Michael Gbinije Updated NBA Draft Scouting ReportApril 27, 2016
Syracuse guard Michael Gbinije has had one of the more interesting careers of any player in college basketball. Though things started to click for the former consensus top-30 recruit as a redshirt junior last season, the Orange stumbled to an 18-13 finish missing the postseason due to a self-imposed ban. A few months later, Gbinije helped the Nigerian National Team to a gold medal and a berth into the 2016 Olympics at the FIBA Africa Championship. Returning to Syracuse amid sanctions temporarily deposing Jim Boeheim, and asked to lead a roster missing a number of key contributors from the previous season including draftees Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough, Gbinije figured to play a significant role as a senior on a team missing a number of key pieces.
Taking on a much bigger scoring and shot creating load in his fifth and final year of eligibility, Gbinije saw extensive action as Syracuse's primary ball-handler after Jim Boeheim penciled him in as the team's starting point guard prior to the start of the year. Almost never leaving the floor and ranking among the top-8 players in the ACC in points, assists, and steals per game, Gbinije responded nicely to his new role, averaging 17.5 points, 4.3 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game, emerging as one of the more productive players in the conference on his way to All-ACC Second Team honors. In helping the Orange keep it together through a number of difficult stretches in a trying year, that culminated in an improbable run to the Final Four, the Benedictine (VA) product solidified himself as one of the top guard prospects in the senior class.
Standing 6'7, Gbinije has elite size for a player who spent most of his minutes at the point guard position. Likely to play off the ball more frequently at the next level, he has solid, but not spectacular tools for a wing at the next level, as he has a short wingspan for his height and doesn't play with great explosiveness outside of the occasional outburst. He's made a number of highlight reel plays over his five collegiate seasons, but tends to be far more fluid than quick in general. Even if he isn't an elite athlete, his size is certainly one of his more appealing aspects as a prospect to go along with his shooting ability and the versatility he displayed as a ball handler and passer.
The soon-to-be 24 year old guard has made noticeable strides in each of the first four years of his career, and his 2015-2016 campaign was no different. He took a significant step forward as a shooter during his junior season, making 39.2% of his attempts from beyond the arc on 4.2 attempts per game. Making 39% of his 3-point attempts over 6.3 shots per game, Gbinije reinforced his ability to shoot the ball from distance as a senior, despite his still suspect shooting from the line where he made an improved 66% this season.
Digging deeper, Gbinije's mechanics still aren't overwhelmingly fluid and look rigid at times, leading to some bad misses, but there's not as much variety in his release point as there was a year ago, particularly off the dribble where he showed marked improvement. Making 37% of his catch and shoot jump shots in the half court this season, down from 47% last year, Gbinije made 42% of his pull-up jumpers, a massive improvement on the 32% he shot a year ago.
Shooting right around 40% away from the rim on the whole over the last two seasons, Gbinije is a capable shooter both off the catch and off the dribble who may benefit from playing alongside a prolific shot creating point guard at the next level absolving him of the pressure that lead to some of his more errant attempts this season. A bit of a gunner at times, it will be interesting to see how quickly Gbinije can acclimate to not being relied upon so heavily at the next level to run an offense and how that impacts his efficiency from the perimeter, particularly when you consider his proclivity for shots from the top of the key relative to the wings and poor shooting from the corners.
Another area where Gbinije showed some improvement this season was as a finisher. He isn't overwhelmingly quick or aggressive probing the lane off the dribble, but likes to take the ball to the basket in transition, attack mismatches, and has a solid first step allowing him to attack closeouts and turn the corner when his defender gets too aggressive. Shooting 59% inside, up from 54% a year ago, Gbinije doesn't always explode to the rim or finish through contact effectively, but he does a nice job taking what the defense gives him and shows the ability to make athletic plays inside sporadically, finishing more emphatically than you'd expect on a handful of notable occasions.
