Michael Gbinije, fifth-year senior and transfer forward from Duke, will be the starting point guard for the Orange when it takes the floor for Midnight Madness on Friday night and during its first exhibition games in a couple weeks.
Don’t be fooled: while it’s great to have a fifth-year leader running the offense, it’s also very frightening. Gbinije, who has a very diverse skillset that rangers from ball handling to three-point shooting is best served at the bottom of the zone, rather than the top. Simply put, any other year Orange fans would be ecstatic to have a player of Gbinije’s quality at the point guard position. But this year, with just nine scholarship players ready to play, Gbinije’s time would be best served at the wing.
The first red flag that this news sets off is that the Orange will have even less forward depth than many may have thought. Minutes will be shared between Dajuan Coleman, Tyler Roberson, Tyler Lydon, Malachi Richardson, and Chinoso Obokoh down low. Gbinije’s length and experience on the wing would have been beneficial to this group. Instead, the team leader joins a crowded backcourt that includes Trevor Cooney, Kaleb Joseph, and Franklin Howard.
This brings us to the second red flag, that Joseph was not good enough to handle the point guard duties. After Tyler Ennis’ departure two years ago, Joseph was thrust into a starting role that he was certainly not ready for. He played nearly the entire season as the starting point guard and is currently the only ‘true point guard’ on the roster. The fact that he was beat out by a forward should tell fans all they need to know about the start to Joseph’s practices. Tyus Battle’s arrival cannot come soon enough.
Essentially, Jim Boeheim must have felt that the lack of forward depth was less concerning than the ball handling duties up top. And in a year that a coach only has nine players to work with, the depth chart should prove to fans how little Boeheim actually trusts Joseph. The only silver lining is that Joseph may feel less pressure off the bench and will still end up playing large minutes off the bench, in a Dion Waiters sort-of-way.
The other potential silver lining of this situation is that freshman and top recruit Richardson has impressed in practice. Maybe Boeheim feels confident enough in Richardson’s talent that he will start and be everything that Orange fans had hoped for. Of course, Gbinije will still play some forward at the bottom of the zone, especially if Coleman or any other big men get into foul trouble. Nevertheless, the rotation is in question more than it was on Monday, and the situation will remain fluid until the season gets underway.