Pistons fans expected the team to develop their young core this season. Instead, they’re witnessing a 20-year-old, first round pick getting well acquainted with the bench.
On December 13th, 2020, the Detroit Pistons beat the New York Knicks for their first victory of the preseason. They were led by a young forward with a heavy French accent, Sekou Doumbouya. He also happens to be the teams first round selection in the 2019 NBA Draft. Doumbouya recorded 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 23 points on 8/11 shooting.
“Everybody say the second year is easier, and I learned a lot in my first year” Sekou said in his postgame interview. Basket cuts, 3 pointers, and trips to the free throw line were all working for him that Sunday night in December. As a result, Pistons fans were beaming with optimism for their young frenchmen that was selected with the 15th overall pick a year ago.
Fast forward to January 13th, and Detroit swallows their 3rd loss of the season to the Milwaukee Bucks, 110-101. When you look at the box score you will see Jerami Grant posted another 20 point game, but what stands out the most is the ‘DNP’ next to Sekou Doumbouya’s name. Exactly one month later, and the 20 year old went from being a player that led the Pistons to a win, to not even checking into a contest.
So what happened in that 30 day span that is leaving much of the fanbase wondering why they aren’t seeing what they hope to be the future of the franchise? “Players who get playing time, earn their playing time” said Dwane Casey in a press conference earlier this month. Sekou has only logged 20 plus minutes in a game one time this season. Along with one healthy scratch, he also has 10 or less minutes played in 7 of his 12 games.
Finding His Role
Sekou Doumbouya just turned 20 years of age last month and is already in his sophomore season in the NBA. His potential combined with his athleticism make him an ideal fit for a rebuilding squad like the Detroit Pistons. Although he was drafted as a small forward out of France, he has played the majority of his NBA minutes at power forward. The ability to play multiple positions make Doumbouya an appealing prospect, yet there are stretches where he looks lost.
Standing at 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 230 pounds are measurable’s that any NBA athlete would love to possess. It gives you the ability to slash to the basket, post up, and knock down tough jump shots. However, Doumbouya hasn’t gravitated towards any one of those playing styles. He is shooting 36% from behind the 3 point line, but only on 1 and half attempts per game. Throw in 34% from the field, 2.4 RPG, and 4.3 PPG, it is evident Sekou isn’t doing one thing particularly well.
Lack of confidence may be what is contributing to this issue. At one point in his rookie season Doumbouya was thrusted into the starting lineup because of a Blake Griffin injury. He drew matchups against players like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard and played 30 plus minutes. You could see how he was thriving in the spotlight. Stepping up to guard some of the league’s best players while at the same time posting double digit scoring was no easy task for him. Sekou was playing the role of a very athletic stretch four. He would camp outside the arc and knock down a three pointer if given the chance. When his defender cracked down on him, he would drive to the lane and collapse the defense.
Now Pistons fans are seeing a shell of their young forward. Many times Doumbouya can be seen not touching the ball once during offensive possessions. He sometimes struggles to rotate on defense. Along with that, he coughs up silly turnovers by trying to do to much off the dribble. Bad shot selection and missed layups are showing the lack of confidence Sekou has during his limited role.
Trial and Error
The Detroit Pistons are in rebuild mode. A rebuild in today’s NBA consists of losing a lot of games while developing young players. Right now, Coach Dwane Casey is accomplishing only the first half of that sentence. Sure rookies like Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey see the floor, but Sekou needs to be a part of that group as well. Casey instead chooses to play a 31 year old Blake Griffin 30 plus minutes.
It shouldn’t matter whether or not Sekou Doumbouya is struggling to find his role on this team. It is Dwane Caseys job as coach to help him find it by throwing him into the fire just as he did last season. The only thing Sekou’s lack of playing time is doing right now is frustrating the fan base.
The Pistons are going to lose a lot more games this season. They are probably going to trade away Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose at some point. So why are relevant players, like Doumbouya, not getting valuable experience, while veterans that won’t be on the roster in a couple months are playing in irrelevant games?
A realization needs to be made by the coaching staff that Sekou is here to stay. General manager, Troy Weaver, loves players with his stature and athleticism, so it is hard to imagine him dealing Doumbouya. At this point, Sekou Doumbouya failing to perform well while logging sufficient minutes, is much better than him not playing period. It may just make a difference in the Pistons having a successful rebuild.