The Wizards will draft ninth overall in the 2019 NBA Draft on Thursday, June 20. Leading up to the draft, we will write about the players whom the Wizards will likely have available to draft with that pick. Today’s article profiles Sekou Doumbouya, the Guinea-born, 18-year-old wing prospect from France.
Sekou Doumbouya, Forward, Limoges CSP (France)
In late 2016, Sekou Doumbouya stormed onto the international stage at the U18 European Championships where France won the Gold Medal. Just 15 years old at the time, Doumbouya dominated older Euro prospects and helped France become tournament champions. Averaging a team-best 17.8 points, 7 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks, Doumbouya made the All-Tournament team alongside French teammate (and MVP) Frank Ntilikina.
Since then, Doumbouya has remained on scouts’ radars during three years of steady if uninspiring growth in international club play.
In his most recent season with Limoges CSP, Doumbouya averaged 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.1 turnovers on .482/.343/.793 shooting splits during his 19 minutes per game. Doumbouya also averaged 6.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per game in EuroCup, the second-tier continental competition for European professional teams.
Don’t worry if you believe these statistics are mediocre. In Europe, they are actually very good for a young prospect playing in the top French league (Pro A), which features fully grown players in their 20s and 30s.
Doumbouya’s somewhat uninspiring progress since that initial breakout has become a counterweight to his still-tantalizing upside, leaving him somewhere between 5 and 15 on most analysts’ big boards and mock drafts.
His game is raw — there’s a decent chance Doumbouya won’t even approach his peak until he’s spent a half-decade in the league. To some teams, that could be too intimidating a project to undertake. But to the Wizards, it could be exactly the kind of opportunity they need.
Even at 15 years old, Sekou Doumbouya looked like an NBA player. Doumbouya is a big wing — think Aaron Gordon or Ben Simmons — who was last officially measured at 6-foot-10 and 220 lbs, though both numbers might soon be outdated given his still-growing frame.
In club play, Doumbouya used his length and strength to pester opposing ball-handlers. Though scouts say his defensive awareness is (unsurprisingly) still lacking, Doumbouya acquitted himself well enough in Pro A. He produced solid steal-plus-block numbers and showed intriguing rebounding potential.
Given his physical tools alone, Doumbouya will likely be a good isolation defender against players near his size. There’s plenty more to defense than one-on-one play, but it has been some time since the Wizards had a physical presence to match up with the big wings who run the modern NBA (LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, etc.).
Doumbouya held his own but did not excel when faced with smaller players, showing just enough recovery speed to suggest he could one day switch between at least three positions, though perhaps not four or five. Regardless, the potential to mold Doumbouya into a dominant defensive player is there, even if it’s buried underneath a lot of youth.
The French forward’s physical tools are also fairly intriguing on offense. Doumbouya’s imposing figure and impressive straight-line speed make him a fearsome force in the open floor. Whenever he gets in that situation, Doumbouya tries to make a statement.
Better showing from Sekou Doumbouya vs Fenerbahce with 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting. Tough preseason for him but still a lot to like at 6'9 with an 8'11 standing reach, defensive versatility and shooting potential. Still only 17 years old. Shooting + motor consistency are key. pic.twitter.com/NVYQI3uDwN— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) September 20, 2018
Doumbouya is a good enough finisher around the rim, though he often opts for brute force over any sort of craftiness. He shows nascent shot creation ability, particularly when faced with a size mismatch. Doumbouya can get around most bigs off the dribble and shoot over most guards in the post. Doumbouya also shows a bit more awareness on the offensive end; he cuts with intention and makes basic passing reads.
Perhaps the most make-or-break aspect of Doumbouya’s offensive game has nothing to do with his frame, however — it’s his shot. After a terrible start in club play, Doumbouya rebounded to put up okay 3-point shooting numbers over a decent sample size. He has also reportedly shot well in pre-draft workouts, and scouts often praise his touch despite inconsistent fundamentals.
Sekou Doumbouya knocking down 15 threes in a row with close to 10 general managers on hand. Doumbouya certainly showed his talent during the 45-minute workout. 6-10 versatile athlete with skill potential. pic.twitter.com/qGZliNiV7S— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) June 8, 2019
An off-the-dribble three may never be a reality for Doumbouya, but he shows enough touch to potentially become an average shooter one day. Pair that range with his physical tools manifesting more prominently in his play, and you’d be looking at a very useful starting power forward.
