Does Michael Gbinije Deserve to be in Detroit’s Rotation?
The Pistons possess a load of depth at the wing spot. At both shooting guard and small forward, Detroit has the most depth as any team on the wing. One of those players is a rookie, Michael Gbinije. A four-year player out of Syracuse, Gbinije was drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the 39th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He has the ability to not only play shooting guard and small forward, but the Pistons also hope he can develop into a point guard. Gbinije has talent but does he have enough to break through Detroit’s rotation?
This is an interesting question. On multiple teams, Gbinije would certainly be in the rotation, but the Pistons have multiple players who have been on the team and are likely better than him.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the current starting shooting guard. He has become a solid two-way player and has developed into one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. He averaged a career-high 14.5 points per game last season. He also averaged 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. He is in a contract year, and the Pistons have an interest in re-signing him to a long-term deal. He will likely head into the 2017 Free Agency as a restricted free agent. While the chances of him re-signing are higher than the chance he doesn’t, there is a chance he doesn’t. Caldwell-Pope will command upwards of 32 minutes per game this season.
Marcus Morris is the other starting wing. He played nearly 36 minutes per game last season, and will likely play near that mark this season as well. Last season he averaged 14.1 points, five rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. While he struggled shooting from deep in the first half of the season, he shot a scorching 44% from the three-point line post All-Star break. He had a career year with the Pistons and will look to build on that this year.
Looking at the backup small forward situation, Stanley Johnson has that spot secured. He had a solid rookie campaign, and after a successful offseason is looking to compete for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. he averaged 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. His shooting efficiency was nothing to be proud off, but the expectation for him to develop into a capable shooter is there. Johnson will most certainly be the first wing used off the bench, as Detroit is hopeful that he develops into an All-Star level player.
The backup shooting guard spot is the most likely place Gbinije could receive minutes at. Reggie Bullock and Darrun Hilliard have both received opportunities ahead of him so far in the preseason. Bullock, like Caldwell-Pope, is in a contract year and the Pistons would like to re-sign him. He played well last season in the playoffs, before injuring himself. He averaged six points, 1.5 assists, and one rebound per game. Bullock is a sharpshooter. He shot 41.5% from the three-point line in the regular season. Hilliard was solid when he was given minutes last season. He averaged four points in just 10.1 minutes per game last season, on 38% three-point shooting. He has also played well in the preseason, averaging 6.5 points per game.
The road to minutes for Gbinije is tough, but not unrealistic. He was a good player in college, as he presumed the role of the play everywhere and anywhere type player. In college he spent time point guard, shooting guard, small forward, and power forward. His 6’7″ size and quickness gives him the ability to play so many positions.
Gbinije made his first appearance of the preseason on Saturday, playing 22 minutes in Detroit’s win over Philadelphia. He scored 11 points, on 3-4 shooting from behind the arc. He also grabbed three rebounds and made two steals. He showed poise and confidence in his game, something that Stan Van Gundy loves seeing out of young players. He was not afraid to shoot the ball, which is uncommon for a player who rarely gets in the game. His confidence rewarded him with his solid play. He can handle the ball and is a capable defender. He is not some sky high potential prospect but should develop into a contributor in the NBA.
Gbinije also received minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night. He played 15 minutes, scoring four points. He also had two rebounds, two assists, and a steal. It was another solid and productive game for him. He played under control and did what he was asked.
Time will tell if Gbinije will crack the rotation, but the chances are highly stacked against him. While the chances he makes the rotation are slim, his play is encouraging as an option if Stan Van Gundy does decide to give Gbinije a chance.
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