Last year, a lot was expected of Michael Gbinije. After all, he had been a highly sought after recruit who wound up at Duke before finding his way to Syracuse, and much was made of his transition from a wing player to a backup point guard. His first year on the court for the Orange was a little more subdued than many were hoping for, but this year, the guy known as Silent G looks poised for a breakout season.
Whether Michael Gbinije comes off the bench or eventually works his way into the starting lineup this season, the fact off the matter is he’s going to play a lot of minutes. Through two exhibition games, he’s logged starters minutes, playing 35 against Carleton and 25 against Adrian, a pair of games that remind us that Syracuse likes to beat up on Will Smith’s cousin and Rocky Balboa’s wife.
By all accounts, Gbinije looks like a vastly more confident player in practice, and his preseason numbers have been encouraging, if not outright overwhelming. Against Carleton, he scored just six points but had six boards and, maybe more importantly, four assists against only one turnover. In the cruiser against Adrian, he hit double figures with 10 points and added six assists and, again, just one turnover. For those keeping score at home, that’s a 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio through the two exhibition games.
Now, that’s maybe not as impressive as it looks considering that Adrian is a below average Division III school, but it’s hard to scoff at 10 assists compared to just two turnovers, no matter the competition. Last season he had 41 assists against 17 turnovers, which is actually a pretty promising number considering he was transitioning to a brand new position, at a very high level of competition.
This season, Gbinije’s role is still a little bit in flux, since he may wind up in the starting lineup at small forward if Tyler Roberson struggles at all, but he’s still the primary backup at the point guard position. He’s basically in line to be Jim Boeheim’s super-sub sixth man, but once again when it comes to Gbinije basically anything can change based on how the season starts to shake out. That said, he brings a combination of size, athleticism, and skill that make him a prime candidate to break out in a big way this season.
Now, I’m not talking about pouring in 20 points-per-game, but he could pretty easily stuff the stat sheet with, say, eight or nine points, five or six rebounds, and four or five assists on any given night while proving to be one of the team’s most realiable three point shooters. He’s certainly got the stroke to become a consistent threat, and now it is mainly just a matter of gaining confidence. Once he’s got that, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him hit somewhere in the range of 35-38% of his attempts from deep.
Last season, Gbinije looked a little timid, particularly on the offensive end. Still, he showed some real flashes last season. Just a few small moments in which he stopped thinking about being a player, and just became a player, and a scorer. There was a late season game in which he took the ball from the top of the key, and made a quick, decisive move into the lane, pulled off a quick spin move, and made a short shot through traffic. That’s the kind of move that you just know attracted Jimmy B in the first place, and it’s the kind of move I’m hoping to see a lot more of this season.
At 6-foot-7, with his skill set and above average athleticism, there’s simply no reason that Michael Gbinije can’t be a major factor in how far the team goes this season. There are many things that will shape how the year goes, but don’t be the least bit surprised if Silent G turns into one of the most essential players on the roster in 2014-2015.