Pistons get top-10 talent in France’s Doumbouya, NBA draft’s youngest player

Sekou Doumbouya, who won’t turn 19 until December, is the youngest player drafted to the NBA since eligibility rules were amended in 2006.
NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Pistons brass made the trek to suburban Dallas earlier this month to scout Sekou Doumbouya’s draft workout. They left chalking it up to an excusion.

“We interviewed him. (Dwane Casey), Gregg Polinsky, our director of player personnel, myself,” Pistons front-office leader Ed Stefanski said after taking Doumbouya with the 15th pick. “Had a real nice interview. He went to the gym, the workout, and he had a big-time workout. He knocked down a ton of jump shots. I mean, a on. When I left there, it was, nice trip to Frisco, Texas. I’ve never been there before.”

But a draft that was expected to be topsy turvy threw a curveball the Pistons never saw coming. Doumbouya, the youngest player in the draft – he turns 19 in late December, making him barely eligible for this year’s draft – was unexpectedly available when the lottery concluded.

Doumbouya, born in Guinea but now a French national who played professionally there, was widely considered a top-10 talent. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound Doumbouya will give the Pistons the length on the wing they’ve lacked for the last few seasons, though it’s unlikely he’ll be ready to crack the rotation early in his rookie season or perhaps at all.

“He would be a senior in high school playing in the pro leagues in France,” Stefanski said. “Think about that. His game needs to be tightened in a lot of areas, but he’s got numerous tools, which is very exciting.”

“I was just happy – happy to join the coach, the players, the organization,” Doumbouya said from New York. “That’s a great organization. I’m excited to be there tomorrow.” Doumbouya said he found Casey “very charismatic. I love this man.”

Stefanski and Polinsky had traveled to France to scout Doumbouya, as well, and watched hours of videotape of his games.

“He moves his feel well and that’s great – the coach will like to switch with him,” Stefanski said. “We finally got a guy with some size. We have a lot of 6-4½ to 6-6 guys and we got a kid that’s big upside. You have to work with him. Going to have to develop him, but there’s a lot of things to like about this guy.”

In taking Doumbouya, the Pistons passed over wings such as North Carolina’s Nassir Little, Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson and Southern Cal’s Kevin Porter Jr. and combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker of Virginia Tech.

“Excellent physical profile for a modern combo forward at 6-foot-9 with an 8-foot-11 standing reach, giving him the tools to easily play either forward spot,” ESPN’s analysis of Doumbouya read. “After donning extra weight in the past, he’s done a great job of getting in the best shape of his life, looking much more capable of playing on the wing. Fluid athlete who loves to run the lanes in transition. Big reach and leaping ability allow him to hammer home dunks in space.”

Doumbouya played for Limoges and competed in EuroCup around a wrist injury last season. He averaged 6.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 15 minutes a game competing against older professionals.

A flurry of trades ahead of the 15th pick – the fourth, sixth and eight picks all changed hands in the hours before the draft – altered the pool of available players awaiting the Pistons.

Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R. J. Barrett went 1-2-3 as widely expected. Atlanta traded up to No. 4 to draft De’Andre Hunter. Cleveland picked Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland fifth and Minnesota, trading up from 11, picked Jarrett Culver sixth. That left Chicago to take the third of the three elite point guards, Coby White, at seven followed by New Orleans, getting the eighth pick from Atlanta, taking the first center, Jaxson Hayes.

Washington provided a surprise by taking Rui Hachimura with the ninth pick and Atlanta followed by selecting Cam Reddish 10th. Phoenix, using the pick it got for moving back from six, provided an even bigger surprise at 11 by taking Cameron Johnson, a fifth-year senior from North Carolina, a player some thought might fall out of the first round.

Two teams that battled the Pistons to the final days for the East’s last playoff spot, Charlotte and Miami, took P.J. Washington and Tyler Herro at 12 and 13. Boston took a player who’d been often linked to the Pistons in mock drafts, Indiana’s Romeo Langford, with the 14th pick.

That left the Pistons to take a player they likely never imagined would be available at 15. As the youngest player to hear his name called in Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, Pistons fans might have to wait a minute to see him play meaningful minutes. Given his potential, it figures to be worth the wait.

“A top 10 talent,” ESPN analyst Mike Schmitz said. “He physically reminds me of Pascal Siakam in terms of a Swiss Army knife style of forwards.”

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