Syracuse Basketball: 5 Reasons Michael Gbinije Will Overachieve in 2014-15
The Syracuse basketball team is full of polarizing players.
Incoming freshmen Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough both project to be starters, and all eyes will be on their transition to the college game. McCullough in particular is flush with upside, and he could end up in next year's NBA draft.
Then you have Trevor Cooney, the team's resident sharpshooter, who will be looking to bounce back from a difficult second half of the 2013-14 season. There's also Rakeem Christmas, whom head coach Jim Boeheim believes could be the ACC's most improved player.
Factor in DaJuan Coleman's health and what improvements Tyler Roberson will make, and there's plenty to discuss ahead of next season.
But one Orange player who seems to fly under the radar is junior Michael Gbinije. Gbinije found it difficult to get much run last year behind Cooney, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Tyler Ennis. Now Gbinije is one of the team's veterans, and he should have a much larger role in the upcoming season.
Here are five reasons Gbinije will overachieve in 2014-15.
Even though he has only played one season at Syracuse, Gbinije has a decent amount of experience under his belt.
He had to sit out a year after transferring from Duke, but Gbinije was able to practice with the Orange for the entire 2012-13 season. That gave him the ability to learn the nuances of the 2-3 zone and get comfortable with his teammates and coaches.
Then Gbinije was able to spend the 2013-14 season learning from the likes of Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair. Now that they are gone, Gbinije can put what he learned to use as he takes their place.
Because Syracuse has another freshman point guard, Gbinije will probably see more time at the point than in the past. The 1 isn't his natural position, but he has spent the past two years learning it and should be ready to step in when necessary.
Now that Gbinije has some experience under his belt, he should be able to make a larger impact on the floor.
Gbinije may have struggled now and then to score, but he never had a problem playing defense.
When it came to picking an opponent's pocket, Gbinije was one of the Orange's best in 2013-14. His per-game average of 0.7 steals doesn't immediately jump off the page, but the perspective changes when you consider the amount of playing time Gbinije got.
Tyler Ennis played 35.7 minutes a game and led the ACC with 2.1 steals a game. His steal percentage, according to sports-reference.com, was 3.9. Gbinije's steal percentage was 3.3, and that was in just 14.6 minutes a game. Assuming Gbinije plays more minutes, he could have comparable steal numbers to Ennis.
Also working in Gbinije's favor is his size. At 6'7'', he may not always be able to match up with opposing forwards. But when he is in the lineup as a guard, he will give opposing ball-handlers trouble. His length and quickness will make it difficult for the opposition to initiate the offense from the backcourt.
Hustle for Days
One thing you probably won't see Gbinije do often is give up on a play.
Because he was scrapping for playing time in 2013-14, Gbinije had to hustle to give Boeheim reason to keep him on the floor. Now that Gbinije is in the habit of never letting up, look for him to be flying all over the floor in 2014-15.
The above picture is self-explanatory. Gbinije has no problem diving into the stands to try and keep a ball in play. A reporter's thousand-dollar laptop is just collateral damage.
Besides giving up his body, Gbinije will also give it his all when the ball is in play. His sending of an opponent's shot into the fifth row against Baylor is a perfect example. Gbinije was trailing the play, but he caught up and was able to swat the ball away from behind.
Gbinije's hustle may not always lead to increased statistical output, but it can have a profound impact on the outcome of a game.
It's been outlined before, but now it bears repeating. Gbinije will be the Orange's Swiss Army knife in 2014-15.
After spending his first two years learning the point guard position from Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis, Gbinije should be ready to log more minutes at the 1. He wasn't anywhere near Ennis' level last year, but some of Gbinije's advanced stats show he can be as reliable as Ennis when it comes to protecting the rock.
Per sports-reference.com, Gbinije's turnover percentage was 12.9 in 2013-14. The site defines turnover percentage as an estimation of turnovers per 100 plays. That isn't far off from Ennis' percentage of 11.9 in his lone season in college.
Besides running the point, Gbinije can also play shooting guard or either forward position. His two-plus years spent in the 2-3 zone mean he shouldn't be a defensive liability no matter what position he plays. And we already discussed how he should be one of the team's better defenders.
Being able to play four positions will afford Gbinije more playing time next season. Speaking of which...
Now that C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant are gone, Gbinije will be one of the go-to players because of all the factors mentioned in this article.
He's one of the more experienced players on the team and can play just about anywhere on the floor.
Because of that, Gbinije will likely see a serious increase in playing time this season. In 2013-14, Gbinije only played 14.6 minutes per game. It wouldn't be a surprise to see that number balloon to around 25 and sometimes push 30.
Gbinije will probably be coming off the bench, but we know how Boeheim likes to use his sixth man. If Chris McCullough ends up starting, we don't know how long of a leash he will have. Boeheim hasn't been shy in the past about yanking young players (Rakeem Christmas, DaJuan Coleman) when they make a mistake.
Besides McCullough, Kaleb Joseph also projects to be a starter, but if he is too wild with the ball to start a game, Boeheim could turn to Gbinije.
Add it all up, and Gbinije could become one of the Orange's most important players by season's end.