Here are all the requisite caveats before we dig in: Sekou Doumbouya is the youngest player in the draft and won’t be 19 until December. If he had been born a week later, he wouldn’t even be eligible right now. Should he step on the court early next year, he will be the youngest player in NBA history. Flaws are going to be readily apparent for any young player trying to compete against veterans, and that is certainly the case for Doumbouya.
With that out of the way, we can acknowledge that Doumbouya’s game is very, very raw. Scouts often lament his instincts and feel on both ends of the floor, and it’s worth noting that innate court sense is not exactly easily taught. Particularly on defense, Doumbouya often loses track of his man or makes simple mistakes like closing out far too aggressively on shooters. He also fouls at a high rate (4.2 per 36 minutes in a small sample size) and can be beaten off the dribble by smaller guards, which may limit his defensive ceiling. The tools are undeniably present on that end, but it’s unclear whether the mind and fundamentals will catch up (or how long it will take).
Offensively, Doumbouya looks good when the game breaks down but doesn’t really project as a reliable creator in any other scenario. He can make the most basic passing reads but misses pretty much anything else. His handle is very high and very loose, often resulting in out-of-control drives that end in turnovers. It will improve, but to what degree?
If Doumbouya is going to top out as below-average in his passing and dribbling, that is ultimately okay for a secondary playmaker. But it also may require fans to recalibrate their expectations of his ceiling.
As mentioned, Doumbouya used his body to finish at a solid rate. But that was against European players he could actually match up with physically because his frame is beyond his years.
Finishing in the NBA requires a bit more ingenuity unless you’re a gravity-defying athlete, which Doumbouya is not. And while his shot may seem nice in workouts, it’s difficult to look past a career 3-point shooting percentage of well under 30 percent across over 250 attempts. If Doumbouya does not become a plus shooter, his ceiling immediately drops a few stories.
The theme here is simply that Doumbouya has so far to go and so much to learn, and it’s impossible to know whether his deficiencies can eventually be overcome. Of course, that’s the nature of draft analysis in general, but it’s particularly difficult when you’re looking at a teenage international prospect who was okay-not-great in a league levels below that which Luka Doncic and even Tomas Satoransky played in.
All of Doumbouya’s skills could develop someday. They absolutely could, and he could turn into a great player. But seeing the transformation into that player requires a lot of projection, and that must be taken into account during the evaluation process. That many scouts have lightly criticized the consistency of his motor also makes one a bit queasy about Doumbouya’s long road to the pros.
If you don’t like Doumbouya, it’s because you probably don’t see that light at the end of the tunnel — or at least wouldn’t bet your #9 pick on it.
What was Doumbouya’s best game overseas?
At what was the absolute perfect time for his draft stock, Doumbouya dominated Limoges CSP’s final regular season game in mid-May. The Frenchman scored 34 points with 9 rebounds, leading his team to a big win:
6'9 French forward Sekou Doumbouya went 5-of-7 from 3 during his 34-point outburst, bringing his 3P% up to 32.5% on the season. Looked really fluid on right and left-hand hang dribble pull-ups. Doumbouya showed exactly why he's the 8th ranked prospect on the ESPN Top 100. pic.twitter.com/XJPL8yHmYW— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 19, 2019
Fit for the Wizards
With prospects like Doumbouya, fans tend to paint future skills onto them like they’re blank canvases, often ignoring deficiencies staring them in the face. For that and other reasons, I began my research for this post pretty skeptical of him. I understand his two-years-away-from-being-two-years-away timeline appeals to the Wizards because of John Wall’s injury. I see why everyone is enamored of his size and strength. But I am big on production over projection, and there just isn’t all that much production to speak of with Doumbouya.
Right now, a major project sounds fine to most Wiz fans. But after three years of pinning hopes on Doumbouya, when it’s time to decide on that fourth-year option, he may still not be ready to contribute in any meaningful way.
How do Phoenix Suns fans feel about the once-prized international prospect Dragan Bender right now? What if it takes a half-decade for Doumbouya to arrive, and he tops out as a poor man’s Al-Farouq Aminu instead of Pascal Siakam? (Siakam is a weird comparison to begin with, IMO.)
Still, after putting in the work, I’ve come out the other side in a more positive place than I expected. Doumbouya is among the players whom I would be okay with the Wiz selecting at #9. He represents a valuable archetype, looks the part, and seems like a good kid. Though the bust potential must be factored in, Doumbouya has enough upside to justify the Wizards’ investment.
Do you believe in Sekou Doumbouya’s tantalizing potential? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.