Donnie Tyndall, head coach of the Grand Rapids Drive (5-2), the G-League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons, is pleased with the progress of his young players two weeks into their season. First-round pick Sekou Doumbouya, as well as two-way players Jordan Bone and Louis King, are performing at a high level for the Drive and are expected to eventually contribute to the Pistons’ NBA roster.
First-round draft picks don’t find themselves in the G-League too often, but the Pistons consider 18-year-old Doumbouya a developmental prospect for the future rather than an immediate contributor. The 6’9” forward from Guinea has, however, been a key player for the Drive early in the season, scoring double-digit points in each of the team’s first seven games, including 28 against the Westchester Knicks on Tuesday.
Tyndall spoke glowingly of Doumbouya after his team’s most recent home game—a 118-104 win over Charlotte affiliate Greensboro Swarm on Nov. 16—praising the rookie’s attitude and work ethic.
“I think the biggest thing with Sekou is he’s come in with an attitude of trying to get better,” Tyndall said. “Some guys come in, they don’t welcome the opportunity, they look at it as maybe a demotion, and maybe at first he might have done that a little bit. But since he’s been here he works hard every day. He’s coachable, he never talks back, he’s a guy that tries to do everything you ask, and the progress he’s made from game one just to game five has been really, really good.”
Doumboya, who was drafted 15th overall by the Pistons in June and who had been playing professional basketball in France since he was 15, is averaging 17.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game with the Drive.
“The thing that is a little unique about Sekou,” Tyndall says, “is he has that power forward’s body, but he has a wing player’s shooting touch… I think as his skill set kind of catches up to his body and his athleticism, he’s just going to get better and better. Right now he’s playing a lot at the four, I think he can stay some at the four but eventually be a three in the NBA.”
Tyndall also expressed optimism about Doumbouya’s future in the NBA. “He’s going to be a good NBA player,” he said. “When that’s going to be, I don’t know, but the fact that he’s so receptive to coaching thus far, that’s going to expedite his process.”
Doumbouya isn’t the only potential future Piston on the Drive’s roster. Bone, a second-round pick whose draft rights were acquired by the Pistons on draft night, signed a two-way contract with the Pistons in July and is seen as a player who could contribute to the team soon.
Tyndall says the former Tennessee point guard “has incredible speed and athleticism for his position.” He also says he is “very, very coachable” and is “trying his tail off,” but also recognizes what the first-year pro needs to improve on. “The biggest thing he has to do is grow defensively,” Tyndall says. “There are so many pick-and-rolls at this level, if you can’t really, really guard on pick-and-rolls you’re probably not going to make it at that next level.”
Tyndall also says Bone needs to “limit his turnovers.”
“He’s a guy that’s aggressive,” he says, “he’s playing with pace and tempo, which we want, but on the flip side, you’ve got to be aggressive and value the ball and not turn it over.”
King is the other two-way player on the Pistons’ roster. A forward from Oregon whom many expected to be drafted, but who was available after the draft, “he’s a long athletic guy that can guard multiple positions,” according to Tyndall.
“The progress (King has) literally made from game one to game five has been incredible,” Tyndall says, “and a lot of that is because he’s been coachable. He’s a guy that studies extra film, he’s a guy that when you correct him, get on him, challenge him a little bit, he’s okay with that.”
King, who was a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American out of high school, earned a bronze medal with the United States at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup. Tyndall says his goal is to make sure his players are ready for then the NBA comes calling. “I think the biggest thing at this level you’re just trying to get these young guys better every day. You certainly want to win, I’m not going to hide that fact, but we want to grow these guys and get them better and make sure everyone’s progressing the way the Pistons hope they do...”
The Drive host the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids, the first game of a four-game home stand.