By receiving the amazing luck from the basketball gods in getting the second pick in the 2019 NBA draft, the Memphis Grizzlies receive more than just the chance to draft a generational prospect in Ja Morant. They also receive another precious commodity—flexibility.
With a Mike Conley trade all but a certainty, it is possible that the Grizzlies will have another first round pick in this draft. And with Morant, who is about as close to a sure thing as you can possibly be in this draft class, the Grizzlies can afford to miss with this hypothetical pick.
And if they can afford to miss with this pick, that also means that they have the leeway to swing for the fences. In theory, it makes more sense to attempt to select a rawer prospect with possible star upside rather than a more finished product with a lower overall ceiling.
Enter Sekou Doumbouya.
Doumbouya is an 18-year-old combo forward who is a French national team member as well as a player for Limoges in the LNB Pro A league last season, and he has intrigued scouts with his physical tools. At 6’9” 210 pounds, he has the ideal size for a modern power forward. He also has impressive athleticism for his size, allowing him to be effective in attacking the basket on the offensive end as well as giving him versatility on the defensive end. His lateral agility in particular makes him ideally suited to eventually become a defensive terror that can guard all five positions.
Not saying I agree or disagree with the Sekou Doumbouya hype, but you can definitely see the intrigue with him here. He looks very fluid and makes this look really easy pic.twitter.com/6IptfZqsCL— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) May 28, 2019
If he becomes all that many scouts envision, it is not a stretch for his game to echo Giannis Antetokounmpo, or perhaps more reservedly, Paskal Siakam. He has all the incredible physical tools to become a transcendent talent.
However, the reason that this supposedly transcendent talent doesn’t even get picked in the lottery in some draft projections is that he is still extremely raw, which in fairness is somewhat predictable for an 18-year-old kid. His stats with Limoges (7.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 0.7 APG) certainly reflect this fact. He has very poor footwork and is a below-average ball handler that struggles to beat defenders off the dribble even though he has an explosive first step. He is streaky at best as a shooter (34% from three on 2.5 attempts per game), although he does project as a good one since he has solid mechanics. He also regularly gets lost on the defensive end, although he displays an impressive feel for the game on both ends.
Some of what lottery talent Sekou Doumbouya (‘00 ) brings. Very energetic dealing w/ screens. Rangy defender. Gives up .71PPP in P&R BH and .615PPP in Iso. Solid team defender with good positioning. Versatile in P&R coverage. Understands how to defend them and where to be. pic.twitter.com/qD9TMLPICf— Grant (@GrantAquiNBA) April 8, 2019
Regardless of what he ends up becoming, it will probably take a few years for his skills to catch up to his physical tools. How far that development goes will ultimately determine what type of NBA player that he eventually becomes.
It goes without saying that Sekou Doumbouya is a risk. For someone who is as young and unknown as he is, it can be almost impossible to predict how well they will develop and adjust to the NBA game. There is a very real possibility that Doumbouya’s overall skill level never comes close to his physical tools, and he never really finds his place in the league. For lack of a better way to describe it, he could definitely be a bust.
However, Doumbouya is a risk worth taking because of his incredible upside. He could be a generational talent that could change the trajectory of an NBA franchise—or he may be nothing noteworthy at all. And since the Memphis Grizzlies will already have two franchise cornerstones in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant after this draft is over, why not take a swing for the fences that could eventually push the team over the top several years from now?
Sekou Doumbouya is not a safe pick by any stretch of the imagination. Yet because of their luck in the NBA draft lottery, the Memphis Grizzlies have the leeway to not have to play it safe. Fortune favors the bold, and drafting Doumbouya in the 7-15 range is certainly a bold move.
But it could be the move that allows the Grizzlies to become title contenders in the future.