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Pistons Tune-Up: Sekou Doumbouya is the future

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Sekou Doumbouya or Sekou Messiah? What to expect from the 18-year-old French phenom in his rookie year

NBA: NBA Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The mark of a memorable moment is remembering where you were at the time that event occurred.

During Barry Bonds’ record-breaking home-run into McCovey Cove, I was curled up on the floor between the foot of my bed, with the TV in front of me. During the Magglio Ordonez home run that vaulted the Detroit Tigers into the 2006 World Series, I had a mouth full of boneless chicken wings (buffalo of course), which were ejected from my orifice and landed on to the pristine white carpet of my parents’ new home, in sync with the ball landing over the fence at Comerica Park.

So that begs the question...where were YOU when the Detroit Pistons drafted the messiah who will save the franchise from a decade of ineptitude, Sekou Doumbouya?

Two alcoholic beverages in and a fist full of Asian Zing chicken wings, I had focused my attention on the TV screen directly in front of me. Doumbouya was a dark horse favorite of mine leading up to the draft, but I figured he would be picked ahead of the Pistons - either by the Atlanta Hawks (with one of their two top ten picks) or the Washington Wizards, who had been looking for a messiah of their own.

When the Boston Celtics drafted Romeo Langford ahead of the Pistons at 14, it became clear that Sekou Doumbouya would be a Detroit Piston.

The decision to draft Sekou Doumbouya seemed like an easy one. He was arguably the best wing prospect remaining on the board, and fell to a team in the Pistons who had been devoid of young wing prospects built like Doumbouya - lanky, defensive-minded, uber-athletic, with the possibility of developing a reliable three-point shot.

From NBA.com:

Possesses very good size for a multi-positional forward standing 6’9 in shoes with a trimmed-down frame to go along with a 6’11 wingspan. Proves to be a terrific athlete with good speed and explosiveness. Promising offensive player who flashes the ability to grab and go in transition, finish emphatically on the move, and use his first step and activity level to his advantage inside when he’s dialed in. Tends to be streaky as a jump shooter but has had several sterling offensive performances when he has found his range this season.

An important and often overlooked feature of Sekou Doumbouya is that he was a professional and has been for nearly three years now. Look no further than Dallas Mavericks forward/guard/hybrid/freak, Luka Doncic, as an example of how seasoned professional athletes overseas can come over to the NBA and not miss a beat.

Granted, Luka Doncic’s game is much more refined, and he is overall a better player than Doumbouya today, but that experience in the Liga ACB, on Real Madrid, helped shape Doncic’s rookie campaign and his development as the season progressed. In theory, that experience should help with Doumbouya’s development at the next level.

“Development,” though, can be a word thrown around pretty carelessly in the NBA circles without any true definition. Development can take place over the course of a season, seen through Atlanta Hawks’ guard Trae Young’s progression over the course of the season, or it can be a longer, more involved process. A process that can take time and resources away from a franchise that is desperate to win immediately.

The Detroit Pistons will focus on winning and winning now. But they also haven’t completely bought into the idea of trading the farm for an established star. They rebuffed Mike Conley after it became clear the Memphis Grizzlies wanted the Pistons to include Luke Kennard in the deal. Talks for Russell Westbrook ended pretty quickly after Oklahoma City’s asking price was apparent.

With that in mind, the Pistons seem prepared to wait out the development of Doumbouya, and not throw him to the wolves immediately. Unlike his closest comparisons, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Pascal Siakam, he likely won’t get a start or see the floor much in his rookie year.

A common fallacy is that young, raw players need ample playing time in their first season to develop quicker. Although the concept makes sense, Doumbouya isn’t anywhere near NBA-ready yet. He was a professional basketball player, and he’s got the physical tools to succeed, but the speed and pace of the game is much higher in the United States.

Coach Dwane Casey even admitted during Media Day that Sekou will have “all of September and October to really work and try to figure out what we’re doing.” The development will be slow, but it’s important to remember the vision of the Ed Stefanski regime: Keep the team competitive while Blake Griffin is a Piston. Although the current options at the small forward position do not look very appealing (sorry @SnellSZN), they are still miles ahead of where Doumbouya would be on opening night, and are better choices in the interest of winning basketball games.

However, given that Doumbouya has the experience of being a professional athlete and is under the tutelage of Assistant Coach Sean Sweeney (widely credited for developing Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee) and Dwane Casey (who oversaw Pascal Siakam’s transformation in Toronto), it is not out of the realm of possibility that Doumbouya cracks the rotation by 2020.

In his first year, his jumper is likely to not be developed, but he could come in and wreak havoc on defense and in the transition game. As I mentioned before, he is a freak athlete and has a knack for defense. He could come in and completely change the pace of the game, especially sharing the floor with a big that can snag rebounds and pass the ball up the court like Andre Drummond.

Patience is key with the development of Sekou Doumbouya, but I can understand the urgency in Detroit. Like the Asian Zing chicken wings on that memorable draft night, the idea of Sekou Doumbouya developing into the Pistons version of Giannis Antetokounmpo or Pascal Siakam is mouth-watering.

However...2003 was the last time the Pistons took a chance on an international prospect with their 1st round pick. Let Sekou marinate a little.