Pistons Prioritize Future In Picking Doumbouya, 'The Early Steal Of The Draft'

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Photo credit Sarah Stier / Stringer

The question gave Ed Stefanski pause. It wasn't that he disagreed with the logic, more so the notion. 

Knowing they had the 30th overall pick as a failsafe, did the Pistons feel more comfortable taking a gamble at No. 15?

Stefanski mulled it over for a moment, then replied with conviction. 

"I don't see it as a gamble," Stefanski said. "I don’t see it as a gamble at all."

If not a gamble, 18-year-old Sekou Doumbouya is most certainly a project. He was the youngest player in the draft, and he has a long way to go to make an impact in the NBA. But when he arrives, his impact could be great. That's why he was considered a near-lock to go in the lottery, with most mocks projecting he'd be taken no later than 11th. 

And that's why the Pistons were thrilled when he was there at No. 15.

"Had him rated higher. Didn’t see it coming," said acting GM Ed Stefanski. "We’re very, very happy in the board room. Big wing, 6’9, got a body frame that will only get better. Puts the ball on the floor pretty well, he’s a good athlete, his shot’s getting better. And he played against men in a good league over there."

By over there, Stefanski is referring to France, where Doumbouya moved with his family when he was one year old. He was born in Guinea. He didn't begin playing basketball until the age of 12. By the age of 15 he was playing professionally. Last season he moved up to the top league in the country and averaged 6.9 points in 18.5 minutes per night. 

When scouts break down Doumbouya's game, they point to how fluidly he moves up and down the floor. They rave about the way he blows past defenders in transition. They like the way he slashes his way to the bucket in the halfcourt. They say he has good shooting touch for someone his age, but he prefers to finish at the rim. 

On defense, they Doumbouya has the makings of a menace. His quick lateral movement allows him to guard almost any position on the floor. When Stefanski went to France this year to watch Doumbouya play, it was one of the first things that stood out. 

"He moves his feet well, and that’s great because (we have a) coach who will like to switch with him. But I think we finally got a guy with some size. We have a lot of 6’4 to 6’6 guys, and we got a kid that, again, big upside. We have to work with him, we have to develop him, but there’s a lot of things to like about this guy," Stefanksi said. 

Indeed, NBA insider Bobby Marks deemed Doumbouya "the early steal of the draft."

2 teams told me before the draft that they would be surprised Sekou Doumbouya would get out of the top 10. The early steal of the draft is Detroit with that pick.

— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) June 21, 2019

There were rumors the Pistons might look to move up from No. 15, and Stefanski acknowledged as much earlier this week. (He also said they would consider trading back.) They made some calls Thursday night, but the price for a better pick was too high.

Even if the Pistons are holding strong on their win-now approach, in this case they prioritized the future. 

"People wanted too much. We can’t give away the future to move up, and I’m really happy we didn’t," said Stefanski. "We sat where we were, and a lot of times the draft comes to you." 

The future is now defined by Doumbouya, who has the tools to eventually thrive in today's NBA. When Stefanski, Dwayne Casey and Pistons director of player personnel watched him work out in Dallas earlier this month, he apparently put on a show. Jump shot after jump shot, one make after another. Stefanski was sold, not that he needed further convincing. 

It'll be another year or two before the Pistons know what they have. But for now they have hope, which is more than they've been able to say in quite some time.