There are a couple narratives going around the Detroit Pistons right now that motivated me to do a breakdown of third-year forward Sekou Doumbouya. First, with the Pistons currently 1 player over the allotted 15-player limit, I believe Sekou is likely to be traded. I have said myself that I would not be surprised if, in fact, Sekou (or Josh Jackson) were traded to get down to that 15 as opposed to what seems like the “easy” decision of waiving Jahlil Okafor. With that said, I would not agree with that decision because I would like to see Sekou get a full 82 games of consistent rotation minutes before the Pistons make the ultimate decision on his future.
That leads me to the second narrative — Pistons fans wondering what direction the organization will take this season in terms of decisions based on developing (and evaluating) the young players OR always putting the best team on the floor to win regardless of what that may mean for said development and evaluation. This is a decision that could affect multiple players on the roster but maybe none more than Sekou if he is still around.
I want to see the Pistons win this year. I want to see them win much more than last year, and I have said that I believe they could be flirting with a play-in game if things break right. But as I alluded to earlier, I want to see them win while giving guys like Sekou a full season of evaluation to see if they are part of the long-term future of this team.
I have talked to many guests on the Motor City Hoops podcast that have said this should still be a year of “trying things” for the Pistons. They should try playing a two-big lineup that involves Isaiah Stewart, for example. Perhaps try Hayes and Cunningham together for a full 82 games. Let’s play Frank Jackson big minutes off guard to see if he can replicate the shooting and work effectively next to our taller/bigger “point guards.” And my personal favorite, let’s find out if Hamidou Diallo really has “offensive initiator” in his game like I believe he does (I know I am on my own on this one). I am not saying “TANK,” and I am not saying to try these at the expense of winning, but I do agree with people who say this is a year to find out about these young players. And again, at the heart of that is Sekou Doumbouya. So lets give him a full year to find out what he can bring to this team.
Anyone who says that Sekou needs to improve his outside shot is right. There is no doubt that improved outside shooting will help Doumbouya grow his game and what he can bring to the Pistons. With that said, do I think he can still be a valuable offensive weapon with this team even as that shot continues to develop? Yes, especially with the increased emphasis on shooting from the rest of the personnel. Nobody may benefit more from Troy Weaver’s emphasis on bringing in shooting than Sekou, because he will no longer be on the floor with two or three other non-shooters as was often the case last season.
Doumbouya will also be yet another beneficiary from Cade Cunningham coming to town as he is another guy (along with Killian and Saben Lee) who will find him when he does get open off the ball. Check out the video to see how Sekou uses his off ball movement to get himself shots, his teammates shots and where he can still improve.
This might be the area of Sekou’s game that created the most buzz and positivity coming out of Summer League. Again, I know it is just Summer League, but it is the most recent film we have to go on until preseason games start in a little over a month! I know a lot of people like to talk about his shot blocking, which I will highlight, but what might have impressed me the most was his ability to switch on the perimeter and stay in front of smaller players. If that is something he can translate to an NBA game, along with shot blocking, he would then be stacking multiple things together for an argument to keep him in Detroit. As always, it is not all good on the defensive end, and I show where some liabilities are and one specific area I think he could really improve.
This will again bring up the lack of 3-point shooting, BUT I still think he can overcome that if he just makes the right decisions. Sekou has to be more decisive and aggressive when he finds himself in these situations, and I believe good things will happen more often than not. Either way, I believe it’s an area he can ultimately be successful in but must improve throughout this season.
I am very much aware how polarizing a player Sekou is, and that a lot of Pistons fans are ready for to move on from the “project” player. Quite frankly, I understand it. But I think we should shift our mindset away from the ceiling many projected when he was first selected (Siakam, or Giannis eek) and focus more on the realistic outcomes for Sekou. Maybe those outcomes are not what fans wanted from Sekou or from a guy drafted No. 15 overall, BUT those outcomes can fill a very important role on a good team, and I would love it if Sekou got the chance to showcase that this season…...all season.