Good signs early from Doumbouya, Bone and King in their G League journeys

Sekou Doumbouya
Sekou Doumbouya is already showing signs of progress in his 5 games with the Grand Rapids Drive in the G League
Kamil Krzaczynski (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – Dwane Casey’s abiding mission is getting the Pistons right – drastically reducing their turnovers on offense, patching up a bottom-five defense – now that Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose are back, but like all successful NBA coaches, he’s adept at multitasking.

He’s keeping tabs on the three young Pistons in Grand Rapids – No. 1 pick Sekou Doumbouya and two-way players Jordan Bone and Louis King. And the early returns on all three give ample cause for optimism where their NBA futures are concerned.

The Pistons drafted Doumbouya knowing full well he was in need of patience and development. With a Dec. 23, 2000 birthday, he was not only the youngest player in the draft but the youngest drafted since 2005 before the NBA changed eligibility requirements. He’d be the second-youngest player on the roster at both Michigan and Michigan State.

So it’s encouraging that Doumbouya is already showing clear progress over his six games at Grand Rapids, growing more sure of himself by the game. He’s getting about 24 minutes a game so far, a number likely to tick up as he acclimates, but is averaging 18.5 points with outstanding shooting numbers - .566 overall, .414 from the 3-point arc. Doumboya’s per-36 minutes scoring average of 28.1 leads the Drive.

In Monday’s comeback win at Westchester, Doumbouya had his best game yet, scoring 28 points on 10 of 16 shooting, hitting 4 of 7 triples.

Casey is a vocal proponent of the value of the G League, having seen firsthand its benefits in Toronto with players like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright and Norman Powell. Siakam is held up as the model for Doumbouya given their physical similarities and overlapping skill sets.

But it’s worth noting that Siakam was 22 when he was drafted in 2016 and an experienced college player.

“Different people,” Casey said of the comparison. “Pascal has an elite – elite – not a good motor. Elite motor. That’s where Sekou has to get to. If he gets to that motor where he’s the first one in the gym, last one to leave, 24/7, that’s when Sekou’s going to take off. Siakam is a lot like (Dennis) Rodman was here – never stopped moving, never stopped running, never stopped working. That’s the difference in Siakam and a lot of players in this league is his elite motor.”

Doumboya, Bone and King all put up big numbers as the Drive won a weekend back to back with the Greensboro Swarm to open their home season. In Friday’s 129-122 win, King put up 30 points and 11 rebounds, Bone 24 points and nine assists and Doumbouya 18 points and five rebounds. In Saturday’s 118-104 win, King had 20 points, six rebounds and four assists; Bone 23 points, four rebounds and 10 assists; and Doumbouya 23 points and four rebounds.

In five games, Bone is averaging 20.4 points and 8.6 assists while getting up plenty of 3-point shots – 6.8 per game – and making them at a .471 clip, eye-opening numbers. He hit 5 of 8 triples, including four in the second half, of Monday’s win at Westchester.

But while Casey will approve of the shot selection and accuracy, what he’s really looking for from Bone is blossoming at the position. The G League is full of guards who were highly productive college players looking to make their mark against someone on an NBA contract, so Casey hopes Bone can get past that and focus on becoming a point guard.

“The mentality you have down there is, OK, I can score. I can get mine,” he said. “But we’ve told him, going down there, work on your point guard skills. Help other people. It’s more about that than you and Sekou and Louis King scoring. It’s not about scoring; it’s about learning how to play the game.”

Bone’s speed and athleticism put him in an elite tier and can help him become an even more effective player in the NBA than he was in college, where his athleticism was muted by the deliberate pace at which Tennessee played. Nearly averaging a double-double in his first foray into professional play is a strong indication he’ll handle the transition well.

King, 19, has impressed Casey with the growth he’s exhibited since Summer League. Casey got glowing reports on King for his work in September pickup games with Pistons veterans and caught his eye in camp. He’s got innate scoring ability but has shown a knack for making plays, as well, with the Drive.

“Putting the ball on the floor stronger, making plays for other people,” Casey said. “His motor has improved. I think he’s using not getting drafted as a motivation. He’s taken steps to get better. He’s going to be a good prospect for the organization.”

King is averaging 19.2 points and 7.0 rebounds over his five games. His 3-point shooting is subpar in that small sample size (.250), but King shot nearly 40 percent as a college freshman from the shorter arc, so all indications are that he’ll become an above-average perimeter shooter.

Casey’s track record is giving young players a shot once they’ve demonstrated work ethic and aptitude, so nobody’s ruling out Doumbouya, Bone or King from contributing to the 2019-20 Pistons season. Even if that doesn’t happen, early signs are that they’ll be able to help at some point in the not too distant future.

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