Detroit Pistons: How Does Sekou Doumbouya’s Rookie Season Stack Up?

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 24: Sekou Doumbouya #45 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 24: Sekou Doumbouya #45 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) /

Detroit Pistons rookie Sekou Doumbouya had an up and down opening campaign. How does it compare against former players in their first year?

Detroit sports fans are desperate and not just for live sports to return to local stadiums – we’re desperate for our teams to return to relevancy. The Detroit Pistons, in particular, have been a tragedy of mediocrity for over a decade.

A carousel of uninspiring basketball, like a lost driver in Detroit circling Campus Martius for like 11 years. Shame.  As I illustrated here, they’re a franchise without clear direction – caught between the remnants of the Stan Van Gundy regime and the seeds of the Ed Stefanski era.

So, you can’t blame Pistons fans when they get a little overzealous about a new, young player. We like focusing a beam of hopeless optimism towards whichever young guy shows promise.

Related Story. How Sekou Doumbouya can improve for the Detroit Pistons. light

Heck – we treat Luke Kennard like we’re sure he’s going to become the modern-day Jerry West and we thought Stanley Johnson was definitely going to be the next Paul George.

Sekou Doumbouya is just the latest player Pistons fans have pinned their franchise hopes on. I’m no different – I wrote an article with a feature on the young Sekou that read like a WWE promo for a new babyface wrestler.

Sekou has promise – no doubt. He dominated the G-League early this season and after being called up to the NBA he looked like an offensive weapon in the making.

Those first couple of Sekou Pistons games were like when Harry Potter joined the Gryffindor Quidditch team, he was really showing out and way earlier than expected!  He even had a moment, one that Tristan Thompson would like to forget.

Unfortunately, Doumbouya’s play regressed. Hard. And he looked every bit the part of a rookie trying to figure out his role on a losing Pistons team.

The regression wasn’t surprising. Sekou was drafted as a project, the fact that he’s playing in the NBA this season, much less starting, is a bonus. With such an up and down season at such a young age, it’s hard to project exactly what type of player Sekou will develop into.

Especially when you examine the history of young, athletic wings drafted in the mid to late first round. That’s when drafts get messy after all the sure things have been taken. There’s a super interesting lineage of players here, ranging from Stanley Johnson to Kobe Bryant.

So since we’re in quarantine, what’s a better way to spend our time then seeing how Sekou’s rookie campaign stacks up against other NBA player’s rookie seasons in that Sekou archetype – athletic, young wings that aren’t sure things but have spicy, tantalizing ceilings.

To start, let’s take a look at his 2019 – 2020 stat line:

And now, for the sake of comparison let’s take a look at his stats Per 100 Possessions – because we’ll be comparing across eras:

Luckily, stats aren’t everything. Sekou’s very raw and his numbers show that. But there was no denying his electric impact when he arrived from the G-League. In my Sekou piece above, there are a few clips that clearly illustrate his feel for the game.

The Pistons have to cultivate his confidence and funnel it into good habits because as one can surmise from those shooting percentages – he takes a lot of bad shots.

Sekou’s poor field goal percentage is a result of a Kobe-like shot selection. I love the confidence he plays with but he has to make sure he doesn’t veer into irrational confidence guy territory.

According to, Sekou had a staggering 28.1 Percent of Team’s Blocked Field Goal Attempts for the Pistons. That means he’s forcing a TON of bad shots.

Plus, he only averaged 1.5 assists in the G-League, despite playing 27 minutes a game. Those could be potential black-hole warning signs.

light. Related Story. Detroit Pistons 2019-2020 player grade: Sekou Doumbouya

Another thing to remember is that Sekou played a much shorter season than the rookies we’ll compare him to. A longer rookie season may have presented him with an opportunity to rebound from his stretch of poor play after the blazing hot start.

His monthly splits support that hypothesis as well. Sekou’s January was really his first substantial NBA action, he posted a 98 offensive rating. Then in February, he came crashing down to Earth, with a 78 offensive rating. In March, he posted a 88 offensive rating, showing signs of improvement before the league was closed.

One of the most popular comparisons for Sekou during the season was Pascal Siakam. The 27th pick in the 2016 draft,  Pascal was a raw forward prospect who blossomed into a legitimate top option on a playoff team. Here’s how they compare per 100 possessions:

The difference in field goal percentage between the 2 is undeniable and Siakam displayed a much better-developed ability for defending the rim with his preposterous 7’3” wingspan.

