The Detroit Pistons are 11 games into their rebuild. After many years of not completely resetting the roster and competing to just make the playoffs, Detroit has completely bought into a rebuild, as they sit at the bottom of the league in wins. Along the way, we’ve seen many new faces. The promise of seeing some younger faces have been fulfilled by Troy Weaver and Dwane Casey.
You still have your veterans in Blake Griffin and Mason Plumlee, but the young guys far outnumber the old ones. The young guys have seen the floor plenty, too!
Before Killian Hayes went down with an injury, he was the Pistons starting point guard every game. Saddiq Bey has played the fifth-most minutes on the team, with 230 minutes. Isaiah Stewart has played 152 minutes, and seems to have completely taken over as the backup center behind Plumlee. Josh Jackson has played 202 minutes and was elevated into the starting lineup before an ankle injury took him out.
All in all, the young guys are getting their time promised for them.
That is, everyone except Sekou Doumbouya.
Doumbouya is coming off a DNP-CD against the Milwaukee Bucks this week. Before that game? Doumbouya had played just 114 minutes - 11th most on the Pistons. He’s played more than 15 minutes in a game one time this year, and has played less than six minutes per stint in his last two games.
For a year that is supposed to be about rebuilding and development, it has been quite puzzling for Pistons fans as to why the 20-year-old has barely seen the floor. Doumbouya is not a finished product, and still needs to get better. He is currently shooting 33% from the field, which obviously is not very good. He is, however, shooing 40% from deep.
No one believes Doumbouya is playing lights out for the Pistons, on either end of the court. But, who has outside of Jerami Grant? It really has been quite confusing following Doumbouya’s situation.
Those, however, that are staunch defenders of Dwane Casey’s handling of Doumbouya have come up with quite the list of excuses for why he hasn’t played:
“Well, when Blake Griffin sits out or is hurt, he’ll play more in those games!”
That would be a completely fair take if we hadn't already seen proof against that statement. Griffin has already missed three games this season. In the first game without Griffin, Doumbouya was gifted with 10 minutes of play. In the second game without Griffin, Doumbouya was again gifted with 10 minutes of play.
The only game in which Doumbouya saw extended minutes was the third game Griffin sat out - where Jerami Grant picked up two fouls in the first minute and a half and the game was a blowout in the second half.
This doesn’t exactly support the whole “when Blake sits” statement. If anything, this shows the complete opposite; even when Griffin sits, Casey and the staff have made no effort to get Doumbouya more playing time.
“Sekou needs to earn his minutes! Casey isn’t going to just hand him minutes!”
I have two issues with this:
One, the assumption that Casey isn’t going to just hand anyone minutes is false. Jahlil Okafor has been handed minutes over Isaiah Stewart in the first half of the last two Pistons games, despite being completely outplayed by Stewart and being a revolving door on defense.
Two, what exactly does Doumbouya need to do to earn more minutes? What’s the bar he has to reach here? In the first game of the season, Doumbouya scored six points and grabbed nine rebounds in 13 minutes. In the following game, he was gifted a whole 8 minutes for his performance.
Sekou Watch:— Lazarus Jackson (@lazchance) January 10, 2021
Sekou offensive foul in transition (kinda bs).
Sekou fights through screen, Jazz still score.
Sekou posts up minivan, draws FTAs (2-2)
It has gotten to a point where our very own Lazarus Jackson has felt the need to hyper analyze every possession of Doumbouya’s play. Nobody else on this team is being analyzed like this - as they shouldn’t be! No player should have to be analyzed like this, on such a short leash, ON A REBUILDING TEAM.
For example, imagine if Doumbouya made this turnover. He would’ve been yanked off the floor immediately. The issue being raised here isn’t that every player should be treated like Sekou, it’s that Sekou should be treated just like every other young player on this team!
Heck, Killian Hayes was shooting a whopping 27 percent from the floor and 25 percent from deep before he got hurt. Yet, he was playing 21 minutes per game.
Which is fine! This season is about developing players, so no big deal! But, why is Doumbouya not being treated with the same process?
“Sekou is a four, and he’s just behind two other great players at the position!”
Just, no. First off, Blake Griffin is no longer a great player. It pains me to say this, but he’s been very much a net-negative player on the floor. Despite that, Griffin has played 32, 35, 40, and up to 44 minutes in individual games this season. There is absolutely no reason for this version of Griffin, at age 32, to be playing these type of minutes.
No one has suggested benching Griffin. Everyone with a brain understands that cannot happen. No one has suggested playing Griffin 15 minutes a game, either. But, simply, Blake Griffin should not be playing as many minutes as he’s playing right now.
The longer Griffin has stayed on the court, the worse he looks. Not only does it not make sense for this Sekou situation, it literally works against the idea of showing off Griffin to boost his trade value. The 32-year-old has looked his best in short stretches, but the longer he has been kept out there, the more his faults are on display.
Another reason why this excuse doesn’t make sense is, well:
Asked Dwane Casey about Sekou Doumbouya. Casey said he loves his daily approach and he's been putting in the work. Yesterday's DNP wasn't an indictment on his progress. "We have to find ways, whether it’s at the 3, to get him some minutes because this year is about him playing."— Omari Sankofa II (@omarisankofa) January 14, 2021
There’s so much head-scratching happening with this statement. One, it confirms that Doumbouya is not strictly a four (which I have been saying for months). So, the argument that he’s not playing because of Griffin and Grant is false.
Secondly, who is “we”?
Dwane Casey is the coach of the Detroit Pistons. With that title, he is in control of how many minutes players play and what position they play them at. You mean YOU have to find ways to play your promising 20-year-old.
This quote also hammers home that this season is about playing the young guys, including Sekou. Too many people have said, “Well, all the other young guys are getting minutes so be quiet.” It’s very clear Casey even admits that, no, this season isn’t just about the four rookies - Sekou Doumbouya is also supposed to be included here.
So, what is going with Sekou? The best answer here is, honestly, who knows. I could be overreacting to just the first 11 games, and I very much hope this is the case.
Weaver also could not be completely sold on Doumbouya as part of the young core. The new General Manager has shown no loyalty to those who were here before him; just ask Luke Kennard and Bruce Brown.
This could all be part of Casey’s mad genius plan in getting the most out of the young Frenchman.
The only thing we know is there definitely is a situation going on involving him, whether people want to admit it or not. Whether it’s incompetence, practice play, off-the-court concentration, or doubts about fit in the bigger picture, something is up.
But, I am very sick of seeing the Pistons’ 2019 first-round draft pick keeping seats warm on the bench.