even if he improved this season.) and so maybe he could be Turner with shooting and defense, but then it isn't really Evan Turner anymore. I've heard people compare him to Shaun Livingston but Livingston doesn't shoot 3s at all either, and Gbinije isn't anywhere close to Livingston in the midrange. WAIT HOLD IT, I'VE GOT IT. George Hill, he is George Hill. Hill is shorter but that's no biggie. A guy who is really a wing player who can score and really shoot from outside, but has the chops to play PG and be a playmaker, even if never a good enough passer/facilitator to fit as a real primary ball handler on a good team. (And FWIW, if Gbinije ends up as good as Hill, that would be a freaking steal for the Pistons because George Hill is really good.)

 

Upshot for the rest of the roster?

Once again, SVG said that the draft isn't really having any effect on who they go for in free agency and via trade. HOWEVA, he said that they will be watching Gbinije closely in the summer league and if he plays well, they might slot him in as the 3rd PG and then not add another. (as in just get 1 PG this offseason to be the primary backup.) Assuming that the Pistons will take advantage of his potential as a wing player as well, I would say it is fair to say the Pistons will not be eager to add any more young guys who are in the mid 6 foot range, since they have like 7 of those guys now. But once again, SVG has said they are not going to worry much about Gbinije and Ellenson when looking at free agency.

 

Upside?

His shooting translates immediately to the NBA, and his experience lets him be a plus defender right from the start. He spends a year or 2 as a solid 3 and D option off the bench (even if he isn't always in the rotation, depending on other players) all the while developing himself as a PG, and after his rookie contract is up and the Pistons resign him to a modest extension, they unleash him as the full time backup PG and he is a brilliant bench player who leads the bench mob to glory.

 

Downside?

He is 24, and has pretty much already hit his ceiling  as a player, isn't any better than a competent shooter from deep, never really catches on effectively defensively, and is a disaster as a PG when they try him there. He spends the season riding the pine and being awful when he plays, and ends up out of the league after one season.

 

The Verdict?

I really like this pick as well, he is a player that (according to most scouts/reviews of his game) would have been at least at the tail end of the first round if he was a few years younger. At the very least I see a guy who is a good athlete and can shoot, and he could end up being much more than that. Combine that with his experience making him likely to be able to contribute pretty soon and I think it is a wonderful 2nd round pick. Time will tell, but I think the Pistons nailed both their picks, and for now I am glad that they didn't trade either of them. 

 

What do you think? How will Gbinije fit in? How good will he be? Let me know! We all get smarter!