The other key aspect of Gbinije's value proposition at the next level is his ability to function as a secondary ball handler. Creating as much or more offense passing out of the pick and roll as pure point guards Melo Trimble
and Nic Moore last season according to Synergy Sports Technology, Gbinije isn't the most dynamic ball handler, but he knows how to get to spots on the floor changing speeds off the bounce, has his moments making the simple play in screen and rolls, and has experience handling pressure.
As a passer, Gbinije combines good vision with a strong feel for the game and an unselfish approach. Despite his status as the Orange's point guard, he ranked
only sixth among shooting guard prospects in our top-100 in assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted last season, as the inconsistent shooting of the players around him worked against him a bit, and he just isn't an overwhelmingly dynamic shot creator of the bounce. Regardless, he does a nice job making the extra pass on the perimeter, feeding the post, and throwing up lobs or dropping the ball off on the occasions he ventures inside. He still leaves his feet without a plan and kills his dribble problematically at times, but has improved his decision making by leaps and bounds from the early portion of his career when he was plagued by strings of mistakes.
Defensively, Gbinije, like many of the Syracuse players that have gone before him, is a bit of a tough read given that he plays almost exclusively at the top of the program's traditional 2-3 zone. Fortunately, Gbinije's time with the Nigerian National Team, which played primarily man under Will Voigt, provides some insight into how he may handle the transition to playing man at the next level. Looking comfortable defending one-on-one on the ball and making an impact with his anticipation in the passing lanes, Gbinije had some nice moments, but also struggled with his positioning at times, particularly when helping off the ball.
His size is a plus, but Gbinije's middling combination of strength and length limits his potential to become an impact player on this end. Possessing good lateral quickness, the Hartford native could grow into a very capable defender at the next level, just like he emerged as one of the better defenders on the Syracuse roster in their system over the last few seasons, but it will likely take him some time to adjust to the demands and gain an ideal command of the nuances of playing man-to-man full time.
Turning 24 in June, Gbinije's age is another consideration teams will take into account when evaluating him. The track record of older players in the draft isn't great, but it also doesn't preclude Gbinije from getting selected or ultimately cracking a roster and carving out a role. Younger than Sean Kilpatrick
was when he was coming out of Cincinnati, there are plenty of examples of older players making things work in the NBA, though the road isn't quite as smooth at is it tends to be for younger prospects. That appears to hold especially true for players who blossom later than others at the college level, which certainly seems to apply to Gbinije, who just two years ago was coming off a season where he averaged 3.4 points per game.
A player who has, to his credit, come an awfully long way from his freshman year when he couldn't get off the bench many nights at Duke, Michael Gbinije
is in position to parlay his size, shooting ability, and versatility into a potential spot in the second round of the NBA Draft, assuming he performs well in his workouts. He may not have a clear calling card as a prospect, but his roleplayer potential and development in recent seasons despite his age leaves some room for optimism.
His status as a Nigerian national puts him in a fascinating spot, as he'll also be an attractive option for teams in Spain and Italy. Should Gbinije indeed hear his name called on draft night, it will be interesting to see where the team selecting him looks to place him this coming year. Depending on their financial situation and the player market in Europe, a team could opt to keep him off their books and seek a favorable development spot for him in one of the top leagues outside of the NBA, where he wouldn't count as an American import.
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Top NBA Prospects in the ACC, Part Seven: Prospects #11-15October 13, 2015
Michael Gbinije's first three years in college probably didn't turn out the way the former #28 RSCI recruit envisioned coming out of high school. He saw very little playing time right off the bat as a freshman at Duke (111 minutes total), which prompted him to transfer to Syracuse after his first year. As a redshirt sophomore, after sitting out the entire 2012-2013 campaign, Gbinije again played a fairly marginal role, seeing just 14 minutes per game for a team that lost in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 to Dayton.
Things finally started to click for Gbinije as a 22-year old redshirt junior. He entered the starting lineup in Syracuse's eighth game of the season, and never looked back after that, basically never coming off the court for the Orange in conference play.
With freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph struggling badly to run the offense, Gbinije's playmaking responsibility increased dramatically. He ranked second in usage rate on the team behind now-departed Rakeem Christmas, often tasked with bringing the ball up and getting the team into their offense. This was far from a vintage Syracuse squad, hobbled by injuries and a self-imposed post-season ban, with the team posting their worst offensive efficiency in well over a decade, but Gbinije now has plenty to build on going into his fifth and final year of college basketball.
Gbinije garnered some terrific experience this summer playing for the Nigerian senior National Team, which won the FIBA Africa Championship under American head coach Will Voigt and qualified for the Olympics in Rio next year. Gbinije came off the bench and played 20 minutes a game, posting fairly similar numbers per-minute compared to what he did in college.
Listed at 6-7 by Syracuse, Gbinije has ideal size for a shooting guard. He has a good frame as well, even if his wingspan, twice measured as being shorter than his height, is certainly not ideal. Athletically, Gbinije is a fluid and smooth player, capable of getting to spots on the floor, but not showing amazing quickness or explosiveness outside of some short, occasional outbursts
Gbinije was asked to play a variety of roles for Syracuse last season, but the one he was seemingly most successful in (and which would translate the best to a hypothetical NBA role) is as a secondary ball-handler/facilitator and spot-up shooter. He converted an impressive 47% of his catch and shoot jumpers last season, not on a huge volume, but enough to show potential as a floor spacer.
Gbinije is still seemingly settling on a consistent release point and overall mechanics, as at times he shoots the ball very impressively, even from deep vantage points. He tends to jump forward dramatically on many of his attempts, though, or will hop straight in the air and pull the string at the end, locking his elbow rigidly and not looking very fluid with the way he gets it off. The fact that he's only made 102 of his career 171 free throw attempts (59.6%) is concerning, as being a consistent shooter from all over the floor is imperative to his chances of reaching his full potential.
Perhaps the best part of Gbinije's profile as a prospect lies in his versatility. He played quite a bit of pick and roll last year for Syracuse (5.5 possessions per game), and even though he didn't find a great deal of success with it (.762 PPP), the court vision and ability to change speeds he displays are fairly rare for a player his size.
Gbinije is an excellent passer, regularly finding the open man unselfishly and creatively, be it pushing the ball ahead in transition, entering it into the post, using bounce passes or lobs on the pick and roll, or driving and dishing to cutters. He clearly has a high basketball IQ, and may be able to show this in a more pronounced way while being surrounded by better teammates at the pro level.
With that said, Gbinije has some limitations as a shot-creator, as he struggles to stay efficient when operating inside the arc. He is not a very good shooter off the dribble, hitting 32% of his attempts in these situations last year according to Synergy Sports Technology, displaying a somewhat slow and deliberate release that makes it easy for opponents to contest. He's also not a great finisher around the basket, either in half-court or in transition, as he lacks the combination of length, strength, toughness or explosiveness to help him finish effectively in traffic, and avoids his left hand noticeably.
Defensively, it's difficult to get a great read on Gbinije's potential playing full-time in Syracuse's trademark zone, but his time with the Nigerian national team did give us some insight into how he might look in man to man settings. Gbinije shows some potential here at times, as he's active and attentive, has good lateral quickness, and excellent instincts for getting in the passing lanes (career 2.1 steals per-40). With that said, his lack of length, occasional passivity, and underdeveloped frame will work against him as well. He gets posted up at times, and doesn't show ideal toughness fighting back. Being a plus defender is a major component in Gbinije's ability to carve out a role at the NBA level, so doing anything he can to help his cause here will be very beneficial.
Turning 24 years old just a few weeks prior to this year's NBA Draft, Gbinije will have to show teams this season that he can play a ready-made role at the pro level right away. He has some intriguing characteristics with his size, court vision and ability to spread the floor, so a strong season in the ACC as the leader of a young Syracuse squad (he's been criticized often for being too quiet) could certainly help earn him some serious looks in the draft.
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