As the NBA playoffs rage on, the dust is settling on what was another underwhelming draft lottery for the Minnesota Timberwolves. They moved down a place from 10th to 11th, all while watching their Western Conference foes climb to higher grounds.
With a bunch of options on the table, it’s unclear whether freshly minted president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas will decide to keep the late-lottery selection. It will be his first major roster ruling, and it will be critical he nails it. In a draft that is widely renowned as a weak one, it will be especially endearing to the fans if he can hit a draft night home run.
With that in mind, let’s look at Sekou Doumbouya, one of the most intriguing prospects around and one that is very likely to be around when the Wolves are on the clock.
Position: Small Forward/Power Forward
Team: Limoges CSP (France)
Draft Age: 18-years-old
Weight: 230 lbs
French League Stats: 16 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 50.4% FG, 31.4% 3PT
Per-36 Minute Stats: 14.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 58% TS, 56.7% EFG
Stats provided by Tankathon
- Physical Tools
It’s easy to overrate a player due to their physical profile heading into draft night. From Kevin Knox last year, to Thon Maker in 2016, all the way to our very own Andrew Wiggins in back in 2014. Those guys are the definition of why height, length, and athleticism is far from the be all and end all.
However, for every fast and long disappointment, there is a Giannis Antetokounmpo or Ben Simmons that keeps our eyes fixated on players who can wow crowds with just the gifts they were born into.
At the tender age of 18-years-old, Sekou Doumbouya has already cemented himself in that make or miss category. With legitimate 6-foot-9 stature and a chiseled 230 lb frame, the Guinean born forward moves like a lioness chasing its prey.
With a raw skill set and a basketball IQ that is still in its infancy, Doumbouya doesn’t shy away from exposing those freakishly long strides and guard-like movement. Off live-ball turnovers or long rebounds, he barrels out into transition like he was shot out of a cannon, flashing a variety of different moves to maneuver around stranded defenders.
When he does make the leap to the big leagues, it’s going to be imperative for Doumbouya to cash-in on his athleticism. He will likely be a work in progress in half court offensive sets, so getting out on the break will make for much easier buckets.
It will help defensively, too. Even when he is overwhelmed with the complexity of defending uber-skilled NBA players, his length and quick leaping ability will help cover some of his flaws. With his unique blend of size and speed, he seems to switch onto guards and contain them without any real turbulence, a part of his game that will become super important in switch-heavy NBA schemes.
Of course, it will come down to how badly he wants to be a difference maker on defense. If he hustles and defends with energy, he could eventually really make life difficult for would-be scorers. It’s a coin-toss as to how Doumbouya will funnel his physical tools into his game, but if he even gets close to maximizing them, he will be a handful.
- Shooting Potential
When a player holds a 3-point percentage as meager as Sekou Doumbouya’s 31.4 percent clip, it’s easy to write them off as a shooter. In this and many other cases, that would be ill-advised.
With a smooth looking stoke that features a good shot preparation (especially when he has his feet set on catch-and-shoot looks) and a quick enough release, the 18-year-old has plenty of room to develop into a reliable threat from deep.
Another noteworthy part of his low success rate this season was his adjustment period after tearing a ligament in the thumb of his shooting hand. We have seen how much shooting hand injuries can hamper players who have been snipers for years, so it comes as no surprise that a streaky teenager struggled to realign his stroke post-injury.
At French club Limoges CSP he was scarcely featured as a primary scoring option, often relegated to the corner to wait for spot-up looks to come his way. On the odd occasion he was allowed the luxury of coming off screens or pulling up in isolation play and the stroke and mechanics remained solid and alluring.
It is featured in the compilation video above, but it’s important to make specific note of this pull-up splash in his recent 34-point outburst against Levallois. After losing the mismatch with the big, he steps into a buttery hesitation triple and drains it.
With limitations in his game that forbid him from attacking the paint with regularity, adding this shot to his game would see him expand his potential exponentially. It’s a shot all of the best players in the league pack and will force defenders to guard him one step closer, helping to unleash his athleticism and rim-attacking.
With all the tools in his belt, it’s hard to understate how important it will be for Doumbouya to become a dangerous shooter in the NBA. It might be the biggest pendulum swinger between bust and brilliance.
- Half Court Offense
Being a willing 3-point shooter and a ravenous fast break finisher are handy traits, but they’re not enough to truly catapult Doumbouya into the upper echelons of the league. If he really wants to make the most of his mouth-watering tools, he will need to become a dependable half court scorer.
A lot of his struggles can be directly traced back to his high and loose handle, one that will be picked apart by ball-hawks in the big leagues. Despite his capturing fluidity for someone of his size, the way he handles the rock lags behind.
Take this play for example. He finishes with nice touch at the end, but it takes a lot of herky-jerky high dribbling to get there.
As we have seen with Andrew Wiggins, athleticism and ability to finish at the rim can quickly be offset by a shoddy handle that allows defenders to dig at the ball and knock the ball free. To make matters worse, it often leads to opposition fast breaks and easy buckets.
His dribbling flaw siphons into his ability to create good looks for himself, too. Without the ability to confidently put the ball on the deck or bust out a signature move, Doumbouya often settles for tough shots. In the French league he can wow crowds by making a good percentage of those looks, but that will be a death sentence in the NBA.
In this clip, he receives the ball on a nice cut, but he fails to secure it on the first grab which forces him to back it out. He proceeds to get outmatched on the post up, and his final in-and-out dribble attempt goes nowhere.
With some decent player development coaching and a few years experience under his belt it won’t be surprising if Doumbouya sharpens his half court offense dramatically, but for now, it’s very much a work in progress.
- Defensive Awareness
Doumbouya’s physical tools and flashes of defensive artistry are enough to inspire faith that he will become a genuine presence on that end one day, but currently they are littered in between positional lapses and ugly ball-watching spells.
There is limited film on him, but from what’s available he tends to zone out when he is not directly involved in the defense. This often results in his man sneaking baseline for an easy cutting basket, or springing to the 3-point line to get off an uncontested triple.
We’ve seen it time and time again where players who aren’t alert off the ball get targeted and punished until they prove they can fix the flaw. Think back to someone like Zach LaVine, who often watched the ball with two eyes while keeping none on his direct opponent and the Timberwolves’ defense suffered greatly for it.
In Doumbouya’s case, it doesn’t seem to be laziness, more inexperience against smart players who exploit spacey defenders. It will get worse as he takes the next step in his career, and will quickly become a real problem if he doesn’t improve.
Highlight blocks and swooping steals are fun and all, but his next team will be looking for a lot more.
Fit With Minnesota
Doumbouya is clearly one of the most divisive and hard to judge players in this year’s rookie class. On one hand, he has the deep-lying potential to be the star sidekick that Karl-Anthony Towns and the Wolves desperately crave, but on the other, he could easily struggle to ever translate that potential into actual production.
Minnesota needs a second fiddle, but after finishing with just 36 wins last season they also need immediate help. Doumbouya reeks of someone who needs time in the G-League to hone his game, and who knows how long that will last before he is deemed NBA-ready. That doesn’t sound too enticing.
Of course we have fallen into that trap with international prospects only for them to come over and immediately show that they have always belonged in the league. Take probable MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as the gold standard example.
Another box Doumbouya ticks is his power forward position and his skill set at that position. Over the last few weeks president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and new head coach Ryan Saunders have preached playing with pace and shooting more 3-pointers, Doumbouya provides all of those from the frontcourt, where Taj Gibson and Anthony Tolliver are likely to depart from.
It’s a swing for the fences, hit-or-miss, bust-or-boom pick. A huge risk with potentially a huge reward.