Shortly after selecting Sekou Doumbouya with the 15th overall pick in the draft, Pistons acting general manager Ed Stefanksi began preaching patience.
"He's an 18-year-old kid," Stefanski said. "He would be a senior in high school."
At least, that's the outside consensus.
As far as that 18-year-old is concerned, he's prepared for the NBA now.
"I’m definitely ready. I’m ready for that," he said in a conference call with local reporters. "I’ve been pro for three years. I’ve played against grown men and I learned a lot."
Doumbouya, whose family moved from Guinea when he was one year old, joined the professional ranks in France at the age of 15. He played in the top league last season and held his own, averaging 6.9 points in 18.5 minutes per game. With a long frame and elite athleticism, Doumbouya fits the mold of the two-way combo forward in today's NBA.
It doesn't mean he'll thrive for the Pistons next season, or even that he'll play. But Doumbouya could be a force when he comes into his own.
Asked about his strengths, he said, "My defense, first. My defense, my fast break, my motor."
"Offensively I can do everything," he said. "I can drive, I can shoot, I can dribble."
Doumbouya is said to be at his best in transition. He has long, fluid strides and a penchant for attacking the rim. And while his shot needs some work, he does show good touch. On defense, he can be a nightmare in almost any matchup.
His coach last season, Kyle Milling, raved about his ability to play several roles.
"I like guys who are versatile and can do a lot of different things, someone who fits modern-day basketball. Does he really have a position? These days, a lot of guys can play multiple positions. Sekou is very raw, but he can defend 1, 2, 3 and 4. He can play the 3, play the 4," Milling said. "He can do a lot of different things."
Stefanski and the Pistons know Doumbouya's a project, but the return could be special. He's already drawn comparisons to Toronto's Pascal Siakam, who started to realize the breadth of potential this season at the age of 24 and wreaked havoc on the NBA -- especially in the playoffs. Siakam, like Doumbouya, has African roots. It's a comparison Doumbouya likes.
"I agree with that. I feel like I play like Siakam," he said. "I just have to work right now. Prove to myself, to the team, what I can do."
"It’s a little bit different," he said, "but it’s just basketball, right?"
Soon enough, Doumbouya will see for himself. As for how he adapts, only time will tell. Doumbouya believes he's ready to make the jump now, and there's nothing wrong with that kind of confidence.
Stefanski's outlook is just a bit more practical.
"We’ll know in two to three years," he said. "But tonight we’re really happy that we feel he fell to 15."