Sekou Doumbouya earned his first career start for the Detroit Pistons last evening in Los Angeles. Although his team came up short against the Clippers, Doumbouya made the most of his time, notching his first double-double.
The Detroit Pistons lost another game—to the playoff-contending Los Angeles Clippers—but for once, this was not the dominant story of the evening. Instead, Sekou Doumbouya, newly 19 years old, was the highlight as he started his first professional game. In 27 minutes, Doumbouya recorded his first double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
It did take him a little while to get going. After making only one basket in the first three quarters, eight of his 10 points came in the fourth quarter. Throughout the game, he had trouble beyond the arc, missing all four of his attempted threes.
One full game is not enough to judge these misses too harshly, though. They can probably be safely attributed to a combination of nerves from making his first start and lockdown defense by Ivica Zubac and Kawhi Leonard.
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While fellow starter, Andre Drummond, brought down more total rebounds, Doumbouya led all Pistons in offensive rebounds with four. For a team that already struggles to score points in general (20th in the NBA) and one that could stand to score a few more second-chance points (12th), more offensive rebounds can only help. Two of his offensive rebounds on Thursday turned into points.
Doumbouya was the Pistons’ first-round (15th overall) pick last June. Since then, he has split his time between Detroit and the G League, Grand Rapids Drive. He has appeared in eight games thus far for Detroit, but last night was his most significant performance by far. In fact, before Thursday’s game, he averaged only three minutes per game and had not eclipsed ten minutes at all. Given 27 minutes, though, and he really shone.
Truly, this should not be a huge surprise: in Grand Rapids, Sekou has averaged 16.5 points on 48.9% shooting. His rebounding, however, was a nice revelation, as an improvement on his typical 5.3 boards per game.
Second-year player, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, also got the start and led the team in minutes played. This uptick in minutes for first- and second-year players could signify two things. One, the team is dangerously injury-prone this year, and young players can relieve some of the pressures in a thin lineup.
The other, more likely reason possibly indicates the Pistons are committing to a rebuild. Allowing young players to collect valuable experience in games (and not just during blowouts) helps to prepare for the future. This could be a sign the Pistons are shifting away from the present.
The Detroit Pistons are struggling in the middle of the Eastern Conference, so they should take the positives when available—even during a loss. Sekou Doumbouya is certainly taking advantage of this; hopefully, this double-double is the first of many in his career.