'He's ready to go': Pistons' Sekou Doumbouya, 19, seems poised to make big leap
Detroit — Less than a minute after he entered Sunday’s preseason game against the New York Knicks, Sekou Doumbouya was driving for a layup and giving the Pistons a much-needed boost on the offensive end.
About two minutes later, he hit a 3-pointer.
It was the start of one of the best offensive barrages of Doumbouya’s short career. He finished with 23 points, on 8-of-11 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers. Although it was just the preseason, it was one point off of Doumbouya’s career high — set January 15 at Boston — and is another sampler platter of what the versatile forward can be when he’s on his game.
After an up-and-down rookie year, Doumbouya is looking to make consistency a keyword in his bio.
“There is a big difference between him last year and this year. It blows my mind that he's only 19 years old. His poise and his understanding of the game has gone to a different level,” forward Blake Griffin said. “He was great; he did all the things we've talked about, all the things that are going to get him more and more minutes. Part of that is having a year under his belt but he did a great job this summer. He's in great shape and he's ready to go.”
Doumbouya had just four points and four rebounds in the preseason opener in 11 minutes Friday. He turned up the intensity on Sunday, finding his way to the rim and remaining active off the ball, with cuts to the rim getting him easy, open looks at the basket, contributing to his efficiency.
One bad game, one good game. What happens moving forward for the rest of the preseason and into the regular season is the trajectory that Doumbouya is looking to change.
“The first game, that was the first game. Everybody has to find a rhythm and find their place in the game and how they'll react to other players,” Doumbouya said. “That's what I found tonight, what I have to do. We already played (the Knicks), so I know what I have to do.”
Doumbouya has shown the offensive prowess in short spurts previously, but his defensive improvement also has been noticeable. He handled himself well against the Knicks’ Julius Randle, who is a load in the paint.
It’s the potential for a complete package that led the Pistons to select Doumbouya 15th overall in the 2019 draft and after a sometimes-rocky rookie season, he’s back with a summer of work to improve on that showing.
“The intensity defensively he gave us and guarding Randle is not an easy chore,” coach Dwane Casey said Sunday. “That energy with him running the floor, cutting away from the basketball, not depending on just spotting up all the time and his movement was good.”
Added Casey: “It’s his cutting without the ball. He just didn't stand out there and hope the ball found him; he cut to the right spots, the open spots. That's who he is. That's what he did last year when he had that good two weeks during the season, he was cutting without the ball moving without the ball. That's what he's got to do.”
As part of the second unit that includes Derrick Rose, Svi Mykhailiuk, Jahlil Okafor and Josh Jackson, Doumbouya brought a spark on Sunday, which can buoy the Pistons when their starters don’t have the needed energy.
Against the Knicks, the first group had a good start and the reserves boosted that even more with their energy.
“Every time I step on the court, I have to bring the energy, whether we're down or up. I have to be locked in and try to help the team every time I step on the court,” Doumbouya said. “That's my job too. When you come off the bench, you have to be locked in and ready to help the team on defense or offense. Even if I'm not scoring, I have to help the team get some stops.”