For rookies drafted in the second round, their career tends to be something of an hourglass. They have so long to make their mark before time’s up.
A 24 year old second round pick starts their career with a little less sand in their hourglass. It’s a good idea for those players to make the best use of their time that they get. Michael Gbinije didn’t this season.
When Stan Van Gundy drafted him, he saw Gbinije as a point guard - but someone who could contribute at all three perimeter positions. They also considered Yogi Ferrell and Kay Felder for their point guard prospect, but opted for Gbinije’s versatility instead.
Gbinije spent the majority of his season with the Grand Rapids Drive in the D-League and while he may have shown some versatility, there are different types of versatility. Some who excel across the board, some who show a little bit of everything but the sum isn’t much. For Gbinije, it seemed to be the latter.
Over 16 games, Gbinije averaged just 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 35 minutes. For an older prospect playing against D-League competition, that’s basically a bit of nothing. He did at least chip in 1.9 steals per game though.
But for a player who can play any of the three positions, it’s not enough for a young prospect just to play them. He needs to actually do something at them.
Meanwhile, those other two point guard prospects that Van Gundy considered? They both impressed. Ferrell eventually landed with the Dallas Mavericks and started 29 games for them while posting 11 points per game with 40 percent shooting from three and 4.5 assists per game. Ferrell was better in the NBA than Gbinije was in the D-League. Felder was less impressive in the NBA, but flashed his potential as a scorer and facilitator. And Felder did average 30 points and 6 rebounds per game in the D-League.
It wasn’t expected that Gbinije would get much of a chance to show his stuff in Detroit, and he didn’t. Just 32 minutes, over which he shot 1-10 from the field. But when Stan Van Gundy turned to his youngsters as the playoffs drifted out of reach, Gbinije wasn’t among the group.
Gbinije made more appearances to the injury list than he ever did on the court. He spent 17 games on the injured list over the course of the season, missing time due to a forearm bruise, ankle sprain, and illness. And he also missed all of the summer league except for one game thanks to a different ankle sprain. Oh, and he also missed one of his Olympic games with the Nigerian team over the summer by being sick. And broke his nose in the preseason.
For a guy with so little time to make an impression on the coaching staff, that’s a lot of time on the hourglass to lose.
The coaching staff has spoken highly of Gbinije, but part of his evaluation will likely be whether this was just lousy luck or whether he’s just an injury prone player. They’ve shown little hesitance to part ways with players who looked to have issues with availability.
Gbinije has two years remaining left on his rookie deal, but it’s only partially guaranteed for the coming year and completely non-guaranteed for the third. He’ll presumably need to impress in the Summer League and the preseason to earn his way onto the Pistons roster next season. And much of that will start with staying healthy.