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Pistons take versatile Gbinije in second round

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Syracuse's Michael Gbinije, left, drives against Marial Shayok of the Virginia Cavaliers at the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional Final at United Center in Chicago.

Auburn Hills — After picking big man Henry Ellenson in the first round, the Pistons’ options in the second round were wide open — except that they likely weren’t picking another big man.

The Pistons stayed with their philosophy of taking the best player available — and they picked up Syracuse wing Michael Gbinije with the 49th overall pick.

Gbinije, 24, played three years at Syracuse after transferring from Duke and sitting out a year following his freshman season.

He was a first-team All-ACC selection after averaging 17.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists and also was selected to the ACC’s all-defensive team.

“Gbinije is more of a combo guard, can play (point guard or shooting guard),” Pistons assistant general manager Bright Wright said Thursday night. “He’s very long and has great basketball instincts. He’s an improved shooter and I think he’s going to be a very versatile player for us as well.”

The Pistons also had a need at point guard — and passed on local favorite Kay Felder from Oakland University, who was picked at 54th — but Gbinije was high on the Pistons’ draft board.

“There were some point guards that were close and guys that we liked but (Gbinije) has some ability to play some on the ball and off the ball,” Wright said. “He was the best player on our board and a guy we had targeted to go higher, so to get him where we got him, it was too much value to pass up.”

Wojo: Youthful Pistons land ideal fit in Ellenson

The Pistons already are loaded with young reserve wings, including Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Darrun Hilliard, but Gbinije could have an opportunity in playing on the summer league team and in training camp to earn a spot.

Wright said that the Pistons weren’t concerned with specifically getting a point guard to fill a need and they’ll likely look at point guards in free agency as well.

“We weren’t looking at this pick, regardless of who it was, to come in and fill a void,” Wright said. “We wanted the player who could be the best player long term and if we have to fill in with free agency or trades or however we fill those roster spots, we were going to look to do that.”

For Gbinije, coming to a team that made the playoffs last season and is looking to add complementary pieces is a good opportunity. They ended their streak of six years out of the postseason and could be ready to build with their two draft picks.

“That’s is a great, great feeling. I thought they put up a fight or at least competed the best they could,” Gbinije said at the draft in New York. “You always want to play for a team that makes the playoffs, and Detroit is a tough team.”

Mock drafts

The Pistons were projected in many mock drafts to take Notre Dame point guard Demetrius Jackson, who was available to them when they took Ellenson at No. 18. But Jackson ended up slipping into the second round, before being taken No. 45 — just four picks before the Pistons’ second-round pick — by the Celtics.

Another potential Pistons target at point guard, Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin IV, went 17th, just one pick before the Pistons. Because of where Ellenson was ranked on their draft board, it’s likely the Pistons still would have taken Ellenson.

Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis, who was projected as a lottery pick, slipped to the Celtics at No. 31.

Improve internally

With all the trades on Wednesday and before the Pistons’ pick, they weren’t overly concerned with trying to keep up with the other teams making deals.

Instead, they wanted to take care of their own needs and try to improve internally, in addition to the picks they made.

“When you have a team that’s got a big window of possible success, a team that can grow together where the pieces are similar age and everything else. I like where we are; we’re not going to deviate,” Van Gundy said. “Certainly, those teams getting better makes it tougher immediately but we like the path we’re on and we’re going to stay on it.”

MICHAEL GBINIJE

Position: SG/SF

Height/Weight: 6-7, 205

Age: 24

College: Syracuse

Stats: Averaged 17.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists and logged 38 minutes per game. He hit 39 percent (91-for-233) on 3-pointers.

Notable: Gbinije played his first year at Duke before transferring to Syracuse and sitting out a year. He was first-team All-ACC and all-conference as a senior. He’s noted for his defensive prowess and versatility as a combo guard.

Outlook: The Pistons said they were taking the best player available, almost regardless of position and they seem to like Gbinije’s versatility potentially to play three positions. He didn’t play much man-to-man defense at Syracuse, but with the Nigerian national team, he showed good individual skills.

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

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