Pistons add defense, versatility, athleticism with Syracuse’s Gbinije in 2nd round

The Pistons drafted one of the youngest players in the draft in the first round, landing 19-year-old Henry Ellenson. They took one of the oldest in the second round, taking 24-year-old Michael Gbinije out of Syracuse.

Gbinije began his college career at Duke as a member of a 2011 recruiting class led by Austin Rivers, now a four-year NBA veteran. He transferred to Syracuse after one year at Duke and topped off his career by averaging 17.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

The Pistons, just as they thought Ellenson would go much higher, also had Gbinije targeted to go well before their pick at 49.

“There were some point guards that were close and guys that we liked, but we felt like he has the ability to play some on the ball and off the ball and he was the best player on our board,” Pistons assistant general manager Brian Wright, who heads up their amateur scouting, said after the draft. “He was a guy we targeted and mapped out to go much higher in the draft, as well. To get him where we got him, there was too much value to pass up. Great basketball instincts.”

The Pistons feel Gbinije can guard any perimeter position. With Syracuse in a pinch, he played point guard as a senior and turned in his most productive season. The Pistons scouted him with his Nigerian national team last summer and got to see him play man-to-man defense, since Syracuse played exclusively zone.

“Good player with a unique skill set and he’s very versatile,” Wright said. “You look at the way the game is being played, you watch the playoffs, there’s guys playing multiple positions, you’re switching, you’re doing different things. I think he brings that for us. He’s just a guard and I think the NBA is moving more to position-less basketball and just skill sets. We evaluated his skill set vs. just his position and we liked what he brought to our team on both ends.”

We’ll have much more coverage on Friday of the draft, but the Pistons left The Palace more than a little pleased with the way the draft played out.

“Tonight was a good night,” Wright smiled.