When Michael Gbinije decided to transfer from Duke after the 2011-2012 season, he was an unheralded freshman who averaged 1.7 points, 0.8 rebounds and 0.2 assists in his lone year as a Blue Devil. News of his transfer drew little fanfare and attention, the Associated Press only wrote a short 78-word blurb on the subject, and he was considered almost irrelevant when it came to affecting a team's success.
At the time, Syracuse Orange men's basketball head coach Jim Boeheim wasn't overly impressed with Gbinije and needed convincing from assistant coach Adrian Autry, Gbinije's former AAU coach, to take Gbinije in as a transfer, Boeheim told Bleacher Report's Greg Couch.
"I didn't like him at all," Boeheim said. "He went to Duke, and I really didn't think that he was that good to be honest with you. He couldn't shoot, and he was not really a guard."
Four years later, the name Michael Gbinije is now etched in Syracuse Orange lore. While he won't go down as one of the greatest Syracuse players of all-time, he most certainly left a lasting legacy as an Orange.
More than a 1,000 career points. All-ACC Second Team selection. All-ACC Defensive Team selection. Only ACC player to record at least 10 points in every game this season. Led the ACC in steals-per-game with 1.97 and finished fifth in points-per-game with 17.64. And last, but most certainly not least, led the Orange to a Final Four appearance.
With Syracuse losing to North Carolina Saturday, and his Orange career now complete, it's time to take a look at Gbinije's NBA Draft profile and some of the deciding factors that could ultimately influence if and where he gets taken.
24 is the New 60
Gbinije will be 24 years old when the NBA Draft arrives. While most people would consider a 24-year old as a young man with a long future ahead of him, when it comes to the NBA Draft, you might as well roll into the Barclays Center in a wheelchair and have a nurse by your side because you're considered ancient.
In the one-and-done era we now currently reside in, most NBA teams value youth and potential over experience and seniority. It's a key reason why 18-year-old Brandon Ingram and 19-year-old Ben Simmons are the consensus top-two picks, while 22-year-old Buddy Hield, Naismith Player of the Year, is projected go outside the top-five and 22-year-old Denzel Valentine, AP Player of the Year, isn't even projected to be a lottery pick.
The irony is that Gbinije's "advanced age" (as NBADraft.net so eloquently put it) will scare off many teams, but it is also the result of Gbinije staying in college for all four years of his eligibility and improving and developing his game each season.
Improvement Throughout College
One of the main compliments experts have paid to Gbinije's career has been on the improvement he has made every year, especially the leap Gbinije made this past season. Following his freshman season at Duke, Gbinije saw his overall numbers increase (for the most part) every season at Syracuse.
2013-2014: 3.4 points-per-game, 1.8 rebounds-per-game, 1.2 assists-per-game, 0.7 steals-per-game, 0.2 blocks-per-game, 38.0 field goal shooting percentage and 34.9 three-point shooting percentage.
2014-2015: 12.7 points-per-game, 5.0 rebounds-per-game, 3.6 assists-per-game, 1.9 steals-per-game, 0.3 blocks-per-game, 46.0 field goal shooting percentage and 39.2 three-point shooting percentage
2015-2016: 17.5 points-per-game, 4.1 rebounds-per-game, 4.3 assists-per-game, 1.9 steals-per-game, 0.4 blocks-per-game, 46.1 field goal shooting percentage and 39.1 three-point shooting percentage
What makes Gbinije's improvement even more impressive is the fact he was forced to switch positions mid-way through his career, moving from small forward to point guard prior to the 2015-2016 season.
Versatility: Blessing and a Curse
Gbinije's versatility in having experience playing multiple positions–which include point guard, shooting guard and small forward–is something that many experts believe will influence team's to consider selecting him in June's NBA Draft, but is something that has actually hurt his overall development as well.
The simple evaluation is that Gbinije, who stands at 6' 7" and 200 pounds, can do a lot of different things well, but isn't particularity exceptional in any one or two aspects. He has experience as the primary ball handler and running an offense, but due to the fact he only has one year of experience as a true starting point guard he still lacks consistency in handling the ball with his left hand. Since he he has gone back-and-forth between the guard and forward position he's been described as a tad slow and can get beat off the dribble up top, as well as not strong enough to defend big men down low.
However, experts also believe the fact Gbinije has all of this experience in playing multiple positions, and is such a versatile prospect, that he may be intriguing to team's in the sense he can be used in a number of different ways in both small and big lineups.
Clark Kellogg Weighs In
Clark Kellogg, the lead college basketball analyst for CBS and a former NBA player, shared his thoughts on Gbinije's potential NBA future with TNIAMM in an interview last week. Kellogg mentioned that he likes the fact Gbinije has improved throughout all four years of his college basketball career, but still needs to refine a few things.
"I think he'll get an opportunity to pursue being a pro in the NBA. He still has to refine his ball-handling a bit, and continue to improve his shooting and maybe get stronger. But I think he has got the potential to at least merit a look at the NBA level. And if not there, then certainly he would have a chance to play professionally internationally. I think he has proven he has got that kind of ability.
...He has good athleticism, reasonably good size. I think it's a matter of refining skill and creating some type of value for an NBA team. When you can play a couple different positions, as long as you can defend both of those spots, you have a chance to play."
Kellogg also said he sees Gbinije as someone who is "pretty good," but may need to further develop in order to make an NBA roster.
NBA Draft Predictions
In nearly every two-round NBA Mock Draft, Gbinije is slated to be picked in the second round. However, there is a wide range from where Gbinije may go in the second round. He is projected to be selected anywhere between pick No. 31 by the Boston Celtics to the back-end of the draft at No. 54 by the Atlanta Hawks.
Gbinije will most likely be taken at some point in the second round and open his career in the D-League, similar to former Syracuse center Rakeem Christmas, who now currently plays for the Indiana Pacers' D-League affiliate. Christmas steadily improved in his first three years at Syracuse, before taking a major leap his senior year which eventually resulted in him being taken early in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft.
If Gbinije doesn't find a home in the NBA, he most certainly will find work playing internationally, similar to former Syracuse players Brandon Triche, James Southerland and more.