In the first 34 games of the Detroit Pistons season, Sekou Doumbouya played only seven games and less than 30 minutes combined, and that was fine, because that was the plan. The first-round pick wasn’t expected to play much this season. Drafted as the youngest player in the entire NBA, Doumbouya was expected to play a lot in the G-League, as a Pistons team with playoff aspirations played veterans to improve upon last years eighth seed finish.
The Pistons’ struggles this season have been well documented. Injuries have popped every expectation for this team heading into the season, and they are currently four games out of being the third worst team in the league. The current atmosphere of this season, and injuries to a few key players, made room for Doumbouya to see legitimate NBA action sooner than expected.
On January 2nd, the Guinean-born rookie received his first start of his NBA career, against Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers, and Doumbouya has been off to the races ever since. The competition didn’t get any easier for the 19-year-old, though. After going against Leonard and Paul George in his first serious minutes, the likes of Draymond Green, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis were waiting to welcome Doumbouya into the club.
Over the last eight games (all starts), Doumbouya is averaging 14.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.0 steals. The rookie has been shockingly efficient, shooting 54.4 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from deep on 3.6 attempts per game; a true shooting percentage of 60.4.
Instead of sinking back into his shell and shying away from his matchup, Doumbouya has instead showed poise and savviness of a player who’s been a professional for years.
Maybe that’s because the youngster has played professional basketball since the age of 16. Doumbouya has already been a deer in the headlights. He’s experienced playing against grown men since an age where I was celebrating scoring 20 points on my high school JV basketball team. Doumbouya has been treated like a grown man on the court for three years now - the “growing up” that most rookies have to endure when jumping up to the big boys club is something Doumbouya has already equipped.
“I’m in awe of the way he’s not scared of match-ups. He don’t care,” teammate Derrick Rose said of the rookie after Wednesday’s impressive win versus the Boston Celtics.
“That’s what the league’s about. No boys allowed.”
Doumbouya has shown an IQ and feel for the game that’s not usually seen in rookies, let alone the youngest player in the league.
Another thing:— KUpa Kid (@KuKhahilNBA) January 15, 2020
Sekou has played professional basketball for years overseas. He knows how to play the game, and how to fit in as a role player.
Biggest piece of evidence: his cutting.
His willingness and IQ on when to cut has been on display since starting. pic.twitter.com/t8En2n81Zp
Nothing shows this more than his cutting ability. Doumbouya routinely makes life easier on himself on the offensive end by getting easy buckets when his defender is napping. There’s a difference between cutting just to cut, and knowing when to cut with a purpose.
In the clip above, Doumbouya is waiting along the baseline as Bruce Brown Jr. works a pick-and-roll with Andre Drummond. Drummond draws a lot of attention as a roll man, as the entire defense turns to watch the roll.
If Doumbouya cuts too early, he ends up clogging the lane, and takes away the chance for a pass to the roller or himself. Instead, Doumbouya waits for Drummond to begin his path to the rim, which causes Doumbouya’s defender to turn his body and focus completely to Drummond.
Once his defender steps up into the paint on Drummond, Doumbouya wisely slips behind him along the baseline for the easy pass. Doumbouya’s length and soft touch allows him to make a somewhat difficult finish over the top of the defender.
oh my dear lord. Sekou Doumbouya wrecks Tristan Thompson and stands over his corpse. pic.twitter.com/2w23V9mB1v— Wobkelle Fultz (@WorldWideWob) January 8, 2020
When’s the last time you’ve seen a young Detroit Pistons player, a team that has been a mediocre as possible and mostly flat-out embarrassing for the past decade, get this kind of highlight and this kind of attention nationally?
And no, THIS does not count:
The confidence and swag the rookie carries with himself when he’s playing reminds me of how I felt about rookie Stanley Johnson. Johnson was another young player that had loads of confidence oozing out of him at a young age, but there is a difference in the type of confidence from these two.
Johnson’s confidence was self-belief: He viewed himself as an underdog, and he wanted to let everyone around him know it. For lack of a better word, it was a immature type of confidence. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it led to him trying to do things he couldn’t do because he believed in himself, and want to show everyone he could.
Doumbouya’s confidence is a very level-headed, mature type of confidence. Take, for example, his dunk on the former Kardashian lover. There was no screaming or crazy emotions worn on the face of the youngster. He gave you the feeling that he was like, “Yeah, no big deal. I expect myself to do this. Next play.”
After Sekou had a career night against the Celtics, becoming the second youngest player to score at least 24 points (a career-high) on 75 percent shooting from the field (10-13), Markieff Morris joined Rose in the praise of their young teammate:
“That’s the Prince. You’re going to see in about five years, he’s going to have Detroit on his back.”
The Detroit Pistons have had a Palace Prince before; will Sekou become the Prince of Little Caesars Arena?
Time will tell.