'We got lucky': Pistons thought they had no shot at Sekou Doumbouya

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Pistons first-round draft pick Sekou Doumbouya, with head coach Dwane Casey, was introduced on Friday.

Auburn Hills — Surrounded in a gym full of other NBA scouts and executives, Pistons coach Dwane Casey thought he was just going through the motions. Everyone was there in Texas to watch Sekou Doumbouya work out — and by many accounts, most came away thinking that the forward would be a top talent in the NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-9 and just 18 years old, Doumbouya flashed a consistent jump shot along with good athleticism and versatility. With the Pistons picking 15th on Thursday, there wasn’t a chance to get Doumbouya.

Until there was.

“We went to Dallas last Saturday and saw Sekou and I told him I didn’t think he’d ever see us again — because I thought he’d (he’d be drafted) before us,” Casey said Friday afternoon at Doumbouya’s introductory press conference at the Pistons’ practice facility. “We got lucky — and luck is a big part of it.”

As the Pistons’ selection approached, they had an idea of what they wanted to do. Senior advisor Ed Stefanski, who is in charge of the Pistons’ draft operation, was there at the workout in Texas. Before and since, Stefanski had poured over reams of hard-copy information about dozens of prospects. They had formulated a solid plan and were ready to execute it.

Until it was their turn — and Doumbouya was still there.

“He kept dropping and we had Plan A in place and we didn’t expect him to be there. Then Plan B came into place and it was the best plan of all — because we had him ranked very high on the board,” Casey said Friday afternoon at Doumbouya’s introductory press conference at the Pistons’ practice facility. “(Most of the team scouts) were there at the workout in Dallas and we thought we were wasting our time because we saw all the teams in front of us.

“We didn’t know he was going to drop — and that drop is our gain. We’re happy to get him.”

Doumbouya can play both forward positions, excels in transition and has a good jump shot. Stefanski said Doumbouya hit 17 straight 3-pointers during his pro day. It was that versatility that had teams ranking him in the top 10 of their draft boards.

Already, he’s drawing comparisons to one of Casey’s former players, Pascal Siakam, who helped the Raptors win an improbable NBA title.

“I feel my game is similar," Doumbouya said. "We’re the same size and I play like Siakam."

Casey agreed with the assessment and hoped that Doumbouya’s development arc can be similar to Siakam’s.

“One similarity is running the floor. He’s a jet when he runs the floor, like Pascal,” Casey said. “His reach is probably similar and the motor. I hate to call Pascal and this young man raw — but they’re raw. Pascal had the luxury of coming to the States and going to college here.

“Both of them were soccer players growing up, and now Pascal is where he is and Sekou is going to try to get where he is. The only way you do that is through work and giving yourself to the coaches.”

Casey said the plan is to have Doumbouya play on the Pistons’ Summer League team in Las Vegas, beginning July 5, and how he does there will help determine what the plan is for him during next season.

The Pistons are high on Doumbouya’s defensive ability and size, which was a lesson learned during their playoff sweep at the hands of a Milwaukee Bucks team that had considerable mismatches with their bigger forwards.

“It wasn’t like our guys weren’t trying. The size disadvantage of guarding guys like Khris Middleton and (Giannis) Antetokounmpo, and in the Eastern Conference there are guys we have to contend with,” Casey said. “He’ll be an excellent piece to have to go against those guys. Whether he’s going to start or play, the summer will dictate that and how we go through training camp.

“All the skills and attributes are there, but he put on a show that day in Dallas. We saw him a lot live in France and a lot on video. He’s an excellent prospect for our core going forward.”

Doumbouya, who will wear jersey No. 45, will begin working with the Pistons’ development staff to hone his game and prepare for the Summer League. After playing professionally in France, Doumbouya will move to the U.S. and prepare for his professional career.

Hearkening back to his pro day, Doumbouya said he wasn’t sure what to expect or how teams analyzed his workout.

“It was good; it was fun. I was a little nervous,” he admitted. “I worked a lot last year on my shot with my individual coach, who is working now with Rudy Gobert.”

The real work starts now, but it was the initial work in Doumbouya’s pro day that got the ball rolling.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard