Miami Heat

What to know about draft prospect Sekou Doumbouya. What if he’s there for Heat at 13?

Spoelstra: “This season without question would be the growth of our young players”

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media during the season-ending press conference at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday April 12, 2019 in Miami.
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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media during the season-ending press conference at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday April 12, 2019 in Miami.

When trying to predict who the Heat will select with the No. 13 pick in next month’s NBA Draft, one could look at potential fit. Or one could just look at Miami’s draft history as an indicator of the type of player it’s attracted to.

The international prospect has not been one the Heat usually takes a chance on — at least, not in the first round. The last time Miami came out of the first round of the draft with an international player was in 1996 when it traded for the draft rights of Estonian prospect Martin Muursepp, who was taken with the 25th overall pick.

Muursepp ended up playing just 10 games with the Heat before he was traded to the Mavericks in the middle of his rookie season as part of the deal that brought Jamal Mashburn to Miami. The Heat hasn’t taken a chance on an international player in the first round since.

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But could that trend change this year?

Forward Sekou Doumbouya, an 18-year-old who is originally from Conakry, Guinea, and wasn’t at last week’s NBA Combine, is projected by most to be the first international player taken as a late lottery pick in the June 20 draft.

Doumbouya, a 6-9 forward, is averaging 7.8 points on 48.3 percent shooting from the field and 34.3 percent shooting on threes to go with 3.3 rebounds in 19 minutes per game during 27 games this season while playing professionally for Limoges CSP in France.

Doumbouya’s best performance came recently. While he’s known as a prospect who comes with an offensive game that’s still very much a work in progress, Doumbouya finished Saturdays’ win against Levallois with 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 shooting on threes to go with nine rebounds.

What are mock drafts saying?

The latest ESPN mock draft has the Wizards drafting Doumbouya with the No. 9 pick, which would take him off the board before it’s the Heat’s turn to select at No. 13.

“Doumbouya rebounded from a slow start and has been very productive in Pro A France since returning from a hand injury,” ESPN wrote. “He has outstanding physical tools for a modern-day NBA forward, particularly defensively, where he shows significant potential, and he has a projectable skill level offensively.”

The Athletic’s latest mock draft has Doumbouya going to the Timberwolves at No. 11, again before the Heat’s spot.

“Doumbouya has been much better over the last month and a half,” The Athletic wrote. “In his last eight games, Doumbouya has seen his points per minute increase, his three-point shooting volume and efficiency has increased, and generally he just looks much more comfortable with the speed of the game.

“I’m encouraged that Doumbouya has figured things out quickly, but still question how ready for the NBA he is simply due to his inexperience at high levels to this stage. There’s a real chance that he might need an extra year of seasoning, or else the team that picks him may be wasting one or two valuable seasons of his entry-level contract.”

But NBAdraft.net’s latest mock draft has the Heat drafting Doumbouya with the No. 13 pick.

“Blessed with a great body and NBA athleticism, he is by far a better athlete than a basketball player at this stage of his development,” Doumbouya’s scouting report on NBAdraft.net reads. “His upside is undeniable, especially on the defensive end of the floor ... If he finds a way to put everything together on offense, he could become a great player.”

Bottom line

This is one of those classic high-risk, high-reward prospects. The upside is obviously there, but there’s also uncertainty about the type of player Doumbouya will turn into. He’s still growing into his body and his offensive game is still raw. Doumbouya is a streaky shooter and has some trouble creating offense off the dribble. But his length and athleticism have scouts fawning over his potential as a defender. Doumbouya is quick enough to switch on to guards and has the length to be an above-average rim protector one day. The question will be, what will Doumbouya be on the offense? If he can ever develop a consistent shot and improve his handle, he can be a very good NBA player.

Regarding Doumbouya, ESPN college basketball and NBA Draft analyst Fran Fraschilla told the Miami Herald that he’s a “really interesting prospect. NBA athleticism, nice skill package, improving his shooting from the perimeter. Lot to like about the long-term potential. He’s going to be one of the youngest players taken in first round [barely 18] if not the youngest. He’s absolutely in Miami’s wheelhouse in terms of athleticism and long-term potential. They have to do due diligence away from the court.”

Any team that drafts Doumbouya will need to have patience because he is far from a finished product. For the Heat, that means using the No. 13 pick on a player who might not be able to contribute consistently in his first NBA season. But for a Heat team that will likely have to wait until 2020 or 2021 to make significant changes because of salary-cap reasons, it could be in the position to play the long game if it truly believes Doumbouya has the potential of a top-five pick. There could be value there for Miami at No. 13.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.
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