Sophomore slump delays progress of Pistons’ Sekou Doumbouya

Detroit News

Rod Beard
| The Detroit News

Call it a slow start. Or maybe a sophomore slump.

Whatever it is that’s going on with Pistons forward Sekou Doumbouya, it’s vexing to try to figure out in his second season. There were some flashes last season, when he had an exceptional week against some of the best forwards in the league.

After that, it’s been mostly quiet.

On one hand, he’s been playing behind Blake Griffin and Jerami Grant at power forward, the position the Pistons prefer for him, but since Griffin’s been out of the lineup, there still hasn’t been as much playing time for him.

Doumbouya is just 20, so there’s plenty of time for him to continue to develop, and coach Dwane Casey cites Doumbouya’s strength as one of his best attributes, but also point out maintaining a high level of preparedness is the main issue.

“Sekou’s natural strength is there. If you bump into him demonstrating stuff on the court, when you put your forearm in his chest, you feel it. It feels like a brick wall, so it’s there,” Casey said. “The other thing is he’s just going to maintain his sleekness and make sure he keeps it keeps in that type of condition without not getting huge minutes.”

Casey pointed to Doumbouya’s extended time in the G League with the Grand Rapids Drive last season, which preceded his successful stint with the Pistons. Because the Pistons opted not to participate in the G League bubble this season, that opportunity isn’t available for the young players to utilize as another option.

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Instead, Doumbouya has been limited to about 13 minutes per game this year, which makes it hard to get into a good groove because of the reduced playing time.

The G League sometimes gets a stigma for being a minor league, but the bigger benefit is giving young players a chance to get more reps and playing time when it’s not available with the NBA team.

“It does not hurt those guys to go play, get some run in, get their game conditioning up and come right back. It’s going to be like a glorified practice for us, and we’re going to utilize it to the hilt,” Casey said.

“That would have benefitted Sekou because I think it really helped him get huge minutes, the 30 to 35 minutes a night with the G League team — and that’s what he needs to stay sharp.

“To his bad luck, he’s been playing behind Blake and Jerami. We need to get him some more minutes some kind of way, but he’s got to be ready to get out once he steps in there condition-wise, physically and I love his approach, attitude and seriousness about the game.”

Rising Stars Challenge

The Pistons could have some presence in All-Star weekend.

Well, sort of.

The Rising Stars Challenge rosters will be announced Wednesday — though there won’t be a game played — and there’s a good chance that rookie Saddiq Bey will be selected. Bey has started 15 of 32 games and is shooting 41% on 3-pointers, with an impressive 9.8 points per game.

Bey might not be the only one. Isaiah Stewart also could be a consideration with the season he’s having, notching 5.3 points and 5.8 rebounds and making a name for himself around the league for his hustle.

“I don’t know if Isaiah’s numbers or whatever they look at (will make it). I would love to have Isaiah in — he’s deserving — but Saddiq is definitely one of the top rookies in shooting and all that stuff and all the metrics they look at,” Casey said. “So, just hopefully our rebuilding situation and our record doesn’t hurt them.

“Saddiq and Isaiah, I’d put them in the top of all those rookies that are in the league and what they bring to the table. What they’re going to be, their potential, is right up there with any rookie in this league, and I challenge anybody to say otherwise. It’s unfortunate that Killian (Hayes) hasn’t had a chance to be part of it. Another rising young man is Saben Lee. Saben is a two-way contract but his contract status doesn’t tell his potential and who he is.”

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

Pistons at Raptors

Tip-off: 7 Wednesday, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Pistons (9-25) have lost six of their last seven games, including a 19-point defeat on Sunday to the Knicks. The Raptors (17-17) will be without five players, including Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and O.G. Anunoby, due to COVID contact tracing.

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