Many draft analysts have projected CSP Limoges’ 6–9 forward Sekou Doumbouya to go in the lottery for the 2019 NBA Draft, with numerous online publications projecting him to go in the top 5. But unlike last year’s third overall pick and Dallas Mavericks’ rookie Luka Doncic, Doumbouya may be a relative unknown in the U.S, as he did not play in France’s top league or in the Euroleague last year, and he hasn’t been playing at the highest levels of international basketball up until this season.
He did play in France’s second division last year, but he only produced mixed results at best. For Poitiers Basket 86, Doumbouya averaged 8.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game, but he only made 39.3% of his field goals, 29.3% of his threes, and he rated as being below average in most offensive metrics and he also had a less than stellar 109 defensive rating. However, he is a high usage player that will get some rebounds, so he had a respectable 12 PER in that league.
This is in stark contrast to Dallas Mavericks’ rookie guard Luka Doncic, who may have been one of the most polished players in recent draft history, as he averaged 14.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game while making 45% of his field goals and sported a 2 to 1 Assist to turnover ratio in both the Spanish ACB League, Euroleague, and Spanish Cup combined, according to RealGM. He also had received regular playing time in those leagues the year before for the 2016–17 season. Doncic was also a Euroleague champion, a 3-time Spanish ACB League champion, and he also won both the Euroleague and ACB MVP in 2018, so he’s had quite the track record of succeeding in the toughest levels of international basketball.
Therefore, signs may point to Sekou Doumbouya being a much more unpolished player in comparison, as he may be rated high based on projection and upside right now. Instead, he may be closer to being more like Phoenix Suns’ forward and 2016 first round pick and, Dragan Bender, as he too was a top 5 selection, but had only played in two games in Croatia’s top league, A-1 Liga before the 2015–16 season, and had very little experience at the highest levels up until then. And even in the 2015–16 season, Dragan Bender turned in mixed results, as he played well in limited minutes in the Israeli League, but he did not fare well in the Euroleague in his lone year there.
Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a Sekou Doumbouya game that was played on October 21st, 2017, in which he played for Poitiers 86 against Le Havre, with thanks to YouTube via BG. Sure, it was in the second French league and it wasn’t this year, but with very few available games online to watch him play, I decided that this would be something to view.
From what I saw, his performance seemed to be a mixed bag. For the positives, Sekou Doumbouya is an athletic, skilled combo forward that may possess considerable upside, as he will play out on the perimeter, and he has the footwork and ability to guard multiple positions.
He also is a solid athlete that possesses good motor, as he would sprint down court to get an outlet pass prior to scoring on a fast break dunk, and Doumbouya can score on hustle plays. He also showed an adequate ability to make shots off the dribble, and he even was able to make a one-legged, pull-up, fadeaway mid-range jumper. However, all too often, he would tend to take too many bad shots, as he would rush up contested, long two-pointers that would miss, and he also generally struggled to knock down his jump shots.
He didn’t seem to pass much, but he did show some ability to pass and handle the basketball with the ball in his hands, though occasionally he can struggle to protect the basketball on offense.
Where Doumbouya seemed to show the most potential was in his ability to rebound and defend. He has good athleticism, motor, and instincts, which allows him to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he will play passing lanes to get deflections and steals for his team. He has good feet to fight through screens. However, he still will need to work on his on-ball defense. He would tend to get beat off the dribble, which would lead his team to commit fouls and allow scores, and he also bit on a pump fake that led him to be out of position to defend entry pass another time.
Right now, I’d say the Sekou Doumbouya hype for him to be a top 5 pick in 2019 could be a bit much for the time being. He may be a pretty good prospect, but he may not be anywhere near the level where Luka Doncic was last season.
Doncic was an accomplished Euroleague and Spanish ACB League player that was pretty much a polished prospect for the NBA, Doumbouya is a versatile combo forward whose skill set looks to be rather unrefined in comparison. This year, his play has been inconsistent. He’s played well in Eurocup so far, but has struggled in the top French league, currently known as the French Jeep elite.
If he does succeed in the NBA, I could see him end up being a pretty good player in this league, akin to someone like Dallas Mavericks’ current forward, Harrison Barnes. Doumbouya may have intriguing enough skills for a team to pick him in the top 5, but NBA teams shouldn’t be disappointed if he struggles right out of the gates, as it could take him some time for him to hit his stride in the association.
The jury’s out on Sekou Doumbouya, and people will be wondering if he can be a more efficient scorer than he’s shown previously. If he can, maybe he could surprise and be worth the lottery pick they say he could be. Otherwise, if he stays the way he is, the NBA team that will pick him will have to bank on his upside, and they will need to put in countless hours of developing his skills, as he would likely not be ready to transition his game into the NBA right away. The team that focuses on his development could maybe still help him realize his full potential, as at best, maybe he could develop into a solid starter in the association. Otherwise, he might end up bouncing around from team to team as a journeyman bench player that could have a hard time living up to the lofty and perhaps unreasonable expectations that are currently being placed upon him.