Meanwhile, Sekou’s wingspan comes in at 6’11” – so it’s likely that he won’t be able to match Pascal’s ability to contest shots but could still become an above-average defender with his athleticism, quickness, and length.

Siakam had another “meh” year before blossoming in his 3rd season and then becoming a possible franchise cornerstone in his 4th. Sekou 100 percent needs another year or two under his belt before he makes any sort of leap and Pascal Siakam-like jumps aren’t incredibly common.

Like Siakam, Sekou started playing basketball relatively late in life – which makes chances at significant improvements going forward more likely.

While his body-type, draft position, and development track will hopefully mirror Siakam – his mentality and play-style remind me of, as I mentioned earlier, of a young Kobe Bryant.  The confidence to take any shot, no matter how well defended could be a result of youth or it could be signs of a player that knows he has enough offensive talent to throw caution to the wind.

Kobe, like Sekou, was the youngest player in the league during his rookie year and also taken in that mid-first-round range at 13. People forget that teams were wary of taking a player out of high school, Kobe being just the fifth ever.

He also had a game that drew comparisons to Kobe when he became the 2nd youngest player (19 years, 23 days) in NBA history to score 24+ pts on 75+ percent FG in a game. The youngest? Kobe Bryant in April of 1997.

So how does Sekou’s rookie season compare to Mamba’s?

When we look at the numbers, Kobe, unsurprisingly, has the edge in every major statistical category besides rebounding and turnovers (and would you look at those turnovers – Kobe was not shy with the ball).

Okay, maybe he has a ways to go before we compare him to Kobe again but I just wanted to check, ya know, just in case.

So, how about we lower the bar a bit and compare him to another 19-year-old Pistons rookie. That’s right, come on down Stanley Johnson!

Oh boy, these two stat lines are interestingly similar. Stanley showing signs of his all-around game and Sekou showing a better ability to get buckets.

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While their stats and age are similar, their development took very different paths. Stanley Johnson, while also just 19 in his rookie season, had a solid year at Arizona before coming into the NBA.

Sekou, on the other hand, played in the LNB Pro French league that’s not nearly on par with the NCAA. So the fact that Sekou could perform at a similar level, despite lesser prior competition is promising.

Fortunately, there will likely be better nurturing of Sekou’s talent under Pistons coach Dwane Casey compared to former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy’s botching of Stanley Johnson.

SVG would yank Johnson out of games for minor mistakes instead of letting him play through them, destroying his confidence in the process. SVG destroyed that confidence and in the NBA and in basketball, confidence is everything.

Anyways, despite their similarities as young, promising Pistons rookies, it’s clear that Sekou will be a different player than Johnson. Under ideal circumstances, Stanley would’ve likely progressed into a 6th man, do it all type of utility player – able to rebound, run the offense and play strong, physical man-to-man defense.

Sekou projects as more of a scoring option, as we’ve seen in the G-League, able to light up a defense by getting to the rim and hitting threes. He also has superior lateral quickness and length, which should make him a more versatile on-ball and weakside defender.

Our final comparison is maybe the spiciest.

There are a few similarities between Giannis and Sekou that make for a fun comp. Both of their families originally hailed from West Africa before moving to Europe and both were selected with the 15th overall pick as high-ceiling projects.

Another interesting wrinkle is that Giannis came into the league listed at 6’8.5″ and reportedly grew 2 inches by the end of his rookie year. Sekou came into the league at 6’9″ – has anyone measured Sekou lately?

And while his rookie stats don’t quite measure up to Giannis’s all-around game, they’re not too far off either. Plus, Sekou only played half the amount of games and almost exclusively against starters. During their rookie years, Sekou started 19 of his 38 games versus Antetokounmpo’s 23 of 77.

No one expects Sekou to become Antetokounmpo or Kobe Bryant. Pistons fans would gladly settle for a Siakam-lite. We’re just excited to have a rookie look promising enough to make comparisons that will offend all of NBA Twitter.

Guys like Antetokounmpo, Siakam, Bryant all possessed legendary work ethic and that’s what separates potential from greatness. There’s no doubt Sekou has immense potential, only time will tell what he’ll do with it.

Some of us are more sure of his future greatness than others, to quote Markieff Morris, “That’s the Prince. You’re going to see in about 5 years, he’s going to have Detroit on his back.” We certainly hope so.

Next. Detroit Pistons 2019-2020 player grade: Derrick Rose. dark